Blues need a home win over Flyers as they pursue Presidents’ Trophy

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock says the ability of Magnus Paajarvi (left) to play off-wing makes him a good fit on a line with Steve Ott and Patrik Berglund.

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ST. LOUIS — It has been 10 days since the Blues went to Philadelphia and were handed a 4-1 defeat by the Flyers. The teams meet again tonight with more at stake for host St. Louis — and with the Flyers in a bit of a tailspin since beating St. Louis.

After a loss to Dallas on Saturday night, the Blues are 50-17-7 with 107 points in 74 games but trail Boston (110 points in 75 games) in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy. They are just one point ahead of Anaheim (106 points in 75 games) for the top spot in the Western Conference. Boston has won three straight games and is 9-0-1 in its last 10, while Anaheim has won two in a row and is 6-3-1 in its last 10 — the same record as the Blues over that span.

"I think the important thing for us is to just respond in the proper manner coming off a loss," Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "We still need the points just as bad as they do. We’re fighting for first overall and we want to play the right way heading into the playoffs, and I think it’s a good measuring stick for us tonight against a really good team."

Philadelphia (39-27-8, 86 points) is coming off a 4-3 shootout loss to Boston on Sunday and has lost three of its last four since defeating the Blues.

"They are a big team that works hard and they are pretty strong," Flyers center Claude Giroux said of St. Louis.

MORE ON THE BLUES

MORE LINEUP CHANGES

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is moving more players up and down in his lineup tonight against the Flyers.

Left winger Brenden Morrow is moving up to the second line and will play with center Vladimir Sobotka and right winger Jaden Schwartz. Derek Roy will move from center to left wing and play on the fourth line with center Maxim Lapierre and right winger Ryan Reaves.

Colaiacovo is back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch Saturday and again will be paired with Kevin Shattenkirk as the third defensive line.

Magnus Paajarvi, who did not play in Saturday’s loss to the Stars, is on the third line at right wing with Steve Ott at left wing and Patrik Berglund at center.

"To play the off-wing, you’ve got to either have a quick stick or quick feet, and he’s got both," Hitchcock said of Paajarvi. "So he’s a really effective player. I think for us, when (Vladimir) Tarasenko went down, we tried to use other people on the right wing and it doesn’t suit Steve Ott. He’s a left winger slash center iceman. He plays much better on the left. He plays with more tempo.

"When you’re playing on the off-wing, you have to play a lot of the game with your back to the play. Paajarvi is comfortable playing over there like that. He knows how to spin and get away from people, so it’s a better line."

Hitchcock said he wants to give that trio an extended look for the remainder of the regular season to see how it works together.

"We’ve had that line play twice together. It’s been very effective. Paajarvi is back feeling good about himself now, so we’ll put him in and keep him going. We want to keep that line together for as much as we can here to finish the season to see how we look."

HOME ATTENDANCE RISING


The Blues rank 18th in the NHL in home attendance with an average of 16,895 fans at Scottrade Center after 36 home games.

St. Louis, which is 26-6-4 at home this season, averaged 18,244 fans during its six home games in March. The past two games, against Minnesota and Dallas, drew standing-room-only crowds of more than 19,000.

"It’s always fun playing in front of our home fans," Colaiacovo said. "They really do a good job in making the building loud and being out there screaming their lungs out from start to finish. It really makes it a fun atmosphere to be a part of.

"Heading into the playoffs where the games are amplified that much more and the importance of every game continues to grow, we’re going to need that."

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com