Blues vs. Panthers Preview

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SUNRISE, FL (AP) The Florida Panthers will probably want to start Tomas Vokoun against the St. Louis Blues since he's won his last nine games against them. The Blues, meanwhile, seemingly won't be able to go wrong with their choice of goalie.

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The teams will skate Tuesday night when the Panthers look to hand the Blues a fifth straight road loss.

Vokoun, a two-time All-Star, has had mixed results this season, but this matchup could bring out his best. He has posted a 1.11 goals-against average in winning his last nine games - eight starts - against the Blues, including shutouts in two of the last three.

According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Panthers -115 money line favorites for Tuesday's game against the Blues. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 65% of more than 137 bets for this game have been placed on the Blues +106.

St. Louis (23-20-8) has two good options to counter. Starter Jaroslav Halak is 5-1-0 with a 2.15 GAA in six starts against Florida, and backup Ty Conklin is 6-0-0 with a 1.67 GAA in six starts.

Vokoun and the Panthers (23-23-6) are beginning a five-game homestand. Their last homestand was a six-game stretch Jan. 11-21 in which every game was decided by one goal, with five going past regulation.

Florida returns home after a 2-3-1 trip, winning 4-3 at New Jersey on Friday on Rostislav Olesz's goal in overtime. The Panthers twice rallied from one-goal deficits, getting a third-period short-handed equalizer from Mike Santorelli.

"I think we deserved that," coach Peter DeBoer said. "We haven't gotten a lot of bounces around the net on this road trip. We're in the playoff mix."

Currently in the chase for the last playoff spot, the Panthers do not consider themselves sellers yet as the Feb. 28 trade deadline approaches.

"The next two weeks will tell whether we're staying put, buying or selling," general manager Dale Tallon told the Panthers' official website. "We've got five straight at home coming up, we're a little bit banged up, but we're still in the hunt and we'll see what happens."

St. Louis also is on the outside looking in for the postseason race. The Blues are 14th in the Western Conference, but still within striking distance in a tightly packed race.

St. Louis lost three straight on the road in regulation before Sunday's 4-3 overtime loss at Tampa Bay. Defenseman Eric Brewer took a holding penalty late in the extra session, and the Blues gave up the game-winner with six seconds to go.

"The difference is a 4-on-3 goal with 6 seconds left in overtime," said winger David Backes, who scored for the third time in six games. "There's no such thing as a moral victory, but to see ourselves play straight up with a pretty good team is a step in the right direction."

Backes scored with the man advantage, giving St. Louis power-play goals in consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 9-16. The Blues have one of the worst power plays in the league at 15.0 percent.

"We got a point," coach Davis Payne said. "I think there's a lot of good things to take out of this hockey game. We've got to make sure we take them down the road."

The Panthers are even worse on the power play at 12.4 percent.

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