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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 8:11 am 
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The St. Louis Blues are 10-2-1 in March. They scored 38 goals while allowing just 21 in those 13 games, goalie Jake Allen has a .951 save percentage this month and the power play (20 percent) hasn't missed a beat following a trade-deadline deal that sent power-play catalyst Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals.

All that has earned the Blues, for now, is the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, a comfortable lead on the Los Angeles Kings for that last playoff spot, and a chance to leapfrog Nashville for third place in the Central Division, or Calgary for the first wild-card spot.

The Blues are just one-point back of the Predators with a game in hand following Nashville's loss to Boston on Tuesday.

"I think it's going to go down to the last couple of games," said Allen, whose team faces the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday at Gila River Arena, marking the second meeting between the clubs in the last three days and the third meeting in the last 12 days. "We always had a luxury before where we knew we were in by now and had a top seed the last four years, but now it's different and I think that's going to help us going into the playoffs. We're just going to have to play hard every night, every shift, and hope that momentum carries us in and brings us some wins in the first round."

The Blues are benefitting from an easier schedule. Including those three meetings with Arizona, which has already been eliminated from the playoff race, St. Louis faces just two teams in its final 12 games, and one in its final seven that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

"If you're a competitor you love playing meaningful games at this time of year regardless of the opponent," said Blues coach Mike Yeo, whose team is 13-0-1 in its last 14 games against Arizona, with its last loss in regulation to Arizona coming in 2011. "That's a team that challenges you with their speed and their skill. They have structure, they're well coached. Every game is a new challenge. I just love that we are playing in real meaningful games and we are trying to build our game."

The Blues could get a boost to their lineup against the Coyotes. Left winger Dmitrij Jaskin, who hasn't played since March 13 due to an upper-body injury, skated on Tuesday. Center Paul Stastny (lower body) is week to week. Center Jori Lehtera (upper body) is out indefinitely and left winger Robby Fabbri (ACL) is out for the season.

Yeo doesn't announce his starting goalie until game day, but Allen is 7-0 in his career against the Coyotes, including 2-0 this season with a 0.50 goals-against average and a .981 save-percentage. He's made five straight starts so it's likely he and backup Carter Hutton will split assignments on the team's two-game road trip, which concludes in Colorado on Friday.

For the Coyotes, left winger Clayton Keller will play in his first home game after making his NHL debut on Monday in St. Louis, near his hometown of Swansea, Ill.

The Coyotes signed Keller to a three-year, entry-level contract on Sunday, the day after his college team, Boston University, was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament. Arizona selected Keller with the seventh overall pick of the 2016 NHL draft.

"Really special moment getting the start," Keller said of playing on the opening line with Alex Burmistrov and Christian Fischer against the Blues. "It was something I'll remember forever, and you only have one first NHL game so it was pretty cool."

Wednesday's game could be one of the final four home games of Coyotes captain Shane Doan's 20-season career in Arizona, and 21-season run with the Jets/Coyotes franchise. Doan hasn't decided yet if he'll retire, adding that he will make that decision after the season with his family.

"I want be sure," he said. "I don't want to make a decision and then get to a point in the summer where my body feels good and I'm feeling like I could still contribute."

Doan is still nursing a lower-body injury that has sidelined him for the last six games. He is considered day-to-day. Defenseman Kevin Connauton (upper body) is also day-to-day. Center Brad Richardson (broken right tibia and fibula) is on injured reserve.

Mike Smith is expected to start in goal for Arizona, despite a 4-14 career record against the Blues with a 3.52 goals-against average and a .885 save percentage.
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Blues • This is the second time this season the Blues have played the same opponent in consecutive games. … After Monday’s win, Jake Allen is 30-19-4 this season, the first Blues goalie with 30 wins since Chris Mason in 2009-10. … Alex Pietrangelo tied a career high when he scored his 12th goal of the season Monday. He has 10 points in March (three goals, seven assists), fourth best among defensemen.

Coyotes • Arizona has lost five of its past six games. The Coyotes have lost 10 in a row to the Blues. … Clayton Keller and Jakob Chychrun are the first pair of 18-year-olds to skate for the Coyotes since Shane Doan and Jason Doig in October 1995. Arizona rookies have 97 points this season, the second-most in the NHL. Brendan Perlini has 13 goals, 11th most among rookies this season.

Injuries • Blues — F Paul Stastny (lower body), F Robby Fabbri (knee) and F Jori Lehtera (head), out. Coyotes — F Shane Doan (lower body), F Brad Richardson (leg), F Alexander Burmistrov (upper body) and D Kevin Connauton (upper body), out.


This day in history:
1919 Stanley Cup not awarded due to flu epidemic
1981 Wayne Gretzky has 3 assists breaking Esposito's record of 152 points
1985 Wayne Gretzky breaks own NHL season record with 126th assist
1989 1st Soviet hockey players are permitted to play for the NHL
1999 Wayne Gretzky scores his 894th and final regular season NHL goal in Rangers 3-1 win over Islanders
2000 Patrick Roy becomes first goaltender to win 30 games in a season 10 times as Avs beat Oilers 3-2.
2003 Blues and Red Wings have 243 PIM game as Pronger returns for 1st game of season following his wrist injury. Hull, the traitor, records hat trick for Red Wings as Blues lose 6-2.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 8:45 am 
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The return of Jaskin? Does that push Yakupov out?

Odd to say, but Yak's been surprisingly visible the last few games. Too bad he still has no goals to show for it. 3 assists in 3 games is not bad though- especially considering our expectations for him.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:14 pm 
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If I was Yak, I would look for a one year, two-way deal and volunteer for assignment to the Wolves and work with Berube. I see a lot of potential in Yak but he really needs to start back at square one and get what he hasn't learned bolted down. He always seems to be half-trained or maybe he works hard towards skills he's already good at and not the ones he is deficient at. Just my 2 cents.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 7:21 pm 
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Taking on the Oiler rejects hasn't really panned out well, though Paajarvi is actually producing a bit more now which is nice. Yak though, dude doesn't get it. He just doesn't get it. He'll be over in the KHL soon and I'm sure he'll be much happier and more productive playing there. I'm just glad we didn't sell the farm to get this experiment.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 8:55 pm 
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Berglund!!!! #22!!! Blues lead 1-0 on a terrific pass from Paajarvi!!!

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 8:59 pm 
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That was a very skillful goal scorer's goal by Berglund. I'm beginning to think he's a better goal scorer than a lot of people thought. I'm expecting 20+ goal seasons for him for the foreseeable future. Too bad he can't also set up some goals for his linemates.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 9:35 pm 
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Tarasenko sneaks one through!!! Blues lead 2-1!!!

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 10:56 pm 
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Fantastic glove save by Hutton saves the lead!!!

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 11:03 pm 
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Perron seals it with the empty-netter!!! Blues lead 3-1 and are back in 3rd in The Central!!!

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 11:24 pm 
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glen a richter wrote:
Taking on the Oiler rejects hasn't really panned out well, though Paajarvi is actually producing a bit more now which is nice. Yak though, dude doesn't get it. He just doesn't get it. He'll be over in the KHL soon and I'm sure he'll be much happier and more productive playing there. I'm just glad we didn't sell the farm to get this experiment.


Exactly. If Yak hasn't learned that if you are going in one on two or more along the boards and haven't reached the opponents blue line, it's time to dump the puck, he likely will never learn it. Same issues as with the Oilers, different team.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 11:25 pm 
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The Blues in the 3rd period looked like a team taking a break when the opportunity presented itself after playing 2 periods when it looked like they were on the PP almost the entire time.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2017 7:53 am 
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And we're back in sole possession of 3rd place in the Central. :okman: Of the potential 1st-round matchups, I definitely think we stand the best chance against Minnesota.

Sunday's game against Nashville is going to be YUGE.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2017 8:11 am 
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Minnesota is at the point where they're trying to find positives in losses when they're talking to the media. I want this series so bad. I would guess the Blues and Preds pour a ton into Sunday's game as they likely want it too.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2017 9:07 am 
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Toasted Oates wrote:
Minnesota is at the point where they're trying to find positives in losses when they're talking to the media. I want this series so bad. I would guess the Blues and Preds pour a ton into Sunday's game as they likely want it too.


I want it too. I think they overachieved most of the year and now that they have crashed down to earth, they are having trouble rebounding.

I mean, they are a good team. But, it feels like a good opportunity for us.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2017 10:59 am 
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Don't let Minnesota's losing streak fool you. They are getting tons of quality chances, but are a) not finishing them, or b) getting stoned by hot goaltending.

When they lost to Chicago, they outplayed the Blackhawks the majority of the game except for the bonehead goal when the player complained to the ref.

This Wild shot chart from that game is representative of what they've been doing during their losing stretch, outside of the game in which the Blues dominated them. A key to that was the Blues scoring first - since Yeo took over, Blues are 15-2 when scoring first goal and 3-5-1 if scored upon first

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Meanwhile, Chicago barely got into the middle, but almost everything that got there went in.

Image

And this is typical of what's happened to the Wild since that Blues game. Easy to see looking at shot charts at hockey-reference. That's why the Wild players are all scratching their heads, struggling with the media, etc. They are losing, but not from playing poorly in terms of generating chances. Dubynk is going through a rough stretch (since Blues game 3.31 GAA .871 SV%) and they aren't finishing. Same thing happened vs the Capitals and even Ovie's hat trick (all PPGs) were shots from outside the dots. Caps only had 3 shots from between and below the dots. The Wild are playing a structured game and just not getting results.

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They might be a tougher out than many think.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2017 11:09 am 
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They are 1-7-2 in their last 10. It's a tough sell that they are playing well right now.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2017 2:27 pm 
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cardsfan04 wrote:
They are 1-7-2 in their last 10. It's a tough sell that they are playing well right now.


The record is misleading. The Blues looked just as bad in December and January, but have turned that around. You have to look at the games and how they are playing, not just the record. If Dubynk hadn't turned into a sieve this past month, it wouldn't be so bad. If one discounts EN goals, they've lost 7 one goal games in the last 13 starting with the Blues game. That's usually not that hard to turn around. And they are going to get the chance to right their ship playing the Avs, Hurricanes, and Coyotes in 4 of their last 6. We'll see, but I'm not as confident as some that this is a favorable matchup simply based on watching their games, seeing the effort, seeing Dubnyk play poorly, seemingly facing All-Star goaltending every night whether or not the goalie is any good, and just not getting pucks to go in. Now if Dubnyk doesn't get himself straight, it's a great matchup. ;)

And just watching NHL tonight, you aren't going to see the effort. I'm shocked those guys haven't brought this up. They are usually on it.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2017 2:37 pm 
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I appreciate the effort on the shot charts and there's logic there. In my opinion, though, there's something to be said about how much effort the Caps and Hawks are pouring into games this month. Chicago's recent trip to Florida would be an example. I doubt either of these teams are too worried about playoff positioning.

Minnesota also has losses to some non playoff teams during this stretch and there seems to be more @ work than just bad luck.

Most, probably all, playoff teams would be a tough out for the Blues. If it's a matter of preference, though, I'd take the scuffling team with a goalie issue over Chicago or any of the Pacific teams.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2017 2:56 pm 
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And yet the Wild out-efforted the Caps. They lost because of Ovechkin being a ridiculously good PP goal scorer and iffy goaltending, not a lack of effort on their part.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2017 3:10 pm 
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No, I meant the opposite. Not surprised at all the Wild would out effort the Caps or Hawks for that matter this late in the season. That's why I don't read too much into the shot charts in those particular games.

Of course now that I've poo pooed Minnesota, they will sweep the Blues with ease.

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