NHL: Blues’ next chance to tighten wild-card race comes vs. Flames

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The St. Louis Blues missed a golden opportunity to tighten the Western Conference wild-card race when they suffered a 2-1 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday.

That setback raised the stakes for St. Louis as it prepares for Thursday’s meeting with the visiting Calgary Flames.

“This team isn’t going to quit fighting,” Blues captain Brayden Schenn said. “We’re going to go all the way to the finish. We still believe in here we can make the playoffs.”

St. Louis (38-30-4, 80 points) has fallen six points behind the Golden Knights, who currently hold the second and final wild-card spot in the West. Vegas earned another point on Tuesday with its 5-4 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators.

The Blues, who are 6-1-1 in their past eight games, and the Golden Knights have each played 72 games.

“We’re still in the fight,” St. Louis interim coach Drew Bannister said. “We have 10 games left. At this point, obviously, we’re going to need some help, but we can’t worry about what happened here (Monday). We can only worry about what’s moving forward here.

“Moving forward is Calgary, and we gotta continue to win hockey games and win in regulation. But we’ve got to come up with two points every time we come to the rink.”

The Blues will face the Flames without fourth-line center Oskar Sundqvist, who is out for the remainder of the season after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament during Monday’s game. Defenseman Torey Krug is questionable for Thursday’s contest due to an illness.

The Flames bring a four-game losing streak to St. Louis, and they are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.

“I didn’t like our first period,” Flames coach Ryan Huska said of Tuesday’s performance. “I don’t think we were connected at all. We had defensemen and forwards not on the same page. In the second and third, we got better, but I don’t like the way we started the game.”

Flames captain Mikael Backlund didn’t argue with that assessment.

“Overall in the first we weren’t good enough,” Backlund said. “We didn’t come out and play as hard as we can with the pace that we know we can play with. I thought we came out and played a little better in the second and third, but still, it’s not up to our standards.

“We know we can play better. Yeah, we’ve dug ourselves a big hole here losing four in a row. Now we’ve got to find a way to get out of it.”

Calgary has lost seven of its past nine games to fade from the Western Conference playoff picture.

“We need to get back to just playing simple hockey and getting our work ethic,” Flames defenseman MacKenzie Weegar said. “We’ve got to play for each other, what have you done for me lately kind of mentality. Guys got to start taking this opportunity and running away with it.”

The Blues won twice at Calgary earlier this season, defeating the Flames 3-0 on Oct. 26 and 4-3 on Jan. 23. St. Louis’ Joel Hofer recorded a 27-save shutout in the first victory.

–Field Level Media

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