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Blues fall to Red Wings, face Chicago in first round

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- The Detroit Red Wings had a nice tune-up Sunday in preparation for their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The St. Louis Blues are crawling into the postseason with their worst losing streak in eight years.

The Red Wings defeated the Blues 3-0 at Scottrade Center in a game that meant nothing to Detroit (39-28-15) and plenty to St. Louis, which limps into a Western Conference First Round matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks.

A Blues win would have forced the Colorado Avalanche to defeat the Anaheim Ducks later Sunday night, but St. Louis' loss, its sixth in a row, gave the Avalanche the Central Division title and a matchup against the Minnesota Wild in the first round.

Justin Abdelkader scored twice and Riley Sheahan had a goal for the Red Wings, who got 23 stops from Petr Mrazek in goal for his second career shutout. Detroit rested forwards Johan Franzen and Daniel Aldredsson, defensemen Niklas Kronwall and Danny DeKeyser, and goalie Jimmy Howard.

"[The Blues] didn't have their team and we didn't have chunks of our team too, so I don't know if you can evaluate much about the game, but it's always nice to win it," Babcock said.

Detroit won three of four games against the Bruins.

"Well, we're not throwing it out the window, we're telling our guys that's what matters," Babcock said. "We dominated the series but obviously it starts all over. We feel real comfortable with our group. We're well organized and we know we're going to compete."

The Blues (52-23-7), who set a franchise record for wins in a season, played the game without eight regulars who are out with injuries. They include forwards David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Tarasenko and Brenden Morrow, and defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Barret Jackman.

It's the longest losing streak for the Blues since they dropped seven in a row from Jan. 4-17, 2006. They finished 30th in the NHL that season, the first after of the 2004-05 lockout.

"You look at the big picture," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "The big picture is we set a record for [wins]. We had a brutal stretch here at the end. Every team went through a brutal stretch. The teams that had the Olympians, at some period of time, they hit the wall. Chicago's stretch was right after the break, ours happened now.

"This break will do us really a lot of good, and we can get re-energized, refocused and come back and get ready to play. The one difference that this last 10 days has made for us, the only difference is, the way we have to adjust our schedule for what we're going to do. We might need more rest than work to get back focused again. That part is what it is. Everybody that had a lot of those players, still has to find a way to win playoff series.

"We got caught in the vortex, just like two or three other teams that had multiple players get caught in the vortex, too. We get a chance to rest. Our work-base part of our practices will be minimal now. We'll have a lot different lineup that played [Sunday] on Thursday."

The Blues were blanked for the second straight game and seventh time in the final 25 games after not being shut out in the first 57. They ended the season without a goal in the last 143:59 and without an even-strength goal in the last 217:21.

"It's a mixture of things, but we've got to get more inside," Blues forward Alexander Steen said. "A lot of the stuff's being generated on the outside. The power play hasn't really been clicking the last few games here.

"We've got a few days here to regroup, get some bodies back and start preparing for the first round."

The Red Wings got on the board first when Abdelkader, parked in front of Blues goalie Ryan Miller (who stopped 18 shots but sustained his fifth straight defeat) was able to redirect Brian Lashoff's shot over Miller at 13:30 of the first period.

The Red Wings thought they had scored moments earlier when Tomas Tatar's one-timer beat Miller, but the goal was waved off when Joakim Andersson was whistled for goaltender interference at 9:48.

The Blues had a terrific chance at tying the game in the second period off a 3-on-1 rush with eight minutes left, but Maxim Lapierre couldn't convert and left himself with a bad-angle shot.

Sheahan gave the Red Wings a two-goal lead after Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo's shot from the point went awry and turned into a 2-on-2 going the other way. Sheahan used Colaiacovo as a screen and snapped a shot from the left circle over Miller's glove with 3:41 left in the second.

Abdelkader's second of the game came off a saucer feed from Pavel Datsyuk in the slot, and he redirected the shot over Miller's right shoulder with 7:17 remaining in the game. Datsyuk has 74 points in 64 career games against St. Louis after his two assists Sunday.

"It's always good to end the season on a good note heading into the playoffs, and I think we're doing a lot of good things of late and looking forward to the Boston series in the first round," Abdelkader said. "It's going to be a lot of fun."

Miller will now man the pipes for the Blues in his first trip to the postseason since 2011.

"Everybody starts at zeros again," Miller said. "We could have run the table at the end of the season and still found ourselves in the same situation. We have to beat a team to advance through the next round of the playoffs. We just kind of regroup and remind ourselves what we do well and we build a game plan and execute. We were going to have to do it anyway."

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