Gameday: Blues at Rangers

Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (55) stick-checks for the puck along the boards with Rangers forward Chris Kreider (20). (Photo courtesy: Mary Altaffer, AP Photo)

3/3: Blues/Rangers, Madison Square Garden, 6pm CT – FSMW, ESPN 101.1

NEW YORK – The St. Louis Blues (39-17-10) can make it eight in a row against the New York Rangers (35-26-4). The Blues and Avalanche have been in a breakneck race for the Central Division title, both on seven-game winning streaks. The Blues made it seven with a 4-3 shootout win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday. Jake Allen stopped all three Dallas players and Ryan O’Reilly backhanded his attempt past Anton Khudobin for that much-needed second point.

“That’s how it is at this time of the year,” said Blues right wing David Perron, who scored his 25th goal of the season in the win. “If feels like you lose one and it’s almost like you lost two or three in a row. It felt like that for a bit when we were losing and now we’ve made maybe a little bit of ground and maybe like two points, three points, and even seven in a row, so we’re going to have to keep winning.”

The Rangers have been one of the hottest teams in hockey since the All-Star Break, winning 12 of their last 17 contests. They now sit 4 points out of the final wild card spot in the East with 17 games left in the season. However, they took some big hits since the trade deadline, after losing newly extended Chris Kreider to a fractured foot injury and rookie sensation Igor Shesterkin was injured in a car crash.

Despite the setbacks, head coach David Quinn knows what his team need to take on the defending Stanley Cup champions. “Regardless of your opponent, it’s all about us coming ready to play and doing the things we need to do consistently to put ourselves in a position to win hockey games, and that’s all we’re going to focus on,” he commented to MSG media.

The Blues and Rangers meet for the second and final time this season, with St. Louis taking down New York 5-2 back in January. They face off in MSG for the series finale tonight at 6pm CT.

Down the Stretch

The Blues enter the final full month of regular season hockey, and it’s going to be an interesting 16 games for them. Of their final 16 games, 10 of them are against Eastern Conference opponents, with just three games against Central Division opponents (CHI, MIN, COL).

As the stakes for home ice advantage gets only closer between St. Louis, Colorado and Dallas, the Blues have been less than stellar in the season opening against clubs in the East – 7-6-3 against them in the first few months. It’s been significantly better lately – 5-0-1 – but the lack of playtime against the Eastern Conference could still be a factor.

“Yeah, we obviously pre-scout the East,” Craig Berube said. “But it really boils down to what we do. You gotta obviously pay attention to certain players (that) maybe you don’t see a whole lot of in the East. High-end players, and things like that. Focus on them guys a little bit more. But it’s about how we play the game.”

While only 4 of the 16 matchups are against playoff opponents, teams like New York, Minnesota and Florida are in the hunt for the final wild card spots and will be playing desperate hockey until the very end. There’s even a few “trap games” sprinkled in, with matchups against Detroit and Ottawa before the end of the year.

Blue Notes

Brayden Schenn can tie a 5-game goal streak with a goal tonight, a career high he previously set earlier this season… Jake Allen is 5th amongst qualified goaltenders in GAA with a 2.31… David Perron has points in five straight games (2G 3A)

The Blues and Rangers are live at MSG at 7pm ET on Fox Sports Midwest and on radio on ESPN 101.1.

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