Blues hope to keep playoff dreams thriving - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Blues hope to keep playoff dreams thriving

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By Andy Lefkowitz

Stats Editor

St. Louis (38-31-9) at Dallas (34-34-10), 8:00 p.m. EDT

DALLAS (AP) -- The St. Louis Blues are hanging on to the final

Western Conference playoff spot by the slimmest of margins, but

they have a favorable schedule as they wind down the regular

season in search of their first postseason berth since 2004.

The Blues' final four-game push begins Saturday night against

the Dallas Stars, a team they've handled with a surprising

amount of ease thus far.

Eighth-place St. Louis (38-31-9) has 85 points, putting it one

behind Anaheim, one in front of Nashville and two ahead of

Minnesota. All four teams have four games remaining, with the

Predators and Wild the only ones to face each other.

But the Blues appear to have the easiest route to reaching the

playoffs. Including this contest, they close out 2008-09 at

Phoenix, home against Columbus and at Colorado. Only the Blue

Jackets are likely going to the postseason, and St. Louis is

12-2-0 against its remaining opponents.

The Blues also are showing resilience down the stretch. After

having a five-game winning streak snapped with a 3-1 loss to

playoff-bound Chicago on Wednesday, they bounced back the

following night with a 5-4 victory over Central Division

champion Detroit.

David Backes had the go-ahead score with 4:07 to play -- his

career-high fourth goal of the night -- giving him 30 for the

season and tying Brad Boyes for the team lead.

"We felt that David had the potential to be a 30-goal scorer,"

St. Louis coach Andy Murray said. "But we didn't think it would

happen here in Detroit."

The Blues have two 30-goal scorers in the same season for the

first time since 2002-03, when Pavol Demitra had 36 and Keith

Tkachuk added 31.

St. Louis has won the previous three matchups with Dallas by a

combined 14-4 score, but has never swept a regular-season series

from the Stars franchise since both teams began play in 1967.

"Speed kills and we've had trouble with teams that are up-tempo

and speedy like St. Louis and Chicago," Dallas' Mike Modano told

the Stars' official Web site. "They're at the top of their game

right now with the run they're on."

Balanced scoring has also helped the Blues. Ten players have

recorded at least two points against Dallas, led by David

Perron's two goals and two assists. Boyes has a goal and two

assists while Backes has one of each.

Chris Mason has permitted a total of three goals while winning

both his starts against the Stars. He made 41 saves in a 3-1 win

in Dallas on Feb. 26.

With four games to play, 12th-place Dallas (34-34-10) likely

will miss the postseason for the first time in seven years.

The Stars fell for the eighth time in nine games after a 2-1

home loss to Calgary on Thursday. Rookie Fabian Brunnstrom

scored and Marty Turco stopped 22 shots.

"We will not roll over and die," defenseman Darryl Sydor said.

"We are professionals and we will play hard for our coaches,

owners, fans and for each other, our teammates. You learn and

grow as a player through adversity and you find the best in

people during tough times."

Times got a little tougher on Friday when Dallas announced

Turco, who has a career-high 31 losses, is day-to-day with a

lower-body injury. The Stars recalled Matt Climie from Idaho of

the East Coast Hockey League under emergency conditions, but

Tobias Stephan will likely start in the final regular-season

game at the American Airlines Center.

The rookie made his season debut on Oct. 16 against the Blues,

stopping four of five shots in relief of Turco during a 6-1 loss

in St. Louis. Stephan is 1-3-1 with a 3.70 goals-against

average.

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