Preview: Vegas Golden Knights at St. Louis Blues

Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko (91) watches the puck get past the stick of diving goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29). (Photo courtesy: Jeff Roberson, AP Photo)

St. Louis, MO – The St. Louis Blues (40-27-8) look to wrap up a perfect four-game homestand at Enterprise Center against the Vegas Golden Knights (42-27-6) at 7pm. The Blues got their biggest win of the season against the league-best Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday in a thrilling 4-3 victory. That win gave them a six-point cushion over the Dallas Stars for 3rd in the Central Division.

“It’s a good measuring stick for us,” Jordan Binnington said to STL-Today. “From here on out it’s gonna be a battle. I think the teams who aren’t in the playoffs are battling for their jobs, and the teams who are, are trying to tighten things up for the playoffs.”

The Knights suffered a 3-2 overtime loss to the Red Wings on Saturday, with veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury noticeably absent the last four games. Additionally, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Max Pacioretty were recently hurt in mid-March with minor injuries and missed the Red Wings game.

“I wouldn’t say it’s resting guys,” head coach Gerard Gallant told the Las Vegas Review Saturday morning before the game. “I’d say it’s more just taking care of little minor injuries to make sure they don’t become major injuries… We’re making sure guys are healthy and that’s the biggest thing for me.”

The Knights and Blues meet again for the series finale, having played twice back in November, where St. Louis won both contests. Ryan O’Reilly had two goals in one game, Oskar Sundqvist had two goals in the other and Jake Allen made a combined 63 saves lifting them to 5-3 and 4-1 wins.

PLAYOFF FRENZY

Both the St. Louis Blues and Vegas Golden Knights are inches away from punching their tickets to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Vegas could get in tonight with a regulation or overtime win against St. Louis. St. Louis, even with two points back and a game in hand on the second-place Nashville Predators, don’t have it so simple.

To clinch playoffs, the Notes need a win in any fashion against Vegas tonight, followed by either a regulation or overtime loss by the Minnesota Wild or Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday. A Blues’ win tonight would put them at 90 points with a max of 102 for the remainder of the season. The Coyotes and Wild could max out at 91, with the teams playing one another on March 31st. The Coyotes play the Chicago Blackhawks and the Wild play the Dallas Stars, both on Tuesday night.

Regardless of standings or potential playoff matchups (as of today, round 1 would see St. Louis heading to Nashville), this Blues squad is all too familiar with the late playoff race. “We need to make a push,” Vladimir Tarasenko told STL-Today after Saturday’s 4-3 win. “Whatever other teams are playing, it’s seven games left. Every point matters, especially after last year and we know this.”

ON A TEAR

The defending Western Conference champions have been on fire in the final weeks of the regular season, going 10-1-1 in their last 12 games. That streak has coincided with the Knights getting veteran forward Mark Stone from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline. In his eight-year NHL career, Stone played the majority of his tenure with the Senators and already has four goals and four assists since joining Vegas. Former Blue Paul Stastny has also been playing well since a recent injury; he has 13 points in 13 games. Standing third in the Pacific, a first-round matchup against the San Jose Sharks seems likely.

The Blues have some hot streaks and milestones as well. Former Golden Knight David Perron, after missing over a quarter of the season with a concussion, now has points in 17 consecutive appearances with an assist on Saturday. His point total sits at 41 through 50 games played, an impressive stat after sitting out with a concussion. Pat Maroon had a career-high four-game goal streak and has 6 points in five games. Tarasenko’s goal on Saturday lands him one shy of tying 5th on the Blues’ all-time goals list, behind Keith Tkachuk. Meanwhile, Alex Steen’s assists put him at point no. 600 along with his father Thomas Steen (one of only four father-son tandems to accomplish such a feat) and jumped him ahead of Pavol Demitra for 6th all-time assists with 290.

GAMETIME

The Blues and Golden Knights face off at Enterprise Center tonight at 8 pm ET. To see and hear the opening faceoff, head to:

STL: FSMW, KMOX 1120

VGK: ATRM, KRLV 1340

PROJECTED LINEUPS:

ST. LOUIS

FORWARDS:

10 Schenn – 90 O’Reilly – 91 Tarasenko

57 Perron – 70 Sundqvist – 17 Schwartz

7 Maroon – 21 Bozak – 18 Thomas

20 Steen – 49 Barbashev – 12 Sanford

DEFENSE:

27 Pietrangelo – 29 Dunn

55 Parayko – 19 Bouwmeester

41 Bortuzzo – 42 Del Zotto

IN GOAL:

50 Binnington

VEGAS

FORWARDS:

19 Smith – 71 Karlsson – 81 Marchessault

61 Stone – 26 Stastny – 89 Tuch

7 Zykov – 21 Eakin – 40 Carpenter

28 Carrier – 92 Nosek – 75 Reaves

DEFENSE:

3 McNabb – 27 Theodore

5 Engelland – 88 Schmidt

22 Holden – 15 Merrill

IN GOAL:

30 Subban

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