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At the Rink blog

Playoff spot in the bag, Blues go for division clinch

Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 3:20 PM

By Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent / At the Rink blog

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At the Rink blog
Playoff spot in the bag, Blues go for division clinch
CHICAGO -- Step by step, the Blues have been presented with goals, and each time, they knock the door down and reach uncharted territory.

First, it was clinching a playoff berth for the first time since the 2008-09 season and only the second time since the work stoppage.

Next up is the Central Division title, and it's there for the taking when the Blues (48-20-9) play against a division foe, the Chicago Blackhawks (42-26-9) at United Center.

Coupled with Detroit's surprising loss at Columbus on Wednesday night, the Blues have the chance to wrap up their first division title since 1999-2000 with a regulation or overtime win over the Blackhawks.

"It'll definitely be a good accomplishment for us," winger T.J. Oshie said. "You look at the points that are in our division and the teams that are in our division ... even Columbus coming up with a big win (Wednesday). It's a tough division, and to be at the top of that would be a good stepping stone for this team. It would be a stepping stone because we want to get up to that big goal at the end, but it's definitely something we'd like to have on the resume."

The Blues have a chance to knock the Red Wings off the perch for a change. Detroit, which has clinched a playoff berth for the 21st straight season, has owned the Central, winning it in nine of the last 10 seasons.

"This would be a good feeling for someone else to be able to do this other than those big two (Detroit and Chicago, which won the division in 2009-10) and maybe sometime down the road give them something to think about," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We've got lots of goals in front of us now between the Jennings (Trophy), the division, the conference, the Presidents' (Trophy) ... they're all obtainable. They're in our control.

"We spent seven months getting to this stage. We want to just keep going. We don't want to give up something that we've earned and kept for a little while. We've got teams pushing us in every aspect. The loss for Detroit to Columbus opens up a door for us tonight, so hopefully we jump all over it."

For a team with so many younger players who haven't experienced what's been presented to them, the Blues have been even-keeled and not looked too far ahead and lost sight of what's in front of them.

"There's been a lot of patience with this team from the fans and management and players," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "To be in the position we are and contending for first place in the division and the conference and potentially overall, it's pretty gratifying and it shows the hard work we've put in this year.

"Everybody's smart enough in this room to know that the Presidents' Trophy isn't going to get you anything in the playoffs. It doesn't give you any freebies, any first-round byes or guarantees you're going to go to the Stanley Cup Finals. We all know the toughest part is still to come. We're excited about the potential, but you look at our game in Tampa Bay to be the first to clinch a playoff spot, we didn't bring out any champagne. It was business as usual and moved on."


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My focus is always just to play as well as I can and do my job, no matter where the faceoff is.

— New York Rangers forward Carl Hagelin on using his speed to his advantage
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