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The Carolina Hurricanes are desperately seeking answers in net. They may have found the right opponent in the St. Louis Blues, who have been making most goalies look good recently.
The Hurricanes visit the Blues for the first time in more than five years on Saturday, hoping to win back-to-back games in regulation for the first time in nearly two months.
Ward allowed five goals on just 14 shots in a 5-4 overtime loss to Atlanta on Wednesday, and has a 3.88 goals-against average in his last nine games. Grahame was sent to the minors on Friday, when Carolina recalled Michael Leighton to start against the Thrashers.
Seeing his first NHL action this season, Leighton allowed a goal just 32 seconds into the game, but the Hurricanes battled back from a 3-1 second-period deficit to win 4-3 and end a three-game losing streak. Cory Stillman scored the game-winner with 3:23 to play, his first goal in seven contests.
Leighton, who said he was surprised to be called up from the minors, finished with 23 saves in just his third NHL win since the lockout.
"An hour after I arrived, I was told I'd start," Leighton said. "I did pretty good - in the second and third periods."
It's unclear who will play Saturday, but the Hurricanes will be looking to win consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 15-18. One of those victories came in a shootout, meaning they haven't won two straight in regulation since Nov. 10-12 as their Southeast Division lead has shrunk to five points.
The Blues have been struggling for the opposite reason - a faltering offense. St. Louis (19-14-5) has gone 1-2-3 in its last six, scoring more than two goals just once over that span.
The Blues also are just 1-4-3 in their last eight games at the Scottrade Center, getting shut out in three of those games. The Blues lost 3-2 to Edmonton in overtime there on Wednesday, going 0-for-7 on the power play.
"We had multiple chances to score, but some of the guys that we count on to do that didn't get it done for us," Blues coach Andy Murray said. "Those are the same guys that play on our power play."
Paul Kariya, who leads the Blues with 34 points, has been held pointless in six of the past seven games, while leading goal-scorer Brad Boyes has no goals in the last six.
St. Louis has failed to convert a power play in its last five games, going 0-for-24, and is last in the league with a 12.0 percent success rate.
If the Blues are going to score with the man advantage, the Hurricanes would seem to present the best opportunity. Carolina is last in the NHL, killing just 75.1 percent of its penalties.
The Hurricanes last traveled to St. Louis in October 2002, losing 2-1 in overtime. The franchise has just one win in its last 11 visits to St. Louis dating back to the 1991-92 season, when the team was located in Hartford, but the Hurricanes have won their last two overall against the Blues.
Eric Staal had a hat trick and an assist and Ward stopped 31 shots in the most recent meeting, a 4-2 win in January 2006. Staal had a goal and two assists Friday, and has scored a goal in six of the past seven games.