Red Wings-Blues Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 03, 2012
With their first division title since 2000 locked up and one of the top two seeds in the Western Conference guaranteed, the St. Louis Blues have turned their focus to raising their game for the playoffs. The Detroit Red Wings have more pressing concerns, such as ensuring that their team-record 21st straight postseason appearance begins at Joe Louis Arena. St. Louis looks to avoid losing two straight at home for the first time in more than a year while the Red Wings try to end their longest road skid in 26 years Wednesday night. Despite falling 5-2 to league-worst Columbus on Saturday - ending its four-game home winning streak - St. Louis (48-21-10) secured the Central Division title that night when Chicago defeated Nashville. That was little consolation for the Blues, who have gone 3-3-3 since a season-best five-game winning streak to fall behind Vancouver for the West lead. "To tell you the truth, we don't really care right now how many points we've got,'' captain David Backes said. "The slate's wiped clean for playoffs, which is really the big picture. "If we're not playing our best, whether you're the 1, 2 or 3 seed, doesn't matter.'' Seeding certainly does matter to the Red Wings, who are in danger of falling out of fourth place in the West and losing the home-ice advantage in the first round that comes with it. Detroit is 31-6-2 at Joe Louis Arena and 16-21-3 on the road. The Red Wings find themselves in a tight race with the Blackhawks and Predators due in part to a 6-10-3 mark in their last 19 games. Detroit avoided a third straight defeat with a 2-1 shootout victory over Florida on Sunday, but heading to St. Louis might not help the Wings improve their playoff standing. The Red Wings, who close the season at home against New Jersey and Chicago, have dropped seven in a row on the road - their longest such skid since an 11-game slide Jan. 7-Feb. 25, 1986. Detroit has won the last three matchups with the Blues this season, but those came at home. The Wings have lost both games in St. Louis in 2011-12. The Blues are a league-best 30-5-4 at the Scottrade Center and need one point to set a team record for home points. They haven't dropped two in a row on home ice since March 29-April 1, 2011. Given Monday's lengthy practice, it seems clear that Blues coach Ken Hitchcock wants his team to get back on track at home as it looks to get in gear for a deep playoff run. "I think he expects us to be going full force and not looking back,'' forward David Perron said. With Jaroslav Halak losing his third consecutive start Saturday, there's a good chance Brian Elliott will be in net for the Blues. Elliott, the league leader with a 1.48 goals-against average, started St. Louis' two one-goal home wins over Detroit this season. The Wings' Jimmy Howard, who had his five-game winning streak in this series snapped in a 2-1 loss Nov. 15, made 23 saves in a 3-2 defeat at St. Louis on Dec. 6. Howard has gone 1-1-0 with a 1.93 GAA in two starts since missing four consecutive games because of a groin injury. The Red Wings will be without defenseman Kyle Quincey on Wednesday after he was suspended one game for a hit on Florida's Tomas Kopecky on Sunday. Detroit is looking to take the season series from St. Louis for the third time in four years.
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