Early next week, the Blackhawks will begin making plans for the summer.
And they’d love nothing more than to force the hated St. Louis Blues to do the same thing.
“Anytime you can play spoiler, it gives you more to play for and it should be a lot of fun,” Brandon Saad said of the Hawks’ next two games, which are at St. Louis on Wednesday and at home against the Blues on Friday.
St. Louis (92 points in 79 games played) remains in a fierce battle with Colorado (93 points, 80 GP), Anaheim (95 points, 80 GP) and Los Angeles (96 points, 80 GP) for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference. The Blues desperately need 3 or 4 points against the Hawks or they likely will be finished.
“St. Louis being a big rivalry, you know these games … will be pretty intense,” said Patrick Kane. “The crowd will be into it. It would be nice to see them miss the playoffs, (and) it would be nice to have a hand in that.”
St. Louis blew a huge opportunity to move ahead of the Avalanche by allowing 3 second-period goals in seven minutes during a 4-2 loss to Washington on Monday.
Most of us left the Blues for dead when they sent Paul Stastny (15G, 36A) to Winnipeg at the trade deadline, but coach Mike Yeo’s team proved to be a resilient bunch. St. Louis won six straight from March 17-27, with the second victory coming in overtime against the Hawks at the United Center on March 18.
The Blues have dropped their last three, however, including a 6-0 loss at Arizona.
“We know basically we’re in a win-out situation, so it’s going to be a good challenge for us and we’re looking forward to it,” Blues defenseman Colton Parayko told reporters after falling to the Capitals. “I know it’s tough to turn the page quickly, but that’s what we have to do and make sure that we’re ready.”
They certainly played with a do-or-die attitude in that 5-4 win over the Hawks two weeks ago. Less than two minutes after Alex DeBrincat gave the Hawks a 4-3 lead with 3:13 remaining, Alex Pietrangelo’s prayer from the blue line sailed through a maze of players and found the back of the net.
Patrik Berglund struck the game-winner in OT, and the overjoyed Blues picked up a huge 2 points.
“They’re celebrating like crazy when they won it,” said Hawks defenseman Connor Murphy. “We had three leads at (different) times in that game. And they were playing as hard as they could, a playoff-type game to try to get that win.
“So it shows how much it means to them beating us.”
Said coach Joel Quenneville: “We’ll do what we can. We want to be sure that we’re playing hard and we’re playing the right way.
“It’ll be a good test.”
While eliminating the Blues from the playoffs may make the Hawks feel better, it could hurt their draft position. Edmonton (74 points) currently has the seventh-worst record in the league, followed by the Hawks (74), Islanders (76) and Rangers (77). According to tankathon.com, the Hawks have a 6 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick and a 19 percent chance of ending up in the top 3.
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