The Blues' immediate goal is clear: the league's best record
Though winning the Presidents' Trophy guarantees zilch in the postseason, the home-ice advantage it provides could, and should, be huge.
Patrik Berglund (left) has had two lengthy scoring droughts this season but appears to be warming up.
Rick Scuteri / USA TODAY Sports
By Nate LatschFOX Sports Midwest
ST. LOUIS --Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has a goal in mind for these final 22 games of the regular season.
"It's the Presidents' Trophy," Hitchcock said after the team's morning skate Tuesday. "To do all this work and not chase down the Presidents' Trophy is ridiculous. We've got to chase that down. Any high seed is worth it. Any home-ice advantage is worth it. To put all the effort in we've put in so far and then just let it go and just play average doesn't cut it for us. It doesn't cut it for the players. It certainly doesn't cut it for coaches and management. We've got to chase down the Presidents' Trophy."
That trophy, of course, goes to the team that finishes with the most points in the regular season. The Blues have won the Presidents' Trophy only once -- the 1999-2000 season -- since the award was introduced at the start of the 1985-86 season.
The Presidents' Trophy is not an indicator of postseason success.
When the Blues won it, they went on to lose in the conference quarterfinals. In the 11 seasons since, only four Presidents' Trophy winners won the Stanley Cup -- Colorado in 2001, Detroit in 2002 and 2008, and Chicago in 2013.
But if the Blues were to finish with the most points in the NHL, they would clinch home-ice advantage for the playoffs.
"We're in that four- or five-year window of trying to win a championship," Hitchcock said. "You don't know who your opponent is going to be. All I know is home-ice advantage in any series is a big advantage because there are just so many good teams. There are eight, nine teams here that think they can win the West, and just any little advantage we can get we need to take advantage of. But it also means that all this work you've put in is worthwhile. To just let Anaheim run away with it, we don't want that to happen at all. Or to let Chicago take this division, we don't want that. We have to keep chasing and we have to stay on the hunt. We're best when we're goal-oriented. When we just play -- like we came out of the break here, we just played -- we're not near as good as we should be."
The Blues (40-14-6, 86 points in 60 games) have positioned themselves to make a run at it. They are second behind Anaheim (91 points in 62 games) but have played two fewer games. Chicago also has 86 points but, like Anaheim, has already played 62 games.
BERGLUND BREAKS OUT
When Patrik Berglund scored two goals (his ninth and 10th of the season) in the third period Sunday in Phoenix, he broke a drought of 16 games without a goal that dated to Jan. 9. He had a 22-game stretch earlier this season without scoring a goal after netting 17 in 48 games a year ago.
But Berglund could be heating up. He had two goals and an assist in Sweden's run to the silver medal at the Olympics and has now started the final stretch of the regular season by finding his scoring touch.
Watch the 'Blues Live' pregame and postgame shows before and after every St. Louis Blues game on FOX Sports Midwest.
"Berglund, (Jay) Bouwmeester and (Alex) Pietrangelo are the three players for me right now that I've seen that have really gone up from their Olympic experience," Hitchcock said. "They have really moved their game to another level. Especially Bouwmeester and Berglund. They've gained confidence. Being able to play in that atmosphere has really helped them, and you can see it in their games, you can see it in their disposition on the ice. And Petro has really moved his game from a transitional standpoint up to another level, also."
COLE TO PLAY TUESDAY
Hitchcock said Tuesday that defenseman Ian Cole will play against the Lightning in place of Carlo Colaiacovo.
"We have to keep him part of the team," Hitchcock said. "He's practiced real hard. He's a guy that adds a lot to our team. We want to keep both him and Carlo going. We don't want to sit out guys too long. Leo (Jordan Leopold) is probably still 10 or 14 days away from 100 percent, so with having seven guys that can play we can afford to sit on Leo until he's as close to 100 percent before we put him back in."
Cole has played in 36 games for the Blues this season, scoring eight points (two goals, six assists) and recording a plus-12. He last played Feb. 1 against Nashville and has been a healthy scratch for the past six games.
The Blues announced Monday morning that rookie winger Dmitrij Jaskin was being sent back to their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, but did not immediately announce a corresponding roster move. That came early Tuesday afternoon when the team announced that forward Chris Porter was being recalled from Chicago.
Jaskin, 20, had two points in nine games for the Blues this season. He played against Vancouver and Anaheim on the road trip but was a healthy scratch Sunday in Phoenix when Magnus Paajarvi returned to the lineup.
Porter has played 10 games for the Blues this season, most recently Jan. 2 against the Kings. This is the fourth time he has been recalled from Chicago this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop will make his first regular-season start in St. Louis against his former team tonight.
"We had the preseason game here in the preseason, so it was nice to kind of get that under your belt, but it will be a lot of fun," he said. "There will be a lot of family and friends here. It should be a lot fun."
The St. Louis native, who went to Chaminade College Preparatory School, was a third-round pick of the Blues in 2005 and played in 13 games over parts of two seasons (2008-09 and 2010-11) with the Blues before being traded to Ottawa in 2012 for a 2013 second-round draft pick.
The 6-foot-7 Bishop played 23 games for the Senators before he was traded to the Lightning in 2013 for Cory Conacher and a 2013 fourth-round draft pick. He signed a two-year contract extension with the Lightning following the trade and has blossomed in his first full season in Tampa Bay.
Bishop is 29-10-4 this season with a 2.05 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. For his career, he is 47-27-8 with a 2.34 GAA and .923 save percentage.
He said he is a lot different now than he was when the Blues traded him.
"It's been a long probably three years since I was last here and I've done a lot of growing up in the league as far as learning how to play and be a starter," he said.
Bishop's return Tuesday will be memorable for another reason. It will be the first game that new Blues goalie Ryan Miller plays in St. Louis following the trade of Jaroslav Halak to Buffalo.
"I thought it was a good trade for both teams, a good opportunity for the Blues," Bishop said. "It will be fun. It's always fun to play against some of the best goalies in the world, and tonight I'll have that chance."
COOPER RETURNS TO ST. LOUIS
Lightning coach Jon Cooper also has a history in St. Louis.
Cooper was the coach of the St. Louis Bandits of the North American Hockey League in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons. The Bandits went 90-23 in those two seasons.
He then went on to coach the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL for two seasons before moving on to the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL for two seasons and then the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL for one year before being hired last March to coach the Lightning.
Now he's back in St. Louis trying to lead the Lightning to a second win against the Blues this season. The coach was asked following the morning skate Tuesday how to do that.
"Spend as little time in your zone as possible because once they get it down there they can lug it around and it's hard to move it off them," Cooper said. "So you have to spend little time down there and the transition game's got to be working. That's something we've had a lot of success at. We've probably lost our way a little bit here since coming back from the break, but when we have the speed going, that's what pushes teams back. When we played St. Louis this year, that's the reason we beat them. I think our speed probably surprised them a little bit. It won't happen this time. They are definitely coming into this game eyes a lot more wide open than probably when they played us and didn't know who half our roster was. If the third period of Phoenix the other night they played is any indication of how they are going to play, we're going to have to have a hell of a game to beat these guys."
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at email@example.com.