SUNRISE (SportsDirect Inc.) — The St. Louis Blues are trying to hold off Nashville for third place in the Central Division as they hit the road for the final time of the regular season with a visit to the skidding Florida Panthers on Thursday.
The Blues hold a one-point edge and a game in hand over both the Predators and the wild card-leading Calgary Flames with three games remaining.
St. Louis, which had its nine-game point streak (7-0-2) halted in a 5-2 home loss to Winnipeg, has a magic number of three points to wrap up third place in the Central and set up a first-round playoff matchup against the Minnesota Wild.
The team held a brief practice Wednesday to iron out some kinks after allowing more than three goals for the first time in 18 games.
“I think we’ve had a couple of not great games lately,” current Blue and former Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. “We’ll get a couple more (practices) before the playoffs start. It’s always good preparation.”
The Panthers are crawling to the finish line, riding a five-game losing streak in which they have been outscored 22-9.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN Midwest (St. Louis), FSN Florida
ABOUT THE BLUES (43-29-7): Jori Lehtera, struggling through a miserable offensive season, was back in the lineup Tuesday against Winnipeg after sitting out the previous 12 games due to a concussion. Lehtera notched seventh goal overall and first since Feb. 16 and could be an important cog if St. Louis opens the playoffs against Minnesota — he has four goals in 14 games against the Wild. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo scored for the fourth time in nine games to set a career high with nine tallies.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (33-35-11): General manager Tom Rowe made the surprising move to fire coach Gerard Gallant 22 games into the season and take over behind the bench, but he acknowledged the failure of the decision at Wednesday’s practice. “It’s frustrating. I was the guy who was supposed to get the team there and didn’t,” said Rowe, who reportedly will not return next season. The Panthers beat St. Louis on May 20 to cap a five-game winning streak, but has won only five of 21 games since.
1. The Blues are 1-for-20 on the power play over the past eight games.
2. With netminders Roberto Luongo and James Reimer injured, G Reto Berra has started the past three games and yielded 13 goals.
3. Blues D Robert Bortuzzo (upper body) is expected to miss the next two games.
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