NHL Hockey

Blues, Avalanche have lot on line entering clash

The St. Louis Blues were going nowhere two months into the 2018-19 season, and on Dec. 9, following a 6-1 home loss to Vancouver, St. Louis was 10-14-4 and struggling.

Things have changed dramatically for the Blues. Since that drubbing at the hands of the Canucks they have gone 32-14-4 and not only have clinched a postseason berth but they have a shot at winning the Central Division. St. Louis (42-28-8) trails Winnipeg and Nashville by two points, and with wins in its last four games can reach the 100-point mark.

The push starts Monday night when the surging Colorado Avalanche visit with a playoff push of their own in the works.

St. Louis got some help with Winnipeg and Nashville losing on Saturday night, but it also has to worry about Dallas. The Stars are just three points behind after an overtime loss on Saturday night.

"Obviously, you want to be playing your best going into the playoffs and there's a couple of teams we still want to catch, and home ice would be huge for us," Blues center Tyler Bozak said after a 3-2 overtime win against New Jersey on Saturday night. "We can keep climbing, so we'll keep our foot on the gas, keep trying to catch those teams to get into a better position."

The Blues have put themselves in the division race by going 6-1-1 in their last eight games after dropping three in a row. They finish the season with three of four at home, starting Monday against the Avalanche.

Colorado (36-29-13) looked all but eliminated after losing two straight home games in mid-March but has overcome some injuries to top-line players to move into the last playoff spot with four games to go. Captain Gabriel Landeskog missed nine games with an upper-body injury before returning in a 3-2 shootout win over Arizona on Friday night.

Mikko Rantanen, the team's second leading scorer, has missed the last four games with an upper-body injury. Despite those setbacks the Avalanche have gone 6-0-1.

"We're doing different things on different nights to win hockey games," head coach Jared Bednar said after Friday's win over the Coyotes. "We're getting contributions from our whole lineup. Especially with the injuries, guys are stepping up and taking on bigger roles and excelling in those roles. It's a team game and we're playing like that right now. There's no selfishness in our room, it's all team first."

A big reason Colorado has moved into the second wild card is the play of goaltender Philipp Grubauer. He was signed in the offseason after helping Washington win the Stanley Cup in 2018. He has emerged as the No. 1 goaltender over Semyon Varlamov, starting the last seven games and posted a .957 save percentage with a shutout.

Bednar does not announce his starting goaltender until the day of the game but it's likely Grubauer will be in net against St. Louis. The Blues have won all three of the matchups so far, two of them in overtime. If Colorado can salvage the last game of the season series it will go a long way to securing a playoff spot and deliver a blow to the Blues' division title hopes.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 31, 2019

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