ST. PAUL - It seems every team the Blues have met lately has been either fighting to keep a playoff spot or battling to improve upon their position.
That certainly isn’t making anything easy on the Blues, who aren’t necessarily worried about keeping a playoff spot but instead want the highest seed possible.
“A lot of these teams are desperate to get two points and stay in the race,” said Blues captain David Backes. “We need those two points just as bad as they do because we’re trying to win a Presidents’ Trophy, win a first seed and try to get a home-ice playoff series. They’re difficult. It’s a great challenge, a great measuring stick for where we’re at. It’s playoff-style hockey when it’s do or tie for these teams.”
“I had a chance to look at our schedule and see who we were playing against in these last 10 games or so, and everybody is right in the mix,” said Blues goalie Brian Elliott. “Everybody is playing for their lives, playing for their position. Like (today against Minnesota), two games against Chicago - it’s really going to write the story on how the season’s going to end and where you are in the playoffs.”
As the Blues prepare to face the Wild today (1 p.m., FSMW, KMOX), the team hopes to write a different ending than the one it wrote exactly one week ago. In that game, the Blues surrendered two goals in a 17-second span and fell 3-1 to the Wild at Scottrade Center despite outshooting Minnesota 42-19.
The Wild have won two of their last three games, including that 3-1 victory in St. Louis, but fell 3-2 to the Washington Capitals at home on Thursday. Despite the loss, the Wild own the top Wild Card position in the West with 85 points (39-25-7).
“We need to play a similar game (as last week), just bury our chances when we create them and we’ll like the end result,” Backes said. “We had a solid 60 minutes, had a lapse for a few and then they capitalized. That’s been our crux - having little lapses where other teams have capitalized. We’ve got to eliminate that.”
CENTRAL DIVISION UPDATE
1. St. Louis - 71 GP, 45-20-6, 96 PTS
2. Nashville - 72 GP, 43-21-8, 94 PTS
3. Chicago - 70 GP, 43-21-6, 92 PTS
The Blues have won three of the last four on the road and have collected points in nine of the last 10 road games (7-1-2). Including today’s game, the club has three games left on its season-high six-game road trip (Minnesota, Detroit and Pittsburgh).
The penalty kill has denied 15 consecutive opportunities over the last five games. In March, the penalty kill has stopped 29 of 30 chances, good for a 96.6 percent success rate. Only the Islanders are better, killing 21 of 21 chances.
Paul Stastny’s next point will be the 500th of his career. Against the Wild, Stastny has 10 goals and 20 assists (30 points) in 49 career games.
The Blues have won five of their last six trips to Xcel Energy Center (5-1-0) thanks in part to a penalty killing effort that has given the Wild just one goal on their last 23 attempts.
Brian Elliott will start today against the Wild. Jake Allen will start Sunday in Detroit.