Early one today, fellas.
BLUES (47-15-7) at FLYERS (37-25-7)
TV: FS-MW, CSN-PH
Last 10: St. Louis 8-1-1; Philadelphia 7-2-1
Season series: It's the first of two games between the Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis Blues. The last time the teams faced off was Oct. 22, 2011, in Philadelphia, when the Blues won 4-2.
Big story: The Blues are focused on more than making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so clinching a spot is only one marker on the way to their ultimate destination.
"It's a minor goal on the way to our major goal," Blues captain David Backes told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "That's nice to have with a number of games remaining in the season, but our ultimate goal this year was not to get into the playoffs. It shows you the evolution and the culture around here. That's what we were trying to create a few years ago, and now we've started to create it. We need this to be perpetual."
The Flyers aren't as assured of making the playoffs, so they know they can't have any letdown.
"We're in a good spot right now," goalie Steve Mason said. "We just have to keep playing well and every game is going to be a must-win down the road."
Blues: The Blues may be at the top of the NHL standings, but coach Ken Hitchcock hasn't stopped looking for places his team can improve. One of those places is better offensive production from the fourth line.
Hitchcock has always enjoyed being able to roll four lines, and the expectation is that all four lines can produce. That hasn't been the case for the trio of Maxim Lapierre, Brenden Morrow and Ryan Reaves. In a 4-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, all three played at least 10:44 but totaled one shot, credited to Reaves.
"I love what they bring," Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch. "We've got to convince them that they can score, though. Maybe we've got to give them more confidence, put them on the power play once or twice. We've got to find a way for them.
"They are working hard, they're creating all this zone time. I want to see them have the confidence to make plays when they get it in because they're more than capable."
Of the trio, Morrow has 11 goals this season and is a seven-time 20-goal scorer. Lapierre has seven goals and Reaves has two.
"I think right now we're at that stage where we're right around the corner," Lapierre told the Post-Dispatch. "We're in their zone a lot, we cycle the puck … now it's find a way to get a shot on net, get more traffic and score some goals."
Flyers: Andrew MacDonald has one assist in seven games since joining the Flyers, but his impact can best be seen at the other end of the ice. In MacDonald's seven games the Flyers have allowed 17 goals, an average of 2.43 per game, and are 5-1-1 in that span. In 62 games prior to MacDonald's arrival, the Flyers were allowing 2.82 goals per game.
The biggest beneficiary from MacDonald's arrival has been Luke Schenn, who has three assists and is plus-3 in seven games as MacDonald's defense partner. Prior to MacDonald's arrival Schenn was minus-2 and lacked any consistency in his game.
"It's only been a few games, but we're developing chemistry and learning how to play together," Schenn told CSNPhilly.com. "We complement each other well. He's helped me out there. He's a steady player to play with. We knew what type of player he was: steady and consistent. Probably not a real flashy guy or things you would notice about him. He is always in good position, makes a good first pass and puts pucks on the tape. He can play some offense, but I think the big thing is he is sound defensively."
MacDonald also has enjoyed the pairing.
"Luke does a lot of things really well out there," he told CSNPhilly.com. "He's big, physical, moves the puck well when the opportunity is there. For me, playing with Luke, we try to complement each other. … We're creating good chemistry out there. Get the puck in our forwards' hands with speed and transition."
Who's hot: Blues goalie Ryan Miller has won seven of nine games since being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 28. He has allowed two goals or fewer in seven of the nine games. … Flyers captain Claude Giroux has points in five straight games, and eight of 10 since the Olympic break. He has five goals and 10 assists in that span.
Injury report: The Blues are missing defenseman Jordan Leopold (ankle) and forward Vladimir Tarasenko (hand). Forward Magnus Paajarvi (upper body) is questionable. … The Flyers have no reported injuries.
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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