By LOUIE KORAC
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The surging Blues are setting records, it seems, by the second all of the sudden.
As they turned the chapter on March and entered the gauntlet of April, which saw the team embark on a journey of 15 games in 28 days, the Blues are sizzling.
The Blues (23-14-2), who end their four-game trip today when they face the desperate Columbus Blue Jackets (17-16-7) at 6 p.m. (FSN-Plus: http://blues.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=665435, Y-98 FM) with a chance to jump into fourth place in the Western Conference.
They currently sit in sixth place with 48 points, one behind fifth-place San Jose and two behind fourth-place Los Angeles with games in hand on both teams.
The Blues, winners of six in a row, will turn to Jake Allen in goal tonight after Brian Elliott earned his third straight shutout in Thursday's 2-0 win at Minnesota. Elliott currently has a shutout streak of 189:29 that he will carry into Sunday's game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
But Friday night, Elliott, who is 5-0-0 with a 0.84 goals-against average and .968 save percentage in his last five appearances, will get the night off.
"You try not to think about that too much," Elliott said of the shutout streak, which has come all on the road and currently is a franchise record. The previous mark was held by Jacques Plante (141:19 set Dec. 11, 1968-Jan. 8, 1969).
The Blues are just 6:47 away from establishing the all-time franchise road shutout mark of 196:15, also set in 1968-69 (Dec. 14-Jan. 3) with Plante and Glenn Hall.
As a team, the Blues take a shutout string of 201:24 into the game against the Jackets, last allowing a goal when these teams met a week ago Friday at Scottrade Center (Artem Anisimov scored with 1:24 remaining in the second period of a 3-1 St. Louis victory). Allen was in goal for that game. They're nine seconds shy of setting the overall team shutout record of 201:32, set last season from March 21-29, 2012.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock could go back to Elliott tonight, but with the team playing the second of three games in three and half days, Elliott could use the breather and Allen needs to stay sharp and not have a long layoff.
"We've always said if you get a shutout, you get a reward," Hitchcock said. "But
then you've got to think in common sense. I think it would be a different
thought process if the Sunday game was an evening game. But with it being 11:30
in the morning, I think it's going to be a tough recovery day (Sunday) for
"Today is a quick turnaround, too, with no practice (because of
the travel to Columbus). So I don't think it's fair to Brian or to Jake. Jake
has played awfully well. We feel confident in both guys. I just think from an
energy standpoint, to play goal, you need to have a certain level of energy. I
don't think you play (well) if you're tired or if you're overworked. So both
guys have played good, Jake has played good, just keep going."
The Blues, who did not skate Friday morning, will also be looking to get Hitchcock his 600th career victory. Hitchcock, who has coached the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Blue Jackets and now Blues, is 599-379-88-83.
Hitchcock would become the 11th coach in National Hockey League history to accomplish the feat and second current coach (former Blues and current Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville being the other) to be in the 600-Club.
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The Blues aren't expected to make any lineup changes tonight:
David Perron-David Backes-Alexander Steen
Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart
Andy McDonald-Vladimir Sobotka-Vladimir Tarasenko
Adam Cracknell-Chris Porter-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Jordan Leopold-Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman-Roman Polak
Jake Allen, who beat the Jackets 3-1 in his last appearance a week ago today, will get the start; Brian Elliott is the backup.
Healthy scratches include Kris Russell, Ian Cole and Dmitrij Jaskin. T.J. Oshie (foot), Jaroslav Halak (groin), Scott Nichol (soreness) and Jamie Langenbrunner (hip) remain sidelined, although Oshie skated for a fourth consecutive day today but will not play tonight.
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The Blue Jackets' probable lineup:
Vinny Prospal-Artem Anisimov-Marian Gaborik
Matt Calvert-Mark Letestu-Cam Atkinson
RJ Umberger-Ryan Johansen-Nick Foligno
Jared Boll-Derek MacKenzie-Brandon Dubinsky
Fedor Tyutin-Jack Johnson
James Wisniewski-Adrian Aucoin
Nikita Nikitin-Dalton Prout
Sergei Bobrovsky gets the nod in goal; Michael Leighton is the backup.
Healthy scratches include wingers Blake Comeau and Colton Gillies and defenseman Tim Erixon.