The Colorado Avalanche are fighting with the Minnesota Wild for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. It's been an ongoing battle since Minnesota's slide let the Avs get back into the playoff push, and Colorado must be feeling ok about their chances tonight - after all, the Blues have yet to beat them this season.
The Blues are feeling pretty good about their chances this evening too - after all, Alexander Steen is returning to the line-up, and Brian Elliott has a shutout streak of 180 minutes going. Maybe the tightness of the team's play coupled with the stellar goaltending they've been getting from both Elliott and Jake Allen will prevent last minute Avalanche heroics like the kind that fans saw on January 6th and January 23rd. After all, it seems like the third period defensive lapses are a thing of the past for the Blues.
A win tonight coupled with a Dallas loss will get the Blues into first place in both the Central Division and Western Conference with just five games remaining in the regular season. It's going to be a photo finish, every point counts, yada yada yada. With the league's best save percentage and third best penalty kill, it's starting to look like the Blues are clamping down at just the right time, while the Blackhawks are struggling and Dallas is (relatively speaking) coasting. Colorado is 6-4-0 in their last ten, and need to kick up their play a notch, but if the Blues' stellar play of late continues, this may not be a good night for the Avs. It may be very not good if the Predators and Wild both win their games.
Not enough can be said about the impact that Steen's return has for tonight's game and for the team. As David Backes put it, he's the Blues "best all-around player" and is still second on the team in scoring (47 points) even after missing 15 games.
Here are tonight's projected lines - Steen is centering Patrik Berglund and David Backes on the third line, because honestly, why break up the team's current first and second lines right now?
Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri-Paul Stastny-Troy Brouwer
Patrik Berglund-Alexander Steen-David Backes
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves
Kevin Shattenkirk-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko
Petteri Lindbohm-Robert Bortuzzo