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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:07 am 
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The St. Louis Blues, who visit the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, clinched a playoff spot for the sixth straight year and could make some noise.

After reaching the Western Conference finals last season, the Blues fired coach Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 1, giving the job to Mike Yeo, who was already on staff.

The Blues are 19-8-2 since, positioning themselves as a legitimate Stanley Cup title contender, especially considering their strong run last year.

St. Louis (43-29-7) received a boost Tuesday when third-line center Jori Lehtera returned from a concussion in a 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

Three more St. Louis players may return against the Panthers -- second-line center Paul Stastny (broken foot), and defensemen Carl Gunnarsson (lower body) and Robert Bortuzzo (upper body).

But even if they don't make it back quite yet, Yeo said the Blues' ability to overcome those injuries bodes well for the postseason.

"I've been impressed," Yeo told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It says a lot about the character of our group.

"It's one thing for our coaching staff to say, 'Injuries don't matter. We have to continue to do our jobs.' But it has to come from inside the locker room, and that's where our leaders have done a great job. There's been no drop-off. If anything, they've raised their level."

While the Blues prepare for the playoffs, the Panthers are getting ready for summer vacation and endeavors such as golf and tropical beaches.

Multiple published reports Tuesday indicate what has long been suspected -- the firing of Gerard Gallant just one month into this season after he led the Panthers to a surprising 2016 Atlantic Division title was an abject failure, and general manager Tom Rowe, who became the interim coach, will not return in the latter role.

The Panthers went 11-9-1 under Gallant before management hit the panic button. The team is 22-26-10 under Rowe and lost five games in a row as well as 16 of the past 21.

Florida (33-35-11) was eliminated from playoff contention last week, and Monday, a Panthers fan hired a plan to fly over the BB&T Center with a banner that read: "Rowe must go! Call him a cab!"

Rowe said he was fine with fans voicing their opinions.

"I'm a big boy with thick skin," Rowe said. "Fans pay good money to watch us play. I want to tell the fans that it's been a disappointing year, but we will be back next season, and we will be in the playoffs."

If the Panthers make the playoffs next season, it won't be with Rowe behind the bench, at least according to those reports.

The Panthers have only three games left in their season. After the Blues visit, the Panthers end their home schedule with Saturday's game against the Buffalo Sabres.

Florida's season finale is Sunday at the Washington Capitals.

It is unlikely that three Panthers stars will play again this season. Goalie Roberto Luongo (lower body), defenseman Aaron Ekblad (neck) and center Aleksander Barkov (upper body) are all out with injuries.

Backup goalie James Reimer, who missed three consecutive games because of a head injury, could return to start against the Blues.

Meanwhile, Panthers right winger Jaromir Jagr, one of the NHL's all-time greats, said this week he is not sure if he will return to Florida next season.

Jagr said he and the Panthers will have discussions after the season is over, but he added he still wants to play and still enjoys competing for the franchise.
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Blues • The Blues can clinch third tonight in the Central with a win over Florida and any loss by Nashville, or a regulation loss by Nashville and the Blues going to overtime. … Over the past 10 games, Alex Pietrangelo has four goals, four assists and is a plus-9. He’s one point short of 300 in his career. … Ivan Barbashev has four assists in the past five games.

Panthers • Florida beat the Blues on Feb. 20, scoring a goal with five seconds to play to win 2-1. … Florida has lost five in a row, being outscored 22-9. The game right before that streak was a 7-0 win over Chicago. … Despite being 23rd in the league in points, Florida has the league’s best penalty kill at 85.6 percent. Its power play, meanwhile, is 24th at 16.7 percent.

Injuries • Blues – D Carl Gunnarsson (lower body) is questionable. D Robert Bortuzzo (upper body), F Paul Stastny (lower body), F Nail Yakupov (undisclosed) and F Robby Fabbri (knee) are out. Panthers – F Jussi Jokinen (undisclosed), F Aleksander Barkov (upper body), D Aaron Ekblad (neck) and G Roberto Luongo (lower body) are out. G James Reimer (undisclosed) is questionable

This day in history:
1974 Islanders Denis Potvin scores a goal and has three assists in the final game of the season to set NHL records for most goals (17), assists (54) and points (71) by a rookie defenseman in 4-2 win over North Stars
1975 Lawrence Sacharuk becomes first Blues defenseman to score 20 goals in a season in 3-2 win over Kansas City Scouts
1980 Gordie Howe completes a record 26th season
1986 Wayne Gretzky wins the Art Ross Trophy for the sixth consecutive season and sets an NHL record with 215 points
1988 Brett Hull, in his first playoff game, scored 2 PP goals vs Darren Pang in Blues 4-1 over Blackhawks
1991 Caron has altercation in press box with Glen Hanlon and gets rescued by Kelly Chase
2008 Keith Tkachuk scored his 500th career goal in season finale in Blues 4-1 win over Blue Jackets

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:16 am 
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And Jori Lehtera is skating at C again... :doh: :facepalm:

Last time I recall a Blues player being this over-valued was following the Garth Butcher trade. They kept rolling Butcher out as if his defensive play could replace the entire goal/game they lost in offense by acquiring him. The defense got worse in GAs every season following this trade until he was traded to Quebec, and in the season acquired only improved by .15 GA/gm while losing basically an entire G/Gm in offense. Maybe keeping those offensive players could have been the difference in the 1 goal losses in the 1st and 6th games of the 2nd round series vs the North Stars.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:05 am 
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These two statements... :lol:

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The Blues are 19-8-2 since, positioning themselves as a legitimate Stanley Cup title contender, especially considering their strong run last year.

St. Louis (43-29-7) received a boost Tuesday when third-line center Jori Lehtera returned from a concussion in a 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.


Yeah, we're legitimate contenders. Sure. Because we lost in the Conference Finals last year or something.

And Lehtera's return provided so much of a boost that we lost 5-2, the Blues' only regulation loss in the last 10 games. What a boost!

Hopefully Stastny is back. We need those faceoff wins.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 1:35 pm 
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Lehtera sure did provide a boost... in the wrong direction.

Dude sucks. How can the supposedly smart hockey minds in the organization be blind to that? Maybe someone should take an "accidental" run at him in practice and put him out of commission for the foreseeable future.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 6:02 pm 
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Reaves SCORES!!! on a breakaway.

4th line gets a goal the same way they gave up a goal in the last game - busting up a bad neutral zone pass and converting it.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 6:32 pm 
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Decent 1st Period for The Blues. They need to score a couple goals early, and knock the competitiveness out of The Panthers. Great shot and overall play by Reaves.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 6:36 pm 
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Nice save by Allen!

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 6:45 pm 
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Lucky goal by Tarasenko!!!! Hit the crossbar, banked off Reimer's back, into the net!! Blues lead 2-1!!! Way to respond after a Florida goal!

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 6:47 pm 
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If Barbashev can improve on face-offs, the Blues have their next C for Tarasenko for a looonnggg time. The way 17, 49, and 91 are moving the puck around has been amazing tonight.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:01 pm 
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Pietrangelo hits the post! That would have been a key goal for The Blues at the end of The 2nd, instead of the precarious 1-goal lead.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:06 pm 
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What the heck has to happen for the Panthers to be called for a penalty that Barbashev rightly draws? Hooking - Nope. Hauled down by the jersey - Nope. Ridiculous!!

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:32 pm 
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Whew! Perron gives the Blues a 3-2 lead. With Nashville spanking Dallas, we need the win.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:34 pm 
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Super toe-drag and follow through forehand pop-in by Perron, after Reimer went for the deke!!! Blues lead 3-2!!!

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:39 pm 
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Come on Blues. Do you want to play Chicago?

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:44 pm 
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Thank you Berglund. Hold the damn lead boys.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:46 pm 
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Great slap pass by Schmaltz to Berglund, who tips it in!!! Blues lead 4-3!!!

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:51 pm 
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The Blues need to score on this power play! And They DOOOOO!!! Lehtera, with patience, makes a super pass to Schwartz for the goal!! Blues lead 5-3!!!

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:53 pm 
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And They DOOOOO!!! Lehtera, with patience, passes to Schwartz, who makes a super pass to Pietrangelo for the goal!! Blues lead 5-3!!!

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:01 pm 
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Schwartz with the empty-netter!!! Blues seal it, 6-3!!!

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:03 pm 
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Thank goodness!

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