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Post-clinch Blues continue march against Ducks

by Brian Hunter
BLUES (46-19-8) at DUCKS (31-32-11)


Last 10:
St. Louis 7-2-1; Anaheim 4-5-1

Season Series: Fourth and final meeting. The home team has won all three games, with the last two matchups going to the Blues at Scottrade Center. Bobby Ryan of the Ducks has three goals and five points to lead all scorers.

Big Story:
St. Louis is the only Western Conference team to have clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but is still looking to wrap up the No. 1 seed and Central Division title. Anaheim is still mathematically alive and coming off a strong effort Monday in which it played the spoiler role to perfection in San Jose.

Team Scope:

Snapping a brief two-game winless streak, St. Louis officially punched its postseason ticket Saturday night with a 3-1 victory in Tampa Bay. It's the Blues' second playoff berth in seven seasons after they made it for 25 consecutive years entering the work stoppage. Patrik Berglund's shorthanded goal got them started and the eventual game-winner came from Jaden Schwartz in his first NHL game. The first-round 2010 pick scored on a power play with 35.5 seconds left in the first. David Perron also tallied and Jaroslav Halak finished with 22 saves.

"It's great, but I don't think anybody is focusing on the playoffs," Halak said. "We have work to do. We've got nine games left in the season, and we have to get as many wins as we can. We have to do our job, and I'm sure everybody realizes that."

The biggest surprise in Anaheim's 5-3 win over San Jose wasn't even the Ducks beating their Pacific Division rival on the road to deny them entrance into the West's top eight, it was the man in net who sparked the effort. After Jonas Hiller set a club record by starting 32 games in a row, Jeff Deslauriers saw action for the first time since Jan. 10 and stopped 27 shots, allowing just one goal over the final 50 minutes. The Ducks had numerous offensive heroes -- Ryan had a goal and a pair of assists, and a rare goal from defenseman Nate Guenin held up as the game-winner.

"Every team has different situations," Deslauriers said in the Orange County Register. "Every coach has his own choices to make. They're qualified to do that. That's why they're there.

"My job is to focus on stopping the puck and be ready for the next game I play. No matter when that next game is going to be, you have to be ready and do everything you can to be sharp at that time."

Who's Hot:
Berglund has 4 goals and 2 assists in his last six games for the Blues. Perron has 3 goals and 3 assists over the same span. Halak is on a 9-0-1 run and hasn't allowed more than two goals in any of the wins. … Ryan has 4 goals and 6 assists over his last 10 games for the Ducks. Ryan Getzlaf has 5 assists over the last four games.

Injury Report: St. Louis forward David Backes bruised his left foot blocking a shot against Tampa Bay and could miss Wednesday's game. Forward Andy McDonald missed the last game with a bruised shoulder, while Jason Arnott has sat out the last two with general body soreness. Forward Alex Steen, out since Dec. 27 with a concussion, has been receiving treatment in Anaheim and could begin skating soon. … Anaheim defenseman Toni Lydman was out of the lineup Monday with an upper-body injury.

Stat Pack: The Blues lead the League with 12 shutouts, but they've gone 15 games since the last one, a 13-save effort by Brian Elliott against the Wild on Feb. 18. … Hiller, who figures to be back in net Wednesday, had the longest consecutive games streak by a goalie since Antti Niemi's run of 34 in a row last season for the Sharks.

Puck Drop:
St. Louis already had a balanced offense before adding Schwartz. Now, the 19-year-old figures to add an extra dimension to the attack.

"It was pretty special," Schwartz said of scoring in his debut. "It's something you dream about. I'm just happy that I could come in and help get the win."
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