Blues try to get back in win column vs. Red Wings
Monday, 04.02.2012 / 4:38 PM
NHL.comRED WINGS (47-27-5) at BLUES (48-21-10)
TV: NBCSN (HD), TSN2
Detroit 3-5-2; St. Louis 4-3-3
Sixth and final meeting between these Central Division rivals. The home team has won all five previous matchups. St. Louis started out winning a pair of games at Scottrade Center, but Detroit took three games at Joe Louis Arena in the span of under a month. The teams haven't met since Jan. 23.
If these teams see one another again this season, it won't be until at least the second round of the playoffs. For now, each has its own agenda over the final days leading up to the postseason. The Blues have clinched the Central but are still in the running for the No. 1 seed and Presidents' Trophy, while the Red Wings are in a battle with two other division rivals, the Predators and Blackhawks, for the fourth seed and home-ice advantage in the first round.
Consecutive losses to Columbus and Nashville threatened Detroit's chances at opening the playoffs at The Joe, but the Red Wings rebounded with a key 2-1 shootout victory Sunday against the Panthers. They spotted the visitors a lead late in the first period and spent until early in the third trying to catch up. After Jiri Hudler's career-high 25th goal of the season drew the Wings even at 5:30 they had the better of play for most of the remainder of the game, but needed tallies by Pavel Datsyuk and Hudler in the penalty-shot tiebreaker to finally shake Florida.
"At this point in the year it's any way you can get them," said goalie Jimmy Howard, who made 27 saves through 65 minutes and two more in the shootout. "I think we needed to play a tight one like this to be able to come out on top. I think it's huge for our confidence. They struck first, but we stuck to it and continued to push and tied it up and found a way to win in the shootout.''
Having dropped two straight and six of its last nine, St. Louis has three games left with which to build some positive momentum heading into its first playoff series in three years. The Blues clinched the Central on Saturday despite a 5-2 loss to the Blue Jackets in which Jaroslav Halak
stopped 28 of 32 shots. Since a 10-game stretch in which he didn't allow more than two goals in a start, Halak has given up either three or four goals in four of his last five starts. But the problems ran far deeper against Columbus, as coach Ken Hitchcock said the Blues had "some people who didn't show up from a compete standpoint."
"We've talked about it the whole time," forward Alex Steen
said in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "If we play the way we should be playing and the way that has made us successful, we'll clinch and we'll get to where we want to be before the playoffs (start) and go in with a good buzz. (Saturday's) performance wasn't very good and we've got a few games left here where we need to pick it up. Our goalies are playing great. The rest of us need to pick it up."
Hudler has 4 goals and 2 assists in his last five games for the Red Wings. … David Perron
has goals in three straight games for the Blues. David Backes
has 2 goals and 3 assists in his last four games.
Detroit goalie Joey MacDonald (back spasms) is day-to-day. Forward Darren Helm (knee) could return at some point during the playoffs.
Hudler's previous best for goals in a season came in 2008-09 when he scored 23 times. He played in the KHL the following season, and when he returned to the Red Wings in 2010-11 scored only 10 goals. … Prior to Saturday's loss, the Blues had been 13-1-1 at home dating back to Jan. 14, outscoring opponents 43-16 over that span.
Detroit will have to juggle its defense for this game as Kyle Quincey received a one-game suspension Monday for a hit delivered to Florida's Tomas Kopecky in the third period Sunday that resulted in a five-minute elbowing major and game misconduct.