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Blues eye Central lead as season ends vs. Canucks
The St. Louis Blues have a chance to complete their rags-to-riches story Saturday.
The Blues (44-28-9), who were last in the NHL on Jan. 3, are in position to finish first in the Central Division as they close out the regular season at home against the Vancouver Canucks (35-36-10).
If St. Louis wins and the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets lose their games Saturday, the Blues will clinch top spot in the division and home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
"We've stuck to the process," forward Alex Steen told reporters. "Our mojo has been solid the last couple months. I'm a lot more happy with the feeling inside our locker room, the way we've handled everything. Our attitude is good."
The Blues' outlook appeared bleak when former coach Mike Yeo was fired in November while the team had a 6-9-7 record. Things got worse under interim coach Craig Berube -- but then they got much better.
Rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington's promotion from San Antonio of the AHL sparked a revival. Binnington earned a shutout in his first NHL game, against Philadelphia on Jan. 7, and the Blues soon went on a tear, enjoying a franchise-record 11-game winning streak. The good times kept rolling and the Blues clinched a playoff berth well ahead of schedule on March 29.
On Thursday, a circle of sorts completed as the Blues pulled off a 7-3 rout of the Flyers -- the team they blanked in early January at the start of their renaissance.
"It's a testament to how hard we've worked to turn this thing around," said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.
But Berube, whose status for permanent employment with the Blues is still uncertain, does not want the club to rest on its recently gained laurels.
"It's a big thing, where we were and where we are now, but we're not finished," he told reporters.
Meanwhile, the Canucks will try to play spoiler against a Central Division team for the second straight game. They almost hurt Nashville on Thursday, but the Predators pulled off a last-minute victory after overcoming a 2-0 first-period deficit. All three Nashville goals were subjected to video reviews.
The Canucks have made a point of trying to excel against playoff-bound teams lately after missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year. But much of the attention is already on next season.
The future is uncertain for many Canucks, including 13-year veteran defenseman Alex Edler, scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
"With my future and things like that, that's something I'll think about after the season," Edler told Sportsnet.ca.
Edler and the team recently have held off on contract negotiations.
"At the trade deadline, we talked a little before that," he said. "But we haven't talked much after that. It's different (without a contract); I've been fortunate to sign before the last year of my deals before. That hasn't happened this time, but it doesn't mean (a new deal is) not going to happen."
Edler often said he wants to stay in Vancouver, and general manager Jim Benning has stated the team's intention to re-sign him. The defenseman is optimistic about the team's direction.
"You always want to make the playoffs and we're disappointed that we're out of it," Edler said in the interview with Sportsnet.ca.
"But this year, I think we've shown more understanding about what we need to do to be successful. We've done that more often. We obviously have a lot to work on, but I've seen a lot of guys take a step from last year to this year, and that's very encouraging."
--Field Level Media
Updated April 5, 2019