ANAHEIM, Calif. — One team trying to defend its division championship faces another fighting just to make the playoffs when the Anaheim Ducks and the St. Louis Blues meet Wednesday night at the Honda Center.
The Ducks must overtake the first-place San Jose Sharks to claim their fifth consecutive Pacific Division title. The Blues, meanwhile, hold the Western Conference’s final wild-card spot while remaining two points behind the third-place Nashville Predators in the Central Division.
Anaheim won three of its last four games with a resurgent Corey Perry, who scored three goals in three games — including two in a 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday night.
Before his three-game surge, Perry failed to score in his previous 10 games and tallied four goals in 36 games from Dec. 15 to March 7.
“It’s tough mentally on a player of that caliber when things don’t go your way,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “It’s up to us as a coaching staff to find ways to motivate him. But he’s worked real hard. He’s stayed with it and stayed focused.”
Anaheim goalie John Gibson will miss his eighth game of the past nine because of lower-body injuries. Gibson played in Friday night’s 4-3 loss in St. Louis but was scratched just before the game against Washington and did not skate in Tuesday’s practice.
Carlyle said he did not know when Gibson would be available.
“After he played, he just didn’t feel right,” Carlyle said. “That’s really what he told us. It’s something a little different this time. We’ve got to take the necessary course of action now.”
With Gibson unavailable, Jonathan Bernier makes his ninth successive start. Bernier won his past three games, including one by shutout, while compiling a 1.62 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage. As a result, the NHL named Bernier its second star for the week that ended Sunday.
The Blues bring a five-game winning streak into the second contest of their five-game road trip. St. Louis began the trip Monday night with a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings that gave the Blues a five-point lead over Los Angeles in the race for the final playoff spot.
When asked whether the game against the Kings was his team’s biggest so far, St. Louis coach Mike Yeo responded succinctly.
“Up until the next one,” Yeo told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Every game is huge.”
Goalie Jake Allen has been pivotal to the Blues’ winning streak. Allen earned four of the team’s five victories with one shutout and compiled a 1.33 goals-against average with a .960 save percentage.
With Allen’s help, the Blues conceded only eight goals during their past five games and trailed for only 6 minutes, 5 seconds in that span.
Right winger Dimitrij Jaskin will miss the game with an upper-body injury. Jaskin collided with teammate Robert Bortuzzo in the second period Monday night and left the ice.