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Wednesday, 03.21.2012 / 8:58 AM PT
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Ducks Off the Ice by Adam Brady

"Dude."
Okay, it just may be safe to say it: The St. Louis Blues are for real.

The same Blues who have made the playoffs just once since the lockout, the same ones who started the season 6-7-0 before firing coach Davis Payne, have 100 points and were the first team in the NHL to clinch a playoff spot. The Blues are one of eight teams in the NHL this season to fire their coach, but replacing Payne with Ken Hitchcock (a former Cup winner in Dallas) has had a pretty clear turnaround effect on the team.

Hitchcock took over the team early enough in the season to get the Blues to buy into a defensive-minded system that has them leading the NHL by a mile with just 1.85 goals-against per game. That's why they're a ridiculous 37-0-1 when scoring three or more goals.

They've got a young and talented back end that includes guys like Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk (whose brother Keith happens to be a Ducks staffer), as well as a stellar goaltending duo of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak. Elliott leads the NHL with a goals-against average of 1.62 (1.62!) and a .937 save percentage, while Halak is second in goals-against (1.85) and fourth in save percentage (.929). They've pretty much split time in net this season, with Halak having 42 games played to Elliott's 33, but Halak will be in net tonight against the Ducks at Honda Center.

Bruce Boudreau this morning was asked about Halak's playoff performance against his No.1-seeded Washington Capitals in 2010, when the goalie led the Montreal Canadiens to a first round series win in seven games. "I'm still mad at him," Boudreau said, not exactly smiling.

Meanwhile, the Blues don't even have a player among the top 60 scorers in the NHL. Their leading point-producer, TJ Oshie, is currently 69th in the league with 50 points.

"They're a good hockey club," Boudreau said of the Blues this morning. "It's not going to be easy. It never is against these guys."

And get this: The Blues have been doing this all season despite having a pretty decent amount of injury problems. In fact, for the first time this season, St. Louis practiced yesterday at Honda Center with its full opening night roster (and mid-season acquisitions) on the ice, though some of the guys out there aren't ready to play yet. That included Alex Steen, Matt D'Agostini and Kris Russell, who are all out with concussions. Steen has been out since December and has been in California receiving therapy in a hyperbaric chamber.

Also on the ice but questionable was David Backes, who has a foot injury, and definitely out tonight is former Duck Andy McDonald, who has a bad shoulder.

The Blues, who are in the second leg of a seven-game trip, are 6-1-1 in their last eight games, including a 3-1 win over Anaheim at home back on March 8.

Tonight the Ducks look to keep intact that same Ryan-Bonino-Palmieri line that rang up eight points in the 5-3 win in San Jose two nights ago. Look for Devante Smith-Pelly to possibly join Getzlaf and Perry on the top unit. Jason Blake and Niklas Hagman, who were held out of the game in San Jose, are possible to be in the lineup tonight, according to Boudreau. Also, Jonas Hiller looks to be back in there after getting a "rest" following 32 straight starts.

One cool thing if you're at the game tonight: The Ground Zero American Flag will be presented tonight during the national anthem, and later available for viewing on the concourse near Section 209.


SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - DAL 82 50 23 9 267 230 109
2 x - STL 82 49 24 9 224 201 107
3 x - CHI 82 47 26 9 235 209 103
4 y - ANA 82 46 25 11 218 192 103
5 x - LAK 82 48 28 6 225 195 102
6 x - SJS 82 46 30 6 241 210 98
7 x - NSH 82 41 27 14 228 215 96
8 x - MIN 82 38 33 11 216 206 87
9 COL 82 39 39 4 216 240 82
10 ARI 82 35 39 8 209 245 78
11 WPG 82 35 39 8 215 239 78
12 CGY 82 35 40 7 231 260 77
13 VAN 82 31 38 13 191 243 75
14 EDM 82 31 43 8 203 245 70

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 77 13 50 14 63
C. Perry 82 34 28 2 62
R. Kesler 79 21 32 5 53
R. Rakell 72 20 23 -1 43
J. Silfverberg 82 20 19 8 39
S. Vatanen 71 9 29 8 38
A. Cogliano 82 9 23 2 32
H. Lindholm 80 10 18 7 28
C. Fowler 69 5 23 -8 28
C. Stewart 56 8 12 2 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 22 9 7 .919 2.30
J. Gibson 21 13 4 .920 2.07

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