While sporting a new and more colorful mask, Ryan Miller will try to help the St. Louis Blues get back on track after their first regulation loss this month and his first since joining the team.
Miller and the Blues would appear to have a considerable challenge awaiting them with a visit to another one of the NHL’s hottest clubs, the Philadelphia Flyers, on Saturday.
Miller has worn an all-white mask with a logo on the chin in his first nine games after being acquired from Buffalo on March 1 but is expected to have a fresh one for this game. He went 7-0-1 with a 1.61 goals-against average in the first eight of those contests before a 4-0 defeat at Chicago on Wednesday.
"These are good lesson games for us. This is going to do nothing but help us," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "These competitions and these type of opponents give you great measuring sticks."
Miller was pulled with less than eight minutes to go after giving up all four goals on 27 shots, and St. Louis (47-15-7) dropped to 8-1-1 this month after the opener to a seemingly difficult four-game trip. That trek continues with a pair of matinée games this weekend, including a matchup with Metropolitan Division leader Pittsburgh on Sunday.
The Western Conference leaders are attempting to become the first team in the West to clinch a playoff spot, and the simplest way is by earning at least one point Saturday.
Miller and the Blues will take on a team that’s 7-1-1 in March and 11-2-1 since the beginning of February. Philadelphia (37-25-7) will also seek its first five-game win streak in two seasons after topping Dallas 4-2 on Thursday.
" (Facing St. Louis) is going to be very tough," forward Jakub Voracek said. We’re going to have to battle a lot harder than we did (Thursday) to win that game. We have to match their physicality and play a simple game."
Wayne Simmonds scored a pair of goals and Steve Mason stopped 33 shots in the Flyers’ eighth win in 10 home games and third in a row. Coach Craig Berube, though, wasn’t pleased with his team giving three power plays and 17 shots to Dallas in the second period.
"We were sloppy tonight, at times. Overall our team is competing hard, working hard and playing like a team, and that’s what you have to do," Berube said. "They know it wasn’t good enough tonight, but we won."
Philadelphia hasn’t earned five consecutive overall victories since March 1-10, 2012.
Another victory at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday would help the Flyers maintain their hold on second place in the Metropolitan and home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. Philadelphia is one point ahead of the New York Rangers for that spot.
The Flyers will close out their four-game homestand with two Western Conference teams that are in playoff position before visiting the Rangers on Wednesday.
Before that game, they’ll face the Blues for the first time since a 4-2 home loss Oct. 22, 2011. St. Louis is 3-0-1 in the last four games in the series.
The Blues and Flyers will play the final of this season’s two matchups April 1 in St. Louis.