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Preview: St. Louis Blues vs. Colorado Avalanche

Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (55) clears the puck away from Colorado forward Alexander Kerfoot (13). (Photo courtesy: Jeff Curry, USA Today Sports)

ST. LOUIS, MO – The St. Louis Blues (42-28-8) are back home from their 1-1 weekend road trip to host a red-hot Colorado Avalanche (36-29-13) at 7 pm. Vince Dunn grabbed the overtime winner against New Jersey on Saturday with 2.8 seconds on the clock to improve the Blues record to 6-1-1 in their last eight games. The win put the Blues just two points out of first place in the Central Division, with a game in hand on the second-place Nashville Predators.

The Avalanche got a critical victory against the Coyotes in a shootout on Friday, giving them the lead for the final Western Conference playoff spot over Arizona. That same win also clinched the Blues a playoff spot, after Colorado eliminated them last year in game no. 82.

The Blues and Avalanche revive the division rivalry for the fourth and final time this season, with St. Louis looking for the sweep. St. Louis is 3-0-0 against Colorado this season, outscoring them 10-5.

Final Four Push

The St. Louis Blues, after sitting dead-last in the league in January, can take the Central Division in the last four games of the season. Currently, they sit just two points behind Nashville and Winnipeg with 92. Winnipeg plays Chicago tonight and Nashville plays Buffalo on Tuesday. As it stands, St. Louis would play Nashville in the first round and Winnipeg would face off against the wild card Dallas Stars.

“Obviously, you want to be playing your best going into the playoffs… and home ice would be huge for us,” center Tyler Bozak told Chris Pinkert. “We can keep climbing, so we’ll keep our foot on the gas, keep trying to catch those teams to get into better position.”

The Blues have one of the more favorable finishes to the regular season, facing Colorado, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Vancouver. The Hawks need to win out (and then some) in order to make the playoffs while the Flyers and Canucks have already been eliminated.

Desperation in Denver

The Colorado Avalanche, after being on the outside looking in weeks ago, are now poised to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season. The Avalanche knocked out the Blues and punched their ticket in the final game of the regular season last year in a 5-2 victory in Colorado. The Avs are 6-0-1 in their last seven thanks to the play of goaltender Philipp Grubauer. The former Cup winner with the Capitals is 7-3-1 in March with a .955 save percentage. That percentage is the best in March in Colorado’s franchise history, beating legendary goaltender Patrick Roy’s .952.

Captain Gabriel Landeskog grabbed an assist on Friday in his return to the lineup after missing nine games with an upper-body injury. The Swedish superstar forward has a career-high 33 goals and 70 points in his 8th season with the Avalanche. Meanwhile, their top scorer Mikko Rantanen still sounds unlikely to return to the lineup tonight after suffering a mysterious upper-body injury on March 21st. The Avalanche will need all their assets healthy come playoff time if they want to make a run this postseason.

Gametime

The Blues and Avalanche face off at 8 pm ET at Enterprise Center and will be on national television. To follow tonight’s game, head to:

STL – NBCSN, KMOX 1120, NHL.tv

COL – NBCSN, KKSE 950, NHL.tv

PROJECTED LINEUPS

ST. LOUIS

FORWARDS:

10 Schenn – 90 O’Reilly – 91 Tarasenko

57 Perron – 70 Sundqvist – 17 Schwartz

7 Maroon – 12 Bozak – 18 Thomas

12 Sanford – 49 Barbashev – 20 Steen

DEFENSE:

27 Pietrangelo – 29 Dunn

55 Parayko – 19 Bouwmeester

4 Gunnarsson – 41 Bortuzzo

IN GOAL:

50 Binnington

COLORADO

FORWARDS:

37 Compher – 29 MacKinnon – 13 Kerfoot

92 Landeskog – 34 Soderberg – 22 Wilson

11 Calvert – 17 Jost – 18 Brassard

83 Nieto – 57 Bourque – 10 Andrighetto

DEFENSE:

6 Johnson – 49 Girard

4 Barrie – 28 Cole

12 Nemeth – Zadorov

IN GOAL:

31 Grubauer

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