By LOU KORAC
WASHINGTON -- The last time the Blues played against the Washington Capitals, the 4-1 victory might have been the Blues' most complete game of the season.
The Blues, who are 9-0-1 in the past 10 games and 31-13-4 on the season, were dominant in every facet of that game on Nov. 15.
And even though Washington (25-14-10), which is coming off a 1-0 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday and 1-3-2 in its past six games, was 7-0-2 prior to this last stretch of games and really finding its groove under coach Barry Trotz.
"We're going to need it better because they were tired, they were off back-to-back and a short night, whereas we were two days rested," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the previous meeting. "We're not going to have an advantage. They had three guys out, now we have three guys out. They were a little bit banged up and we were healthy. It's a different animal now. We're now on their page. To me, we've got to find a way not to be chasing the game early. We can't give them the lead early where they can really take advantage of it.
"Their team is really playing well. They're a team built for the playoffs. They're playing playoff-style hockey. They're going to be a force every game. (Trotz has) got his lines organized the way he wants, he comes at you with depth and they play a very hard game; they're very hard to play against now. All of us knew that was going to happen. This is the first time Barry's had this kind of competitive depth and firepower."
Today's game begins at noon on NBCSN and KMOX 1120-AM.
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The Blues are going with the same lineup (other than Brian Elliott in goal) that played Friday in a 3-2 shootout victory against the Carolina Hurricanes, which means both Patrik Berglund and Jori Lehtera (upper-body injuries), will not play and Ty Rattie, recalled Friday from the Chicago Wolves, will play his second NHL game and fourth overall this season.
Ian Cole will stay in on defense, and Chris Butler will be a healthy scratch for a seventh straight game.
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The Blues, who have faced Alex Ovechkin 10 previous times, have allowed the Russian superstar to get five goals and 14 points in those meetings.
Ovechkin has 29 goals and with his next goal, will become the fifth player in NHL history to score 30 more goals in 10 straight seasons to open his career.
"You know what he's going to do. The problem is you can't stop it," Hitchcock said of Ovechkin. "There's probably maybe four guys in the league that can score from distance. You just can't stop it. You know what he's going to do. You know what he's going to do as soon as the puck's dropped. ... He's going to get his licks in.
"Playing under Barry, the thing that's scary now, now he's willing to check the puck back. Now he's even more dangerous because now he's got multi-dimensions. Before he was dangerous on the kind of the quick-strike offense. Now he's on the grind. Now it's going to be a real problem because he doesn't have to wait for somebody to mess up to get a chance. He's going to create his own messes. That's going to be a real problem for teams now. He's really engaged in checking the puck back. That was always the fear. If he ever put that element in his game, now he's going to be dangerous on every front, which is where he's going now."
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The Blues' top line of Alexander Steen, David Backes and T.J. Oshie has 57 points in in 15 games. Backes is riding a nine-game point streak (eight goals, eight assists).
Forward Chris Porter, out since injuring his left ankle Dec. 29 against Colorado, continues to rehab the injury and said he hopes to shed the walking boot he's been using for good on Monday when he visits the doctor.
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The Blues' probable lineup:
Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Jaden Schwartz-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko
Dmitrij Jaskin-Joakim Lindstrom-Ty Rattie
Steve Ott-Marcel Goc-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman-Ian Cole
Brian Elliott will start in goal. Jake Allen will be the backup.
Chris Butler is the healthy scratch. Injuries include Jori Lehtera (upper body), Patrik Berglund (upper body) and Chris Porter (ankle).
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The Capitals' probable lineup:
Alex Ovechkin-Niklas Backstrom-Jay Beagle
Marcus Johansson-Evgeni Kuznetsov-Troy Brouwer
Brooks Laich-Eric Fehr-Joel Ward
Jason Chimera-Michael Latta-Tom Wilson
Brooks Orpik-John Carlson
Karl Alzner-Matt Niskanen
Jack Hillen-Mike Green
Justin Peters will start in goal. Braden Holtby will be the backup.
The healthy scratch include Andre Burakovsky. Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck) and Aaron Volpatti (neck) are out with injuries.