By Andy Lefkowitz
St. Louis (38-31-9) at Dallas (34-34-10), 8:00 p.m. EDT
DALLAS (AP) -- The St. Louis Blues are hanging on to the final
Western Conference playoff spot by the slimmest of margins, but
they have a favorable schedule as they wind down the regular
season in search of their first postseason berth since 2004.
The Blues' final four-game push begins Saturday night against
the Dallas Stars, a team they've handled with a surprising
amount of ease thus far.
Eighth-place St. Louis (38-31-9) has 85 points, putting it one
behind Anaheim, one in front of Nashville and two ahead of
Minnesota. All four teams have four games remaining, with the
Predators and Wild the only ones to face each other.
But the Blues appear to have the easiest route to reaching the
playoffs. Including this contest, they close out 2008-09 at
Phoenix, home against Columbus and at Colorado. Only the Blue
Jackets are likely going to the postseason, and St. Louis is
12-2-0 against its remaining opponents.
The Blues also are showing resilience down the stretch. After
having a five-game winning streak snapped with a 3-1 loss to
playoff-bound Chicago on Wednesday, they bounced back the
following night with a 5-4 victory over Central Division
David Backes had the go-ahead score with 4:07 to play -- his
career-high fourth goal of the night -- giving him 30 for the
season and tying Brad Boyes for the team lead.
"We felt that David had the potential to be a 30-goal scorer,"
St. Louis coach Andy Murray said. "But we didn't think it would
happen here in Detroit."
The Blues have two 30-goal scorers in the same season for the
first time since 2002-03, when Pavol Demitra had 36 and Keith
Tkachuk added 31.
St. Louis has won the previous three matchups with Dallas by a
combined 14-4 score, but has never swept a regular-season series
from the Stars franchise since both teams began play in 1967.
"Speed kills and we've had trouble with teams that are up-tempo
and speedy like St. Louis and Chicago," Dallas' Mike Modano told
the Stars' official Web site. "They're at the top of their game
right now with the run they're on."
Balanced scoring has also helped the Blues. Ten players have
recorded at least two points against Dallas, led by David
Perron's two goals and two assists. Boyes has a goal and two
assists while Backes has one of each.
Chris Mason has permitted a total of three goals while winning
both his starts against the Stars. He made 41 saves in a 3-1 win
in Dallas on Feb. 26.
With four games to play, 12th-place Dallas (34-34-10) likely
will miss the postseason for the first time in seven years.
The Stars fell for the eighth time in nine games after a 2-1
home loss to Calgary on Thursday. Rookie Fabian Brunnstrom
scored and Marty Turco stopped 22 shots.
"We will not roll over and die," defenseman Darryl Sydor said.
"We are professionals and we will play hard for our coaches,
owners, fans and for each other, our teammates. You learn and
grow as a player through adversity and you find the best in
people during tough times."
Times got a little tougher on Friday when Dallas announced
Turco, who has a career-high 31 losses, is day-to-day with a
lower-body injury. The Stars recalled Matt Climie from Idaho of
the East Coast Hockey League under emergency conditions, but
Tobias Stephan will likely start in the final regular-season
game at the American Airlines Center.
The rookie made his season debut on Oct. 16 against the Blues,
stopping four of five shots in relief of Turco during a 6-1 loss
in St. Louis. Stephan is 1-3-1 with a 3.70 goals-against