The last time the St. Louis Blues visited Chicago, they saw their promising 2013-14 season come to a close in the Western Conference quarterfinals after acquiring a high-profile goaltender to make a run at the Stanley Cup.
It was the latest game in a rough stretch at the United Center, something they’ll try to end Wednesday night, and they’ll have another big-name goalie joining the team against the surging Blackhawks.
Martin Brodeur participated in his first full practice with the Blues (16-6-2) on Monday, signed Tuesday and will join St. Louis on the second stop of a four-game road swing. He’s expected to play on the trip with Brian Elliott out with a lower-body injury.
“It feels great,” Brodeur told the team’s official website. “I really appreciate the opportunity for me to be here the last few days. It definitely worked out real well. I’m excited for this fresh start.”
Jake Allen, though, will face the Blackhawks (15-8-1) for the first time in his career as the Blues try to end an 0-5-0 stretch in Chicago, during which they’ve been outscored 19-6. Three of those losses came in the playoffs with Ryan Miller in goal.
The Blackhawks have been about as hot lately with three straight victories and wins in eight of 10. A 4-1 victory over Los Angeles on Saturday completed a 5-1-0 trip, and they return to a three-game home winning streak.
“Halfway through the trip we were kind of on the bubble, right around a playoff spot, and we talked about trying to gain ground and gain momentum going into the second 20 games,” said center Brad Richards, who scored twice against the Kings. “We did a great job of that. We had big tests against good teams and we piled up five out of six, which is huge.”
Richards has three goals in the last two games after managing three through his first 22 with his new team.
Plenty of Chicago’s success is due to the club finally coming around offensively after working through early season inconsistencies. The Blackhawks have averaged 3.70 goals in past 10 games after averaging 2.43 through 14 contests.
They’ve been consistent all season defensively with a league-best penalty kill (91.3 percent) that’s thwarted 11 straight chances over five games. They’re also among the league leaders at 2.00 goals allowed per game.
That defense will be called upon to deliver in front of Antti Raanta, who will start in net after coach Joel Quenneville ruled No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford out due to a lower-body injury suffered off-ice. Raanta is 1-2-0 despite a 2.03 goals-against average this season and lost 3-2 at St. Louis in his last start Oct. 25.
St. Louis isn’t far back at 2.04 and began its trip with Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over Minnesota. Allen made 36 saves and David Backes’ third-period goal send the game to overtime as the Blues improved to 4-0-1 since dropping consecutive games in Boston and Montreal.
Allen has started the last two after replacing Elliott in a 3-2 shootout loss to Ottawa on Nov. 25, and both starts have resulted in wins.
“I thought after two games, our goalie kept the game where we needed it to be,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We found a way to win points.”
Allen has leveled out some after a dominant start, but he’s still 8-2-1 with a 2.16 goals-against average.
Kris Versteeg scored for Chicago in the October loss. He had two assists against the Kings and has 11 points in his last seven games with a jump in ice time while playing with Richards and Patrick Kane.