Preview: Canucks at Blues
The St. Louis Blues owned the fewest points in the NHL 48 hours into the new calendar year and appeared to be a sure bet to miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season. However, not only have the Blues barged their way into the postseason, they have a chance to win the Central Division title when they host the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
St. Louis, which has amassed the most points in the league since Jan. 1, trails Nashville by one point and is tied with Winnipeg with one game remaining. The Blues need a win and losses by both division rivals to win the Central but also would like to finish in the top two to assure home ice in a first-round playoff series. "It's a testament to how hard we've worked to turn this thing around," captain Alex Pietrangelo said of St. Louis, which can also claim the division title with a shootout loss and regulation defeats by the Predators and Jets. The Canucks had a three-game win streak snapped in a 3-2 loss at Nashville on Thursday night but they manhandled the Blues in a pair of matchups during a 12-day span in December, rolling to a 6-1 victory in St. Louis before posting a 5-1 rout in Vancouver.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, NHL Network, Sportsnet Pacific (Vancouver), FS Midwest (St. Louis)
ABOUT THE CANUCKS (35-36-10): Vancouver appeared en route to a fourth straight win, building a 2-0 lead in Nashville on power-play goals by Markus Granlund and Tanner Pearson, who has scored six times and collected a pair of assists in the past eight games. Rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes, playing in his fourth NHL game following his season at the University of Michigan, had his first multiple-point contest by setting up both goals against the Predators. Goaltender Jacob Markstrom turned aside 51 of 53 shots in beating the Blues twice in December.
ABOUT THE BLUES (44-28-9): Rookie netminder Jordan Binnington, who made his NHL debut on Jan. 7 to spark the team's turnaround, allowed three first-period goals Thursday but was afforded that luxury when his teammates set a franchise record by scoring five times in the first 9:41. Binnington shut the door the rest of the way to earn his 23rd victory, eclipsing the team's rookie record held by Jake Allen. Alexander Steen scored twice against the Flyers to become the 13th St. Louis player to score at least 10 goals this season -- also a franchise mark.
1. Binnington has won six consecutive starts at home.
2. Canucks F Brock Boeser had a hat trick and rookie F Elias Pettersson posted a five-point game versus St. Louis in December.
3. Blues C Ryan O'Reilly scored his career high-tying 28th goal in Thursday's win.
PREDICTION: Blues 4, Canucks 2