By Alan Ferguson
St. Louis (37-31-9) at Detroit (49-18-9) 7:30 p.m. EDT
DETROIT (AP) -- The St. Louis Blues took a step back in their
drive toward a first playoff berth in four seasons. To keep from
falling further behind in the Western Conference's postseason
race, the Blues will have to snap their skid against the Detroit
Trailing by a point for the last playoff spot, St. Louis looks
for its first win in six meetings this season against the Red
Wings on Thursday night in Detroit.
The Blues saw their five-game win streak end in Wednesday
night's 3-1 loss in Chicago and missed an opportunity to jump
into seventh in the West past idle Anaheim and Nashville.
All three teams have five games remaining, and snapping an 0-4-1
losing streak against the Red Wings would help St. Louis'
chances. The Blues have lost twice in Detroit this season,
including a 4-3 shootout defeat February 2.
After outscoring opponents 17-9 during its win streak, the Blues
managed 17 shots in Wednesday's loss - their lowest output since
an October 24 loss to Los Angeles - and needed defenseman Jeff
Woywitka's goal with two seconds left to avoid a shutout.
"It's not too often I can say we got outworked," goaltender
Chris Mason said. "Tonight we got outworked. We got outplayed.
It was one of our worst games, I think, in a long time."
The scoring struggles spoiled another solid effort from Mason,
who hasn't allowed more than three goals in 10 straight starts.
Since replacing Manny Legace in the February 2 defeat, he has
made 28 straight starts, and his 17-7-4 record and 2.26
goals-against average in that time are a reason why the Blues
have moved from last in the West on February 18 to their current
Mason, who is looking to match his career high 24 wins set in
2006-07 with Nashville, is 0-3-2 with a 3.31 GAA in seven career
appearances at Joe Louis Arena and has lost five straight to
Detroit with a 4.21 GAA in that time.
He'll face a Red Wings team looking to avoid its longest home
losing streak of the season and seeking its first season sweep
of the Blues since 2002-03.
After consecutive home defeats, Detroit's chances at a fifth
Presidents' Trophy in seven seasons is slipping away as the Red
Wings are four points behind San Jose with six games left for
After failing to score against the New York Islanders - the
NHL's worst team - on Friday night, Detroit's defense faltered
Sunday in giving up three third-period goals in a 4-3 loss to
Nashville, including two in 22 seconds.
Detroit, however, captured its eighth straight Central Division
title Tuesday night following a Chicago loss and is assured of
finishing no lower than second in the West.
"We found a way to lose the game," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock
said. "That drives you crazy, especially this time of year. It's
the time of year you want to be ramping it up."
Babcock's team will try to avoid its first three-game losing
streak at home since a four-game skid February 7-29, 2008. The
Red Wings haven't dropped three in a row overall since their
season-high, five-game skid January 17-31.
Ty Conklin, who is expected to start Thursday, is 3-0-0 with a
2.10 GAA in four lifetime appearances against the Blues,
allowing four goals in two victories this season.
Detroit is making its third attempt to join Boston (1970-74) and
Montreal (1975-79) as the only teams with four consecutive
50-win seasons, and Babcock would become the first coach with
four straight 50-win campaigns since Scotty Bowman with the
Canadiens in 1979.