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Desperate Blues visit surging Wings

by John Kreiser

BLUES (34-29-9) at RED WINGS (36-23-13)

Last 10 -- St. Louis 6-4-0; Detroit 7-2-1

Season series -- It's the sixth and final meeting of the season between the two Central Division rivals, and the Blues have had by far the better of things. Starting with back-to-back wins in Stockholm to open the season, St. Louis is 4-0-1 against the Wings, including a 1-0 victory in their only other visit to Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 9.

Big story -- The Blues are running out of time and available points if they hope to make the playoffs, and this is their biggest game of the season. A Detroit victory would give the Wings a 10-point lead over the Blues with nine games to play for each team.A St. Louis win in regulation would leave the Blues six points in arrears -- difficult, but not impossible.

Team Scope:

Blues -- There are losses, and then there are losses like the 3-2 defeat the Blues took at home against Nashville on Sunday. With his team desperate for every point, interim coach Davis Payne saw the Blues give up two goals in a 48-second span late in the third period to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

"It hurts tremendously," Payne said. "It stings pretty good."

The Blues are 9-4-0 in their last 13 games, but they can't afford any more losses.

Red Wings -- Injuries and inconsistency have made this a trying season in Detroit. But a 5-0-1 run has the Wings in command of a playoff berth, and Monday's 3-1 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins showed that they'll be a force to be reckoned in the postseason with if they can just make the playoffs.

"This is the best run we've been on all year," coach Mike Babcock said. "We're desperate to try to get into the playoffs. We have proud players who have done a lot of winning over a long period of time.

"We'd all like to get into the tournament, and we think we have a shot if we get in."

Who's hot -- Former Wings goaltender Ty Conklin may get the start for the Blues. He's won his last two games, including a 1-0 shutout at New Jersey on Saturday, and blanked the Wings in December. … The Wings are 8-2-1 since the Olympic break thanks to some big efforts by their big guns. Henrik Zetterberg has 15 points in that stretch, including a pair of goals and an assist on Monday. Pavel Datsyuk has 11 points and captain Nicklas Lidstrom chipping in 10 in the 11-game run.

Injury report -- Blues defenseman Roman Polak injured his shoulder on Saturday and sat out Sunday. … Detroit forwards Dan Cleary (groin) and Patrick Eaves (back and neck) sat out again Monday. Babcock isn't sure whether they'll be able to go.

Stat pack -- The Blues are an NHL-worst 12-18-5 at home, but their 22-11-4 road record is the second-best in the league. They've won six of eight away from home since the Olympics. … Detroit has held its opponents without a power-play goal in each of the last nine games, killing off 24 consecutive penalties.

Puck drop -- This is the season for St. Louis -- a loss and its playoff hopes are all but dead. Unfortunately for the Blues, they're catching the Wings at a time when Detroit is getting healthier and starting to round into form.

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