NHL Hockey

Blues seeking to go far after facing Rangers

What seemed unlikely prior to Thanksgiving can become reality Friday night for the St. Louis Blues. But the Blues are looking to do more than just simply qualify for the NHL playoffs.

The Blues will look to take the first step toward raising the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history when they visit the New York Rangers on Friday night.

The Blues haven't played since Monday, when they extended their winning streak to four games by beating the visiting Vegas Golden Knights 3-1. The Rangers were off Thursday after suffering their seventh loss in eight games Wednesday, falling to the host Boston Bruins 6-3.

With a win or an overtime loss Friday, the Blues (41-27-8) will clinch a playoff spot for the 42nd time in the franchise's 52-year history and end their one-year sabbatical from the postseason. That absence looked like it could extend to two years when head coach Mike Yeo was fired Nov. 19 following a 7-9-3 start.

But Craig Berube has steered the Blues to a 34-18-5 record and into a position where enjoying home ice for the first round -- or longer -- is still a reasonable goal. St. Louis hasn't reached the Stanley Cup since losing in the finals for the third straight time in 1970.

The Blues will enter Friday two points behind the second-place Nashville Predators in the Central Division with a game in hand. The Winnipeg Jets entered Thursday's game against the New York Islanders with a four-point lead over St. Louis.

"It's nice to know you're in," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko told reporters following practice Wednesday. "But at the same time, I think we're a group in here that wants to keep climbing in the standings and continue to peak at the right time.

"You want to build your game up at this time and be ready for the playoffs now. Hopefully, we continue to build our game and keep climbing in the standings and gain some home ice and, if not, just be ready for the first round, for sure."

The climb ended long ago for the Rangers (29-34-13), who are in the second year of a rebuilding project. New York hasn't won consecutive games since it headed into the All-Star break on a three-game winning streak.

The Rangers are just 8-14-6 since the All-Star Game and have fallen on especially hard times lately. Of New York's last six losses, five have been by at least three goals.

The defeat Wednesday embodied the issues facing the youthful Rangers, who trailed the Bruins 3-2 more than midway through the third period before allowing Boston to score three power play goals in a span of a little more than four minutes. The final two goals were scored during a five-on-three opportunity generated when New York was whistled for having too many men on the ice 31 seconds before defenseman Brendan Smith was sent to the penalty box for high sticking.

"It's hard enough to win in this league when you don't beat yourself," Rangers head coach David Quinn told reporters afterward. "We did a lot of good things early, having around against a really good hockey team, and then just imploded."

--Field Level Media

Updated March 28, 2019

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