Blues-Stars Preview

The Associated Press

Having clinched their first division title in more than a decade with one of the best regular seasons in franchise history, the St. Louis Blues should have no problems with confidence.

Still, heading into the playoffs mired in a season-worst five-game losing streak would surely leave some doubt in their minds.

Hoping to get the necessary help to capture the top seed in the Western Conference, St. Louis will try to at least get back into the win column Saturday night when it visits the Dallas Stars in the regular-season finale for both teams.

The Blues (48-22-11) held a five-point lead over Vancouver less than a month ago in the race for the No. 1 seed in the West, but a 3-4-4 record down the stretch has dropped them two points behind the Canucks with one game left for each.

St. Louis controlled its own fate heading into Friday's home matchup with Phoenix, needing only wins in its final two games to clinch the No. 1 seed. However, the Coyotes killed off all seven St. Louis power plays and scored twice in the second period en route to a 4-1 victory.

"We didn't play the way we wanted to and we kind of got away from our game,'' Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. ''That's kind of been our trend the last little bit and we've got to find a way to get it back on track.''

For the third straight game, coach Ken Hitchcock's postgame remarks were brief and to the point.

"This is what happens when you play with skill ahead of work,'' Hitchcock said. "Their level of defensive and checking commitment confused and frustrated our players.

"We wanted the game to be easier and it wasn't.''

With their third straight home loss - the first coming to league-worst Columbus - the Blues' overall skid reached four (0-2-2) and left Vancouver needing only one point against Edmonton on Saturday night to secure the West's top spot even with a St. Louis victory.

Hitchcock could switch to Jaroslav Halak in net after Brian Elliott lost to the Coyotes. Halak is 0-3-0 with a 3.59 goals-against average in his last three starts after posting a 1.46 GAA during a 9-0-1 run. He stopped 22 shots in a 1-0 home win over the Stars on Jan. 16, improving to 2-0-1 with a 2.01 GAA against them this season.

Dallas (42-34-5) will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season after it was officially eliminated with Thursday's 2-0 loss at Nashville.

"We just didn't get the result we wanted, but we played hard,'' coach Glen Gulutzan said. "I liked the way we competed. It was a one goal game, really who could get that one in? They managed to do so.''

The Stars have been outscored 15-4 during a four-game losing streak - one shy of their season high.

With nothing left to play for but pride, the Stars recalled three players from AHL Texas on Friday and will insert them into Saturday's lineup. Defenseman Brenden Dillon and right wing Scott Glennie will make their NHL debuts, while defenseman Jordie Benn - brother of Dallas left wing Jamie - will play for the first time since Jan. 5.

Richard Bachman will start in goal, ending Kari Lehtonen's run of 10 consecutive starts.

"Bachman will be in goal and you're going see a few of our young guys," Gulutzan told the team's official website.

The Blues have won two straight against the Stars after a five-game losing streak in the series. St. Louis, though, has lost three in a row in Dallas - all by 3-2 scores.

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