Saturday, April 1, 2017

Blues to host Predators in showdown for third in division

Teams come in tied in points, St. Louis holds tie-breaker 
advantage; Lindbohm, Agostino recalled under emergency conditions

ST. LOUIS -- It's hard for NHL schedule-makers to predict what's going to happen six months down the line.

It's good for the league when they can schedule games pairing opponents with plenty to play for late in the season to fill the games with even more drama that expected.

Such is the case when the Blues (42-28-7) host the Nashville Predators (40-27-11) Sunday at 3 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (left) looks to move the puck past 
Nashville's James Neal in a matchup earlier this season.

And there will be plenty at stake.

Both teams come in tied for points for third place in the Central Division (91), but the Blues hold the all-important regulation/overtime wins (ROW's) tiebreaker in case the two teams remain deadlocked because the Blues have a three-game edge in ROW's (41-38). 

The Blues have a game in hand and have five games remaining; Nashville has four games remaining.

A Blues win would be greatly beneficial in their quest to secure the third slot and face Minnesota in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A Nashville victory gives the Blues that all-important game in hand and chance at tying the Predators in points, but a win could all but cement that No. 3 slot. Whoever falls into the wild card could potentially see Chicago in the first round.

"It'll be a fun game," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "It's good. I'm glad that we're laying big, meaningful games this time of the year, hard games. It forces you to be at your best and it challenges us to get better as a group. That's what we're looking to do here."

"Sunday's a big game for us," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "... We know they're going to come hard now. It's a big game for both teams. We want to separate ourselves even more. It makes for a fun environment."

Nashville needs at least a point or the Los Angeles Kings to lose out on a point among their five remaining games to secure the eighth and final playoff berth. The Blues secured their ticket with a 2-1 shootout loss at Colorado Friday.

"We're happy that we got in; we're not happy with the game (Friday)," Yeo said. "That's the process that we've been trying to follow the whole way through for the last couple months, is we're just trying to get better every day. So we'll just look at this game and figure out what we didn't do well enough and get better from it."

Losing a game they expected to win against the Avalanche, which had lost seven in a row, wasn't what the Blues expected, but they have points in eight straight (6-0-2) and 13 of 14 (11-1-2) to put themselves in the position they're in; they've outscored the opposition 42-20 in the past 14 games.

"We've been playing good hockey," said right wing Ryan Reaves, who scored the lone Blues goal Friday. "We're just going to forget this one and get back to work.

"It's going to be a huge tilt (Sunday). I think that's going to be the most playoff atmosphere you're going to see at the end of this regular season. It's two teams battling for position. Obviously you want to set the tone for the playoffs, so it's going to be a good battle."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues right wing David Perron (57), shown earlier this season moving a
puck by Nashville's Filip Forsberg, said Sunday will be like a playoff game.

The Blues went 4-0-1 at Scottrade Center in March and with three of five at home to close the season, they want to keep the home ice rocking.

"It's going to be really like a playoff game," right wing David Perron said. "The atmosphere at Scottrade (Center) will be awesome. I can't wait for that. ... The fans will be a big part of it for us next game."

* NOTES -- The Blues recalled defensemen Petteri Lindbohm and forward Kenny Agostino from the Chicago Wolves under emergency conditions on Saturday.

Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo was injured early in the second period Friday after being checked by Avalanche defenseman Anton Lindholm, and center Ivan Barbashev blocked a Francois Beauchemin shot with 1 minute, 5 seconds remaining in regulation and looked to be in some discomfort, thus the recalls.

Bortuzzo, who seemed to be favoring his upper body, and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, who has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury, are considered day-to-day.

* UPDATE -- Lindbohm will replace Bortuzzo today, but Agostino will head back to the Wolves, as he was here under emergency conditions. Barbashev will play.

Also, Dmitrij Jaskin, who's missed the past nine games with an upper-body injury but has been skating on a regular basis, will step into the lineup today, replacing Nail Yakupov.

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