First-place Jets continue homestand vs. Blues
BLUES (37-17-7) at JETS (30-26-7)
TV: CBC, FS-Midwest (HD)
St. Louis 7-3-0; Winnipeg 6-3-1
This is the only meeting of the season between the Blues and Jets. These franchises met twice in 2010-11, with St. Louis picking up a pair of wins over the Atlanta Thrashers.
First-place Winnipeg Jets. It certainly has a nice ring to it around Manitoba, and while the reborn franchise only has a one-point lead in the Southeast Division and its pursuers all have multiple games in hand, the opportunity is clearly there for the Jets to not only bring playoff hockey back to Winnipeg for the first time in 16 years, but gain home ice for at least the first round by winning the division.
Battling for positioning in the ultra-competitive Central Division and a top-four seed and home ice in the playoffs, St. Louis scored an important 3-2 shootout win Thursday in a visit to rival Nashville. It was the start of a six-game trip for the Blues, who have struggled away from Scottrade Center this season and will need to change those fortunes with 14 of their remaining 21 games on the road. T.J. Oshie and Andy McDonald scored in the penalty-shot tiebreaker while the Predators couldn't solve Jaroslav Halak on either of their attempts.
"I thought it was like two different games," coach Ken Hitchcock said in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I thought we were better than them in the first period, the overtime and the second half of the third. They were better in the second period and first half of the third. They had more energy. We seemed to hit the wall in the second period from (Wednesday) night's game.
"But man, we came back and gutted it out in the third. So it was a great, great way to start the road trip."
The final score made things look much closer than they actually were as Winnipeg "edged" Tampa Bay 4-3 on Thursday in a game the Jets led 4-0 after 40 minutes and 4-1 with one minute remaining. Andrew Ladd
and Tanner Glass
scored in the first period, Evander Kane
and Dustin Byfuglien
added power-play goals in the second and Ondrej Pavelec
finished with 22 saves, faltering just slightly in the final moments. The Jets are now 3-0-1 halfway through an eight-game homestand and 19-9-3 overall at the MTS Centre.
"It's nice to be above (the playoff line), but we understand we still have a long way to go," Ladd said in the Winnipeg Free Press. "We're not going to be happy until the season's over and we're above the line. We need to keep taking advantage of playing at home here and playing some good hockey.
"We're scoring goals, our power play is clicking, but at the end of the day we've got 19 games left and we've got to keep going."
Chris Stewart has goals in consecutive games for the Blues. … Blake Wheeler
(1-10-11), Byfuglien (2-7-9) and Kane (5-3-8) all have five-game points streaks active for the Jets. Ladd (4-4-8) and Bryan Little
(4-3-7) have four-game points streaks active.
St. Louis defenseman Kris Russell became the team's latest player to be sidelined with concussion-like symptoms. That includes forwards Alex Steen and Matt D'Agostini, who remain on injured reserve. Forward Jamie Langenbrunner is also out for the next month with a broken foot. … Winnipeg defenseman Zach Bogosian
has missed the last five games, bothered by upper-body and foot injuries.
The Blues have won their last two shootouts against the Devils and Predators after starting the season 1-6 in the skills competition. … Pavelec is in the top 10 among NHL goalies in games played (52 - sixth), minutes (3,002 - seventh), shots faced (1,557 - fourth) and saves (1,418 - fourth).
Winnipeg coach Claude Noel told the Free Press that his team's work is only just beginning.
"We're not going to separate our shoulders patting ourselves on the back for being first in the division," he said. "We've played the most games in the League. We're happy we're there, we'll focus on St. Louis.
"We've just got to put this out there and see where it goes."