Mar 10, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues center David Backes (42) and Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Colton Gillies (9) battle for the puck during the first period at the Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE
The Blue Jackets are simply playing out the season, but that doesn't mean that they haven't been playing tough. AHL call-up Allen York has done well in his temporary starting goaltender role.
It's coming down to the end of the NHL season. If you would have told Blues fans back on opening night that they'd need just one point in their last four games to clinch the Central Division title, you probably would have been laughed at or carted off by the men in white coats. That's the situation the Blues find themselves in tonight.
Granted, they also found themselves in that situation on Thursday evening against the Chicago Blackhawks as well, but couldn't muster enough effort for the win -- it was surprising that the Blues mustered enough effort for the comeback tie, but still fell. They're 0-3-4 in their last seven trips to Chicago, which makes the Blackhawks an opponent that the Blues should hope that they don't draw at any point in the postseason.
Tonight they have absolutely no excuse to look that flat. They're playing the Columbus Blue Jackets at home -- the worst team in the NHL at the place where it's hardest for the opposition to win. The Jackets will also have a tough decision in net to make: do they start AHL call-up Allen York two nights in a row? Apparently they do. York has been a pretty surprisingly solid bet for the Jackets, helping them defeat the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 on Wednesday and the Florida Panthers 4-1 Friday night. Just because a goaltender is a call-up doesn't mean they're easy pickin's for a team; the Columbus defense seems to have made it their goal to support Allen, as opposed to the general apathy that they tend to show when starter Steve Mason is on the ice.
York might have a problem or two tonight in the form of returning players for St. Louis. Matt D'Agostini and Andy McDonald are both returning to the line up tonight; McDonald from a bruised shoulder and D'Agostini from a concussion. McDonald has been out since March 15th and D'Agostini has been out nearly two months; both of these guys should add some scoring punch to the lineup. Factor in the return of Roman Polak, and the Blues roster is healthy, good to go, and scary as hell.
Good timing for the playoffs, bad timing for the Blue Jackets. Will tonight's game finally end with the Blues' first division title in 12 years? There's no reason why not. This is the first time in two years that the Blues've had a full healthy roster on the ice at once; if they' would have been healthy those seasons fans could have been looking at the team's fourth season in a row back in the playoffs.