NHL

Blues-Red Wings Preview

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The St. Louis Blues are working their way up the Western Conference standings. Another win would move them ahead of the Detroit Red Wings.

The visiting Blues go for a season high-tying fourth consecutive victory Sunday while the Red Wings continue their push for a 22nd consecutive playoff appearance.

With a 4-3 shootout victory at West-leading Chicago on Friday, St. Louis (20-14-2) moved into eighth in the conference. The Blues increased their lead over Columbus and idle Edmonton for that position with Friday's 3-1 home win over the Blue Jackets.

"We're in a spot where if we lose that game, they leapfrog us and we're on the outside looking in," captain David Backes told the league's official website. "(But) we win the game and ... not pull away, but we get to maintain our spot and keep the momentum from the last two big wins."

The Blues hope Backes, who has five goals, can keep finding the back of the net as they try to earn a second straight playoff berth. He has goals in two straight following a 14-game stretch without one.

"He needed to step up with everything that's gone on here," coach Ken Hitchcock said.

St. Louis, one point behind the Red Wings (19-14-5), will try to match a season-best 4-0-0 run that ended with a 5-3 loss at Detroit on Feb. 1. That was also the start of the Blues' season-worst five-game skid, which included a 5-1 home loss to the Red Wings on Feb. 7 and ended six days later with a 4-3 overtime victory at Joe Louis Arena.

Jake Allen won that game in his first NHL start with just 15 saves for St. Louis, which had lost four straight and seven of eight in Detroit.

With their playoff streak in danger, the Red Wings know they need two points Sunday with the Blues closing fast.

"It's a big game for us," coach Mike Babcock said after Friday's 3-2 overtime win in Colorado. "St. Louis has two games in hand. It's a big game plus we always have fun playing against them."

The Red Wings are in a much better position to defeat the Blues with captain Henrik Zetterberg back on the ice. In his second game after missing two with a groin injury, Zetterberg had two assists Friday - his 398th and 399th - including one on Pavel Datsyuk's game-winner.

While Zetterberg leads the Red Wings with three goals and six points against St. Louis this season, Datsyuk has netted two goals and set up another.

Blues goaltender Brian Elliott has won his last two starts, but the Red Wings could get a second look at Allen after his 26-save performance Friday. It was his first start since being re-called from Peoria of the AHL earlier this week when Jaroslav Halak suffered a lower-body injury.

Jimmy Howard should make a sixth consecutive start for the Red Wings but has struggled in three starts against the Blues this season. His 4.44 goals-against average in those matchups is his highest versus any opponent, and he allowed a season-high five goals in a 6-0 loss at St. Louis on Jan. 19.

Blues leading scorer Chris Stewart, tied with Patrik Berglund and rookie Vladimir Tarasenko with a team-best three goals in this season series, ended a five-game goal-scoring drought Friday.

St. Louis is 15-2-1 when Stewart records at least one point.

Tagged: Red Wings, Blues, Henrik Zetterberg

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