If the St. Louis Blues want to keep any realistic playoff hopes alive, they probably need a victory Wednesday night.
Otherwise, the Detroit Red Wings would continue their impressive surge toward a 19th consecutive postseason berth, all but eliminating their Central Division rivals in the process.
The Blues, however, have already won twice at Joe Louis Arena, where they’ll take their stellar road record as they try to begin a final push.
A regulation defeat would leave a 10-point gap with nine games remaining between St. Louis (34-29-9) and the Red Wings, who have regained a grip on the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference by going 5-0-1 in their last six.
Detroit (36-23-13) has battled injuries and surprising struggles after reaching the Stanley Cup finals in 2009 and winning the Cup the previous year, but the Wings served notice that they could be a postseason factor again with a 3-1 win over defending champion Pittsburgh on Monday night.
“This is the best run we’ve been on all year,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re desperate to try to get into the playoffs. We have proud players who have done a lot of winning over a long period of time.
“We’d all like to get into the tournament and we think we have a shot if we get in.”
Some familiar faces have carried the Red Wings to an 8-2-1 record since the Olympic break. Henrik Zetterberg(notes) has 15 points in that stretch, notching two goals and an assist Monday, with Pavel Datsyuk(notes) adding 11 points and captain Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) chipping in 10.
All three played a key role in shutting down the Penguins’ high-powered offense.
“We’re doing a good job as a five-man unit,” Zetterberg said.
Pittsburgh was 0 for 1 on the power play, becoming the ninth straight Detroit opponent that has failed to score with the man advantage.
Detroit also has a chance to move up in the standings Wednesday. The Red Wings would pull even with seventh-place Colorado if they win and the Avalanche lose to Los Angeles in regulation later that night.
The Blues are desperate to join the mix, something that has become more realistic after a 9-4-0 stretch.
A 3-2 loss to Nashville on Sunday night, though, did not help. The Blues were outshot 39-25, blowing a 2-1 lead by allowing two goals in a 48-second span late in the third period.
“It hurts tremendously,” interim coach Davis Payne said. “It stings pretty good.”
St. Louis hopes hitting the road will help. The Blues are an NHL-worst 12-18-5 at home, but their 22-11-4 road record is the second-best in the league. They’ve won six of eight away from home since the Olympics.
The Blues, 4-0-1 overall against Detroit, have not won three times at Joe Louis Arena since 1990-91.