Blues-Ducks Preview

The Associated Press

The St. Louis Blues are happy to have ended their playoff drought, but their attention is on other goals.

The Blues will try to move a step closer to clinching the Western Conference's top seed and their first Presidents' Trophy in 12 years by earning a rare road win over the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night.

St. Louis (46-19-8) secured its first postseason berth in three years and second in seven seasons with a 3-1 road win over Tampa Bay on Saturday. Jaroslav Halak stopped 22 shots and Jaden Schwartz scored in his NHL debut to help the Blues avoid a third straight defeat.

The win also kept St. Louis six points ahead of Vancouver in the West and three up on the New York Rangers in the race for the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the postseason.

The Blues haven't finished with the top record in the league since compiling 114 points in 1999-2000.

"(Clinching the berth is) great, but I don't think anybody is focusing on the playoffs," Halak said. "We've got nine games left in the season, and we have to get as many wins as we can."

As it continues a season-high seven-game trip, St. Louis will try to earn a victory in a place where it's had little success lately. The Blues have gone 2-13-1 with one tie in their last 17 visits to Anaheim and have lost four straight there, most recently falling 4-2 on Oct. 16 as the Ducks scored three goals in the third period.

St. Louis has won two straight in the series and a 3-1 victory over Anaheim on March 8 is part of the club's current 10-2-1 surge. David Backes scored a pair of goals to lead the Blues to that win, but he's questionable for Wednesday after hurting himself while blocking a shot in Tampa.

The team captain has played in 185 consecutive games.

Center Andy McDonald is dealing with a bruised shoulder that caused him to miss Saturday's game, and St. Louis has three other players out with concussions. Veteran center Jason Arnott has been resting due to "bumps and bruises."

The Blues will face a Ducks team that's gone 4-7-1 in its last 12 and is all but out of the postseason hunt. Anaheim (31-32-11) did manage to hurt the playoff hopes of a Pacific Division rival Monday, avoiding a third straight loss with a 5-3 win over San Jose.

Corey Perry scored the tiebreaking goal in the second period while Bobby Ryan and Nick Bonino had three points apiece.

"We had a lead during the last game (a 3-1 loss to Nashville on Sunday), and we let it slip away," said Bonino, who had a career-high three assists. "We wanted to show we could hold on to a lead."

The Ducks will try to build on that win by avoiding their first three-game home losing streak since Dec. 29-Jan. 4.

Jonas Hiller could be in net Wednesday, though Hiller, who started a team-record 32 straight games before Jeff Deslauriers won Monday, has struggled in the past five matchups with St. Louis. He's gone 2-3-0 with a 3.51 goals-against average in that span.

Halak is 4-2-0 with a 1.76 GAA in his last six games against Anaheim and allowed a combined three goals in the last two wins.

Ryan has totaled a team-best five points during the series with three goals and two assists. His 11 career goals against St. Louis are tied for his most versus an opponent.

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