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For Blues, 'Makeup Week' wraps up grueling regular season

For Blues, 'Makeup Week' wraps up grueling regular season

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LOS ANGELES — First came Colorado Week, with the Blues victorious in the last two games of a three-game set there.

Next came Minnesota Week, and even more success, with the Blues garnering five of a possible six points in the Twin Cities.

That was followed by Clinching Week. The Blues did what needed to be done, earning three of four points in totally unspectacular fashion against Anaheim, followed by an overtime loss Friday in Las Vegas that clinched a playoff spot.

So what’s left before the postseason? Uh, Makeup Week, three games that should have been played a while back.

On Monday, it’s the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. Originally scheduled for March 15, this game was postponed after the Kings got stuck in a blizzard in Denver after playing the Colorado Avalanche and couldn’t make it in time back to LA, where the Blues were waiting.

This most unusual regular season concludes Wednesday and Thursday with the Minnesota Wild visiting Enterprise Center for back-to-back contests. These games originally were scheduled for April 30 and May 1, but were pushed back because of some COVID-related schedule juggling.

The NHL’s regular season was supposed to end over the weekend. But mainly because of COVID-postponements, only seven teams have completed the condensed 56-game season. Only one of those clubs (Pittsburgh) is headed to the playoffs.

Nine additional teams will complete their seasons Monday. But the Blues will keep going for a few more days until they finally reach the finish line on Thursday night.

“Obviously, it’s been a grind here with a lot of hockey, playing a lot of good teams and playing a lot of hard games each night,” Blues forward Brayden Schenn said.

Locked into fourth place and the final playoff spot in the West Division, the Blues could know their opening-round playoff opponent Monday night. If Vegas wins in regulation or overtime against visiting Colorado on Monday, the Golden Knights clinch first place — and open the postseason against St. Louis.

The burning question for the Blues here in Tinseltown might be similar to that of an aspiring actor prepping for a screen role: What’s my motivation? They have nothing to gain, or lose, in terms of playoff position in these final three games.

“I think the biggest thing is just finding our game for a full 60 minutes,” Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. “That’s gonna be huge. We know what it looks like.

“It’s hard hockey, it’s tough hockey to play. . . . So just making sure that we stick with it for 60 minutes, stick together as a team, make sure we’re there for each other. Play that way we’re going to be fine.”

Certainly they’d like to play better than they did in their 4-1 loss Saturday to Vegas.

There are a few blips the Blues need to clear up before they begin the playoffs. First and foremost, they have had trouble hitting the net recently. Once again, they had more shots that either were blocked or missed the net (30) than shots on goal (21) Saturday.

That’s happened 11 times all season, and the Blues are 3-6-2 in those games. And it’s happened a lot lately — six times in the past 13 games, including both games in Las Vegas.

Additionally, the team’s resurgent power play cooled off there, going a combined 0 for four in the two games against the Golden Knights. The team misses its point guard on the first power play unit, defenseman Torey Krug.

A few days ago, Berube said it was possible that Krug could return by the end of this trip from the upper-body injury that has now sidelined him for four games. Well, the trip ends Monday.

The seventh-place Kings (21-26-6) have even less to play for after being eliminated from playoff contention Friday.

The Blues won’t have to contend with a pair of veterans from the Kings’ 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup championship teams. Jeff Carter was dealt to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline. And Dustin Brown was ruled out for the remainder of the season Friday because of upper-body injury.

The Blues are 2-4-1 against LA this season, and Brown in particular was a thorn in their side with five goals against them.

But even beyond what happens against LA, and later in the week against Minnesota, the Blues need to get rested and as healthy as possible for the playoffs. Sammy Blais (upper-body injury), who had been playing well lately, has missed the last three games. Fellow Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko (lower-body) has missed five of the last six contests.

Defenseman Vince Dunn (upper-body) has missed eight games, the longest stretch he’s been sidelined in his four NHL seasons.

Additionally, forward Ivan Barbashev limped off the ice Saturday in the closing seconds. Berube had no postgame update on his condition and the Blues were off Sunday.

In terms of resting players, Berube went with the same lineup Saturday, but many of his top forwards and defensemen had their minutes reduced.

Up front, Ryan O’Reilly played 3 minutes 25 seconds less Saturday than he did Friday. Schenn played 2:43 less, Tyler Bozak 2:15 less, and Jaden Schwartz 4:40 less.

On defense, Marco Scandella played 6:01 less Saturday than he did Friday; Parayko 4:09 less. Justin Faulk’s ice time was down 1:48, but he still played 24:06, which is a lot.

“You want to get your game feeling as good as possible heading into the playoffs, and feel aggressive and energized,” Schenn said. “You can do that in a certain number of ways. You can do that by taking nights off. You can do that by not playing as many minutes.

“We’ll see. That’s coach’s decision (Berube). That’s Army’s decision (general manager Doug Armstrong).”

And then the playoffs start.

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