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Blues in position tonight to be first team to clinch @NHLdotcom

Blues' clinching scenario for tonight

If Blues win Thursday, they increase their season points total to 100. If they win in regulation or overtime, they would increase their regulation-overtime wins total to 42. If they win in a shootout, their ROW is 41. Either would be good enough to clinch a playoff berth with losses Thursday by Calgary and San Jose.

Here's why:

* The Blues' current total (100 points, either 42 or 41 ROW) would be superior to the maximum possible season total for five Western Conference rivals -- Columbus, Edmonton, Minnesota, Anaheim and Colorado.

* Further, if the San Jose Sharks lose in regulation to Nashville, their maximum possible season total drops to 102 points/40 ROW. The Los Angeles Kings, who are idle tonight, also have a maximum season total of 102 points/40 ROW. Since the Sharks and Kings meet three more times, the Blues would be guaranteed of finishing ahead of one of them.

* Further, if the Calgary Flames lose in regulation to Phoenix, their maximum season total drops to 100 points/41 wins and thus would be incapable of catching St. Louis (if St. Louis and Calgary each finished the season with 100 points and 41 ROW, St. Louis would win the tie-breaker having won their season series.)

* Based on the hypothetical results listed above, that would make seven Western Conference teams that could not possibly catch the Blues -- Columbus, Edmonton, Minnesota, Anaheim, Colorado, either San Jose or Los Angeles, and Calgary. Thus, St. Louis would be guaranteed to be among the eight Western Conference playoff clubs.
The St. Louis Blues have been one of the surprises of the 2011-12 NHL season, and they can continue their impressive rise to elite status Thursday night by becoming the first team to clinch a spot in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

St. Louis needs two points against Carolina at newly-named PNC Arena, and the Blues need Calgary and San Jose to lose their home games in regulation, to Phoenix and Nashville, respectively. If those three things happen, the Blues will be the first team to earn an invitation to the NHL's "big dance."

It has been a remarkable season for the Blues. After decades of being a model of consistency, including an NHL-record 25 consecutive postseason berths, St. Louis has been to the playoffs only once in the past six seasons -- a first-round exit in 2008-09.

Not only have the Blues stormed back into playoff contention, they are in the midst of one of the best seasons in franchise history. After a 6-7-0 start, the Blues replaced coach Davis Payne with Ken Hitchcock and have risen to the top of the NHL standings.

The Blues are the best team in the League at preventing goals, and it has been the biggest reason for their success. They've allowed 13 fewer than the second-stingiest team (and the New York Rangers have played two fewer games), and St. Louis goaltenders Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak are first and second in the League in goals against average.

St. Louis' best regular season was in 1999-2000 when the Blues won the Presidents' Trophy and finished with a team-record 114 points. A win Thursday would put the Blues at 100 points with 10 games to play.

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