Center of attention: Blues go for division title
(Sports Network) - The Blues are getting healthy and closing in on their first division title since 2000. St. Louis tries to wrap up the Central Division and regain the NHL's points lead this evening against the spoiler-happy Columbus Blue Jackets.
Having already secured just their second trip to the postseason since the lockout, the Blues own an eight-point edge over the second-place Predators in the Central Division with four games to play for both teams. That means St. Louis can clinch the division title with a point in this game or a regulation loss by Nashville tonight against visiting Chicago.
The Blues are also in contention to win the Presidents' Trophy as they trail the New York Rangers by just one for the most in the NHL. St. Louis' 106 points are also just one ahead of Vancouver for the most in the West.
After posting back-to-back shutouts over Phoenix and Nashville, with Brian Elliott in net for both wins, Jaroslav Halak got the start in net on Thursday versus the Blackhawks and the Blues suffered a 4-3 shootout defeat. Halak made 37 saves as St. Louis recorded a point for a fourth straight game (2-0-2).
St. Louis battled back to earn a point, getting goals from Jason Arnott and David Perron in the third period, with the latter tying the game with 1:32 to go in regulation.
"When we play the right way -- I'm not going to say we dominate every single team, but we're not going to get outplayed (like we did tonight)," said Perron.
Closing in on the Central title, the Blues have a chance to fielding a completely healthy squad tonight. Andy McDonald is expected to return to the lineup for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury on March 15, while Matt D'Agostini is also slated to come back from a concussion suffered in early February. D'Agostini was activated from injured reserve on Thursday but did not play against the Blackhawks.
There is also a chance that defenseman Roman Polak could play tonight. He has been out since March 17 because of a left knee ailment.
Those returning players should add some jump in the opener of a three-game homestand. The Blues have won four straight and nine of their past 10 at home, where they are 30-4-4 this season compared to 18-16-6 on the road.
Though assured of finishing with the fewest points in the NHL, the Blue Jackets will try to win three in a row tonight for the first time since opening March with four straight victories. Their last two wins have both come against playoff-caliber teams, including a victory against the Red Wings on Wednesday that was followed with last night's 4-1 triumph over the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers.
The Blue Jackets finished off a perfect two-game homestand thanks to a pair of goals from both R.J. Umberger and Nikita Nikitin. Allen York made 30 saves to pick up his second career victory in as many starts.
"We're finishing [the season] with a lot of fun," said Umberger after his club knocked off the Panthers in a fifth straight meeting.
Columbus now hits the road for three in a row and is just 10-24-4 as the guest this season.
The Blue Jackets may struggle playing spoiler tonight. They have lost four of five to the Blues this season and eight of the past 10 encounters overall. St. Louis has won three straight and 14 of its past 17 at home against Columbus.
03/31 10:40:29 ET