BLUES EXTRAS

Blues' goal: Home-ice advantage for playoffs

2012-03-20T00:30:00Z 2012-04-09T20:20:08Z Blues' goal: Home-ice advantage for playoffsBY JEREMY RUTHERFORD • jrutherford@post-dispatch.com > 314-444-7135 stltoday.com

In 2008-09, San Jose won the NHL's Presidents' Trophy for piling up the most points in the league. However, the Sharks' season ended with a first-round exit in the Western Conference playoffs.

Veteran center Scott Nichol arrived in San Jose the following summer, and while the Sharks fell only several points shy of the top record the next two seasons, they put together back-to-back trips to the Western Conference finals.

In his first season with the Blues, Nichol said he would welcome a Presidents' Trophy in St. Louis. But the main goal is having the team's game in order and guaranteed home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Blues lead the NHL with 100 points and have nine games remaining in the regular season, starting Wednesday in Anaheim. The team is three points ahead of the New York Rangers, who have 10 games left.

"With the team that we have, if we get everyone healthy and our game coming together, I don't see why we can't accomplish that," Nichol said. "But we've worked hard all year and you really want home ice all the way through. Those are the little things that you work really hard to accomplish, and we're right there. It's ours to have, and we've just got to keep playing solid hockey.

"Not many dress rehearsals left to get everything going."

The Presidents' Trophy has been awarded to the NHL's top team the past 25 seasons and only seven times, and just once in the past eight seasons, has first-place club won the Stanley Cup. Detroit was the last team to claim both titles, in 2007-08.

The Blues have one Presidents' Trophy on their mantle, amassing a club-record 51 wins and 114 points in 1999-2000. But like San Jose three years ago, the Blues were unceremoniously dumped bin the first round that season — by the Sharks .

So, the trophy brings with it somewhat of a jinx in St. Louis and around the league. But as Nichol expressed, if it brings along home ice, the Blues will deal with negative stigma. And for good reason: They have the NHL's best home record (29-4-4, for 62 of their 100 points).

"We've had some success at home, so that's a big thing that we're going to strive for," Blues forward B.J. Crombeen said. "It's there, but the biggest thing is, we're focused on playing our hockey and ... that's been our mind-set all year.

"We've been looking at the standings, wanting to get to the top, but we're not really focused solely on that ... rather how we have to play. If we play how we can, that stuff will take care of itself."

The Blues spent little time in the locker room after a 3-1 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday celebrating the fact that they had clinched a playoff spot, becoming the first team in the league to do so.

"It's something we talked about briefly, but everybody was pretty calm about it and we know we have a lot more work ahead of us," Blues forward David Perron said. "That's what I told (teammate) David Backes. ... I liked how the feeling in the room was. Yeah, we clinched a playoff (berth), but it was nothing more special than having a lot more work to come.

"Knowing we'll be in the playoffs is a great feeling. (But) if you compare us to three years ago when we made the playoffs, it took all of our energy to make the playoffs. Once we clinched against Columbus, it felt like we won the Stanley Cup. It was great, but at the same time, knowing there's a lot more work after you made the playoffs this time around is more our attitude."

In that season, 2008-09, the Blues reached their first postseason since 2004, but bowed out quickly — a first-round sweep by Vancouver. They have higher aspirations this season.

"It's one thing to get into the playoffs, and it's another thing to play well there and go far," said Blues defenseman Barret Jackman, the longest-tenured player on the roster. "We're not just happy getting in. We want to make a statement."

But the postseason isn't here yet, and the Blues want to keep that in mind. In their final nine regular-season games, they will face several teams jockeying for playoff position.

"I hate to say 'measuring stick,' but we are that now," said forward Jamie Langenbrunner, who has two Stanley Cup titles. "That's great for us. That will prepare us for what's ahead. It's a good spot to be in."

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