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Blues battle Red Wings for Western playoff position

by Dan Rosen

BLUES (20-14-2) at RED WINGS (19-14-5)


Last 10: St. Louis 6-4-0; Detroit 6-4-0

Season series: This is the fifth and final meeting of the Central Division rivals this season. The Detroit Red Wings are 2-1-1 with a pair of regulation wins and an overtime loss. The St. Louis Blues won 6-0, on opening day, and 4-3 in overtime on Feb. 13.

Big story: The Blues and Red Wings are battling for a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth. They are separated by one point with the Red Wings in seventh place in the Western Conference and the Blues in eighth. St. Louis has two games in hand on Detroit, which is trying to make the playoffs for the 22nd straight season.

Team Scope:

Blues: St. Louis put together a three-game winning streak to start April after closing March with a three-game losing streak.

The Blues are coming off a 3-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. They also defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in a shootout and the Minnesota Wild 4-1 in the past week.

Blues captain David Backes has a goal in back-to-back games after scoring three in the first 34. He scored the winner Friday and was identified by coach Ken Hitchcock as the best player on the ice.

"He needed to step up with everything that's gone on here," Hitchcock said. "He really stepped up. Good to see."

Forward Chris Stewart chipped in against Columbus with his first goal in six games. Rookie goalie Jake Allen made 26 saves for his ninth win of the season.

Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, whom the Blues acquired Monday, picked up two more assists in the win over Columbus, giving him three in two games.

Red Wings: Forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were reunited Friday and it worked as the Red Wings left Denver with a 3-2 overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche.

Datsyuk scored the overtime winner off a feed from Zetterberg with 15.4 seconds left. Detroit's dynamic duo also teamed up for a Datsyuk power-play goal 8:27 into the first period.

"We needed these points," Datsyuk said, according to "We have tough situation, in fight for playoffs."

The Red Wings' only points in their past five games have come in wins over the last-place Avalanche. Detroit came into Colorado early Friday morning after losing at the Phoenix Coyotes, 4-2, Thursday.

Defenseman Danny Dekeyser made his NHL debut Friday and drew praise from coach Mike Babcock.

"I liked him," Babcock said. "He's going to be a good player in the League for a long time."

Who's hot: Blues forward Alex Steen has an assist in each of the past three games. ... Red Wings forward Johan Franzen has four assists during a three-game point-scoring streak.

Injury report: Blues forwards Scott Nichol (soreness) and T.J. Oshie (bruised left foot) are out. ... Red Wings forwards Damien Brunner (undisclosed), Mikael Samuelsson (upper body), Todd Bertuzzi (back) and Darren Helm (back) have been out of the lineup.

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