Preview: St. Louis Blues at New Jersey Devils

Devils forward Travis Zajac (19) tries to corral a rebound shot around Blues goaltender Jake Allen (34) and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (19). (Photo courtesy: Ed Mulholland, USA Today Sports)

Newark, NJ – The St. Louis Blues (41-28-8) clinched a playoff spot on Friday courtesy of the Colorado Avalanche, but look to get back into the win column in a 6 pm Saturday evening game against the New Jersey Devils (29-40-9). After dropping a 4-2 loss last night against the Rangers, the Blues will look to regain ground in the Central Division standings against the struggling Devils. The Devils and Blues meet for the second and final time this season in Prudential Center. Six different Blues scored back on February 12th for an 8-3 shellacking against New Jersey at Enterprise Center.

About Last Night…

St. Louis had a four-game winning streak snapped against the New York Rangers last night after getting swept in the season series. Tarasenko and Perron scored for the Blues as they put on a season-high 46 shots, but it wasn’t enough to earn the squad a win. The Rangers went on to score four unanswered goals and get their 30th win of the season. Rookie Jordan Binnington was the losing netminder on the evening, giving up three goals on 24 shots and falling to 21-5-0.

The Devils are looking to rebound off a bad loss as well, after getting shut out by the Red Wings 4-0 on Friday. The Devils are having one of their worst seasons in modern franchise history after making it to the playoffs last year. While seven players on their roster have 30+ points on the season including superstar Taylor Hall, New Jersey’s goaltending situation has been a mess, with not one of their three goaltenders posting a winning record this season.

Playoff Bound

Ironically, the same team that sent the Blues packing last season is the same team that guaranteed the Blues a playoff spot this season. The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 in a shootout late last night, and that loss by Arizona granted St. Louis their playoff berth. Last year, the Blues and Avalanche faced off in game no. 82 of the regular season with equal records: whoever won the game earned their team the last playoff spot. The Avalanche came to Scottrade Center and got a win, sealing the Blues’ fate and leading to questions about how to rebuild.

The Blues, despite a busy offseason leading to additions like centers Ryan O’Reilly and Tyler Bozak, found themselves dead last in the league by the new year. In response, the Blues fired head coach Mike Yeo, got into some team scraps, and questioned where to go to regain confidence. Now, the Blues have the second-best stretch in the second half of the season with 26 wins, including a franchise-record 11-game winning streak.

Better than earning a playoff spot, the Blues still have a shot of clinching second place from Nashville and the Central Division from the Winnipeg Jets. “We want to keep pushing up,” Robert Thomas told Fox Sports Midwest. “We feel like we’re capable of that, and it’s definitely within reach, so we don’t wanna just clinch, we want to keep on going.”

“Are You Kidding Me?”

The Devils had one of the roughest seasons in their history after making it to the playoffs in 2018. One of several reasons could be statistics: they sit 23rd in Goals-For, 27th in Goals-Against, 29th in Save Percentage and 19th on the power play. The roster isn’t a bad one for New Jersey, though. 2017’s first overall pick Nico Hischier has been playing well at 17-28-45 alongside veterans Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to lead the team in points. Despite having a younger roster with great speed, the Devils have been missing their X-Factor in Taylor Hall. Hall had a career-high 93 points last year and propelled them to the postseason, but a season-ending knee surgery in December kept him to 37 points.

Finally, the goaltending and defense for New Jersey this season could be summated with one word: cursed. Don’t believe it? Just take a look at this Devils-Ducks game back in early December, courtesy of Sportsnet.

Yes, you heard that right: that was three own-goals in one game. This is one of unfortunately many examples of the Devils bad goals or own-goals from the defense and goaltending, and hopefully New Jersey’s fortunes will turn around for them next season.

Gametime

The Blues and Devils face off at Prudential Center at 7 pm ET, and that game’s live broadcasting is provided by:

STL: FSMW, KMOX 1120, NHL.tv

NJD: MSG+ WFAN 660, NHL.tv

PROJECTED LINEUPS

ST. LOUIS

FORWARDS:

10 Schenn – 90 O’Reilly – 91 Tarasenko

17 Schwartz – 70 Sundqvist – 57 Perron

7 Maroon – 21 Bozak – 18 Thomas

20 Steen – 49 Barbashev – 12 Sanford

DEFENSE:

27 Pietrangelo – 29 Dunn

55 Parayko – 19 Bouwmeester

4 Gunnarsson – 41 Bortuzzo

IN GOAL:

34 Allen

NEW JERSEY

FORWARDS:

17 Agostino – 13 Hischier – 21 Palmieri

20 Coleman – 19 Zajac – 23 Noesen

18 Stafford – 58 Rooney – 41 McLeod

44 Wood – 37 Zacha – 49 Anderson

DEFENSE:

28 Severson – 6 Greene

16 Santini – 8 Butcher

5 Carrick – 25 Mueller

IN GOAL:

35 Schneider

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