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Preview Blues at Panthers: Three is The Magic Number

With three more regular season games left to play the Blues look to get the three points they need to secure 3rd place in the central.

NHL: Florida Panthers at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

As of right now the Blues are clinging to a one point lead over the Nashville Predators for third place in the Central division.

If the Blues were to gain an additional three points or the Predators were to give up three points before the end of the season then the Blues would clinch third place. And along with a third place finish comes the opportunity to play the faltering Minnesota Wild in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs or, as I like to say, a chance to avoid the Conference winning Chicago Blackhawks for at least one round.

Despite the underwhelming play in Tuesday night’s loss to the Winnipeg Jets I am more than confident in the Blues ability to win two out of their three remaining games. That being said, I would also not be surprised if they found some way to muck it up.

If the Blues play like they have for the last month, going 12-2-2 before Tuesday’s game, they should have no trouble. However, if they fail to take their next three opponents seriously, like they did with the Jets, things could get ugly.

After being chased from the net Tuesday night (the first time that has happened since Mike Yeo became head coach) Jake Allen had this to say about his team’s focus,

“I think tonight was a game where it all sort of unraveled a little bit. We’ve won games, but we’ve got away with a lot and tonight we didn’t execute very well. Against a team like that, they’ve been playing really well lately, they’ve got a lot of really good speedy forwards and they made us pay. Definitely, it’s upsetting. I guess disappointing is a better word.” [Stl P-D]

During the game, in an effort to try and snap the Blues out of their funk, Mike Yeo mixed up his top three lines. And with Paul Stastney still injured it looks like Yeo will continue to experiment with possible combinations. The lines for Thursday’s practice were Schwartz-Barbashev-Tarasenko, Sanford-Berglund-Perron, Paajarvi-Lehtera-Jaskin, Upshall-Brodziak-Reaves.

Alexander Steen was having a maintenance day and did not practice but is expected to play tonight. Although Steen may return to his recent role centering the top line I wouldn’t be surprised if Yeo slots him somewhere else.

It is somewhat impressive that young center Ivan Barbashev has played well enough to warrant, if nothing else, practice time with the Blues top line.

While I am as anxious as anyone to watch what the rookie can do with two of the Blues best players, I can’t imagine that the coaching staff has enough faith in Barbashev to trust him in the high pressure situations this line will face in the playoffs.

Regardless, it is refreshing to see this much potential in a Blues prospect and I am hopeful that his recent experience with the team will payoff in the future. That being said, the Blues need Paul Stastney back in the lineup by the time playoffs start. If nothing else to at least win a freaking face-off.

Look for Snake to get back in net tonight, hoping to find some of his lost mojo. It’s no secret that when Jake plays well the team plays well and vice versa.

While Jaromir Jagr remains awesome, the Florida Panthers are not. They are currently 6th in the Atlantic division and officially eliminated from the playoffs.

Not much has been going the Panther’s way this year. Their power play is near the bottom of the NHL while their goals for and goals against average are ranked 23rd and 22nd respectfully.

The lone bright spot would be the team’s penalty kill which is the best in the league. Basically I’m saying don’t look for the Blues to fix their recent power play struggles tonight.

Other than that tonight’s match is very winnable and would go a long ways towards maximizing the Blue’s playoff position.

Remember, three points in three games secures third in the division. It can be done.

Lets Go Blues!