WINNIPEG - With 20 games remaining in the regular season, Blues Head Coach Mike Yeo said he wants to see his players to rise to the moment.
"We wake up this morning and we're in ninth place, but this is a fun time to be a hockey player because you're playing meaningful games in tough buildings," Yeo said. "That's when you want to be at your best. We're looking to see who is ready to do that tonight."
The Blues unfortunately find themselves one point out of the Wild Card spot in the Western Conference thanks to the Los Angeles Kings' 3-2 shootout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs last night. The Blues did get some help from Montreal though, who scored in the final seconds to earn a come-from-behind win over Nashville, who was unable to extend their lead over the Blues for third in the Central Division.
So while the Blues have seen their stanglehold on a playoff spot slip away recently, they still have games in hand on teams their chasing and can control their own destiny.
"I'm not inside the locker room (right now) so I don't know what they're saying in there, but my hunch is they're saying 'this is our season right now,'" Yeo added. "I think we have to rise to the moment. That's the biggest thing for me. (We need to) be excited about the intensity that's in these hockey games, and we have to have some awareness of (opposing teams), but more important Is our focus has to be on our own.
"We're trying to build more pace into our game. We're seeing less consistency in our game lately in the four losses," Yeo said. "Just not enough in there to guarantee wins."
Tonight's 7 p.m. matchup in Winnipeg won't make things any easier. The Blues lead the Jets by five points in the Western Conference standings but haven't beaten Winnipeg yet this season, most recently suffering a 5-3 loss on Jan. 31 in St. Louis.
The Jets have two players scoring at or above a point-per-game pace: Mark Scheifele has 65 points (26 goals, 39 assists) in 65 games while rookie Patrik Laine has 56 points (31 goals, 25 assists) in 56 games.
"This is a very talented group that we're playing tonight, and just looking at the video, the goal scorers, the scoring chances, the plays off the rush, the plays of the offensive zone… they're a handful," Yeo said. "They come at us with speed and they have weight to go with that. They're a challenge."
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JACK!
Carter Hutton's parents - Jack and Linda - planned a trip from Thunderbay, Ontario to Winnipeg to see their son tonight not knowing that he'd start in goal, but that's what will happen tonight at MTS Centre.
"It's great! They're pretty pumped," Carter said. "Getting to watch me play will be a cherry on top for them. Dad will be pumped, but my mom is not too excited. She gets a little nervous so she'll be walking the concourse, I'm sure."
The Huttons are also celebrating Jack's 66th birthday today.
Carter will make his first start in goal tonight since a 25-save shutout performance against the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 15.
- Ryan Reaves will have family at the game tonight in Winnipeg as well as he celebrates his 400th career NHL game in his home town. Reaves will become the 34th player to play in 400 or more games with the Blues.
- Zach Sanford will make his Blues debut on the left wing alongside Patrik Berglund and David Perron. Sanford, a 6-foot-4 forward, was acquired by the Blues in Monday's trade with the Washington Capitals.
- Vladimir Tarasenko has five goals and five assists in his last seven games against the Jets.
- The Blues will play 10 of their 15 games in March away from Scottrade Center.