St. Louis Blues\' goaltender Manny Legace watches a shot from Nicklas Lidstrom, of Sweden, find its way into the net in the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007, in St. Louis. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Tom Gannam
NEW YORK - Manny Legace is having a banner NHL season as he closes in on his 35th birthday, and his goaltending is a big reason why the St. Louis Blues are mounting a serious challenge to qualify for the NHL playoffs for the first time since 2004.
Legace was named the NHL's first star of the week Monday. Calgary Flames left-winger Kristian Huselius was named second star and Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Ty Conklin got the third-star nod.
Legace, who will turn 35 on Feb. 4, posted two shutouts in three appearances for the Blues last week.
"With goaltenders, it's more about experience - learning the game and situations," Legace said of being one of several veteran netminders who are in their prime. "You've got to learn to control the game in your own best interests."
Like not getting too mentally down after poor performances.
"As goalies get older, they gain more experience, and you start to figure out the game a little better," he said on a conference call.
Legace made 31 saves in a 2-0 win over Detroit on Dec. 31. He made three saves before leaving the game due to an illness in a 3-2 overtime loss to Edmonton last Wednesday. He stopped 27 shots in a 1-0 victory over Carolina for his 21st career shutout last Friday.
If his wonky knee holds up, he could post the best numbers of his career. With his 15-10-2 record, he has a 2.09 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage. He missed the latter portion of last season due to knee problems.
The Blues (20-14-5 for 45 points) are second in the Central Division and ninth in the West. Legace said the team's resurgence began when Andy Murray was named head coach last winter.
"Accountability got taken to another level," he said. "(Murray) and his staff have been doing a phenomenal job preparing us for games.
"The work ethic has been there and the guys have been doing a phenomenal job in front of me."
Good special teams play and escaping injury woes are two other Blues assets this season.
"Knock on wood, we've been staying healthy," said Legace. "We played with our full defence only three or four times last season but this year we've only been without everybody three or four times.
"It's made a huge, huge difference."
Huselius was named second star after leading all NHL scorers with nine points - four goals and five assists - as Calgary won four games and took the Northwest Division lead.
Conklin was named third star after going 3-0-0 with a 0.97 goals-against average and .972 save percentage as Pittsburgh won all three of its games over the stretch.