ST. LOUIS - After 12 days on the road, the Blues are finally back home tonight to host a game against the Vancouver Canucks at 7 p.m. (FSMW, KMOX).
And what a great opportunity they’ll have in front of them.
If the Blues beat the Canucks in any fashion, they’ll punch their ticket to the postseason for the fifth consecutive season.
“It’s always exciting to be able to clinch the playoffs,” said Blues forward Ryan Reaves. “It’s been a long season, a season filled with some key injuries that we’ve overcome and some tough times that we’ve overcome. To be able to clinch this early is a huge accomplishment, but there’s still lots of work to do.”
“With the way our season has gone from an injury standpoint and ups and downs throughout the year, to put ourselves in the position we’re in is really impressive,” goalie Jake Allen said. “I’m really proud of this group, we all are in here. To be able to clinch it on home ice would be even more special in front of our fans. And we still have a chance at our division and can go into the playoffs on a high note.”
If the Blues clinch a playoff berth tonight, it will be their 40th postseason appearance in franchise history and the sixth appearance in the last 11 seasons.
The Blues currently sit two points behind the division-leading Dallas Stars, who lost 3-1 to the Coyotes last night. In addition to clinching a spot in the playoffs, the Blues can also move into a tie for first place in the Central Division and the Western Conference with a victory tonight.
“We’ve love to do it at home,” forward Patrik Berglund said. “But first, we’ve got a big job ahead of us to beat this team, who played a hell of a game yesterday in Nashville. We’ll be ready to go.”
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock has ruled out defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (upper-body injury) for the next two games. The injury occurred in Tuesday’s 1-0 win against the Sharks.
“Hopefully he’s just out day to day. We have Robert Bortuzzo going in and we’re switching up all three (defense) pairs.”
Hitchcock intends to use Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo on the top pairing, a combination he doesn’t use unless his team is trailing in a game.
“When they play together, we want them to play with more risk (because we’re trailing),” Hitchcock said. “Now they start by playing against good players and make the obvious choices they need to play. When Bortuzzo and (Edmundson) have played together, and obviously Gunnarsson and Parayko, they’ve been good. We’re comfortable with where we’re at right now.”
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Dmitrij Jaskin - Patrik Berglund - David Backes
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Kevin Shattenkirk - Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
Joel Edmundson - Robert Bortuzzo
MEETING THE CANUCKS
The Blues fired 50 shots on goal in last Saturday’s game against Vancouver, eventually earning a 3-0 win at Rogers Place.
By all accounts, the Canucks played very well against the red-hot Nashville Predators last night but squandered a 2-0 lead in the third period before losing 3-2 in a shootout.
“It’s interesting if you’re a betting man right now because you have to be careful about how you bet on these games because you don’t know what is going to happen,” Hitchcock said. “The teams that look the best are the teams that aren’t going to be in the playoffs. Teams in the playoffs are hoping that the games are going to be a little bit easier and finding it’s not. We’re up next and we’ve got to be ready for it.
“I thought Vancouver played great against Nashville last night and deserved probably a better fate.”
ELLIOTT STARTS AGAIN
Brian Elliott will make his third consecutive start tonight after returning from a lower-body injury that kept him sidelined for 10 games.
Elliott has pitched back-to-back shutouts in his return.
“‘Moose’ coming back from an injury and being able to play like that has really given us a boost,” Reaves said. “He’s done it for us all year, though. He’s just coming back where he left off.”
In his last 10 games, Elliott is 8-0-1 with a 1.61 goals-against average, a .948 save-percentage and two shutouts.
Against Pacific Division teams, the Blues are 13-5-1 this season and are averaging 3.00 goals per game.
The Blues have teamed up with Country Financial to host a food drive at tonight’s game. Fans can donate items at each entrance for tonight’s game, which will be donated to the STL Area Foodbank. Click here to see a list of suggested items.
The first 12,500 fans through the doors at tonight’s game will receive an Alex Pietrangelo bobblehead.