Morning Skate: I Blue Myself

We've talked a lot of crap about tonight's opponent, the St Louis Blues. From the lack of a rivalry earlier this year to some hard-fought games that involved a lot of animosity. Blues fans hate the Wings, and Wing fans have come to realize that they can't ignore the Blues any longer.

The two teams fought neck-and-neck all season, but when the injury sasquatch took a bite out of Detroit, St Louis used that opportunity to take a lead in the Central Division that they will not relinquish. As a result, they will be the Central Division champion entering the playoffs, only their 2nd trip there since the lockout.

There's no secret as to how the Blues are doing it: suffocating defense and excellent goaltending. Both Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak have covered up any mistakes the team has made in front of them, and Hitchcock has got them playing a very disciplined system. Just don't call them "boring" lest the denizens of St Louis come over with pitchforks and torches, declaring you to be unenlightened about the awesomeness that is Blues hockey.

With the Wings trying to decide whether they want to actually do something in the playoffs besides bow out meekly in the first round against whoever they end up playing, tonight's game could go a long way to instilling some confidence in the team and us fans. To call this season "up and down" is like calling David Backes "an average human being"; it doesn't even begin to describe it. One night the Wings are scoring 7 goals in half a game; the next they're losing to the Blue Jackets in a very lackluster effort (seriously: who loses to the Blue Jackets?!?!?).

The Blues are playing for the President's Trophy and potential home ice throughout the playoffs, while the Wings are stuck in the death race for 4th place and a chance to listen to whistles being blown by rednecks. The Wings can make a real statement with a strong effort tonight against a good team on the road.

St Louis Game Time is your Blues' SB Nation blog. Prepare to be offended.

Puck drop is a little after 7:30 PM ET.

The Expected Lineup

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Gustav Nyquist -- Pavel Datsyuk -- Johan Franzen

Valtteri Filppula -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Jiri Hudler

Danny Cleary -- Justin Abdelkader -- Todd Bertuzzi

Drew Miller -- Cory Emmerton -- Tomas Holmstrom

*

Nicklas Lidstrom -- Jonathan Ericsson

Niklas Kronwall -- Brad Stuart

Ian White -- Jakub Kindl

*

Jimmy Howard (starting)

Ty Conklin

Scratches: Jan Mursak, Kyle Quincey (suspended)

Injuries: Patrick Eaves (concussion), Joey MacDonald (back) and Darren Helm (knee)

*

BLUES HOW THEY MATCH UP RED WINGS
48-21-10 (106 pts; 2nd in West) Record 47-27-5 (99 pts; 5th in West)
2.53 (19th in NHL) Goals Per Game 2.96 (6th in NHL)
1.86 (1st) Goals Against Per Game 2.46 (5th)
16.7% (17th) Power Play % 16.2 (21st)
85.1% (7th) Penalty Kill % 81.1% (21st)
David Backes (24 goals) Goal Leader Johan Franzen (26 goals)
David Backes (54 points) Points Leader Henrik Zetterberg (68 points)

  • The Red Wings are 115-108-37-7 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Blues.
  • It's a race to 3. In all 5 games this season between these teams, the winning team scored 3 goals (except the first meeting, which I have conveniently forgotten about).
  • After dropping the first 2 games of this series in St Louis and then falling behind 2-0 to the Blues in their 3rd meeting, the Wings have outscored the Blues 9-1.
  • The home team has won every game of this series. These are the only 2 teams to have both won 30 games at home this season.
  • The Wings still control their own destiny in their quest to earn the 4th seed and home ice in the first round of the playoffs.
PPrediction: This is going to be one of the toughest games of the year for the Wings. The Blues are coming off a bad loss to the Blue Jackets and is also trying to get on a roll heading into the playoffs. The Wings want it just a little bit more and win a tight one, 3-2. Jimmy Howard is your Player of the Game.

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