St. Louis Blues: The Blues came up with a huge win on Sunday, edging the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 to pass the Nashville Predators for first place in the stacked Central Division. Goaltender Jake Allen delivered a 38-save effort to lead the team to its third straight win, though St. Louis has a tough trio of games ahead to close out the final week of regular-season action. With just a one-point lead on the Preds, the Blues host the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, the Hawks again on Thursday and the Minnesota Wild in their regular-season finale on Saturday. Both the Jets and the Wild are still aiming to clinch a postseason berth.
Lee Stempniak, Jets: Stempniak is proving to be a shrewd trade-deadline acquisition for the Jets, as the depth winger tallied twice in a critical 5-4 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday. Stempniak’s multigoal performance gave him three goals in the past two games; he also has five goals and eight points in 14 games since joining the Jets last month. The line of Stempniak, Adam Lowry and Mathieu Perreault was effective for Winnipeg, as Perreault also chipped in with a trio of assists in Saturday’s match.
Jonas Hiller, Calgary Flames: Kudos to Hiller, who came in to replace an injured Karri Ramo less than one minute into play and posted a 27-save shutout for his team on Saturday. With the Flames fighting to keep their Cinderella season alive, Hiller came up huge in relief in a performance that coach Bob Hartley characterized as "clutch."
Nashville Predators: Though the Predators are getting healthier, they are mired in a funk at precisely the wrong time of year. Nashville has lost three straight games, all at home, including Saturday’s 4-3 decision against the Dallas Stars. With the Blues leap-frogging them for first place in the Central, the Preds are looking at a daunting first-round matchup. If the standings were to remain as they are heading into this week’s action, Nashville would face Chicago in the Western Conference quarterfinals.
Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks had the chance to clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Jets (and some help from others) but failed to secure their place in the postseason, instead falling 5-4 on Saturday. Vancouver has now dropped two straight as the team faces some defensive concerns. The Canucks, backstopped by Eddie Lack while Ryan Miller recovers from a knee injury, have been under siege of late and surrendered 12 goals over the past three games.
Captain-less Wild: The Wild were without captain Mikko Koivu in Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Koivu missed the game with an eye injury -- a scratched cornea, according to head coach Mike Yeo -- but he is not expected to miss significant time.
Hawks down a defenseman: Chicago could be without veteran blueliner Kimmo Timonen, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers at the trade deadline. Timonen left Sunday’s game following a hard hit from the Blues’ Ryan Reaves and did not return. Timonen missed almost the entire season with a blood clot condition that threatened to end his career.
Enter Hiller: Hartley said Ramo is day-to-day after a lower-body injury that forced him from Saturday’s 4-0 shutout win against the Edmonton Oilers. Hiller delivered a stellar relief performance, but the Flames have to be hoping they have both goaltenders healthy to make their final push for the playoffs this week.
What to watch for
Chance to clinch: The Wild enter Tuesday’s game against the Jets with a chance to clinch a postseason berth with a regulation win and some help from others. Before the arrival of goaltender/savior Devan Dubnyk, that scenario seemed far-fetched, but Wild GM Chuck Fletcher’s instrumental midseason acquisition has propelled the team back into the top eight. Mike Yeo’s squad needs a bounce-back performance, however, as the Wild’s overtime loss to the Wings on Saturday was the first time the team suffered consecutive losses since Jan. 19-20.
Hitting the road: The Kings embark on a three-game Western Canada road swing before returning to Southern California for their final regular-season game, which comes Saturday against the San Jose Sharks. The Kings take a two-game winning streak into the trip as well as plenty of motivation to keep things rolling. That’s because they are tied with the Jets at 92 points, though the Kings own the tiebreaker with four more non-shootout wins.
Grudge match: Speaking of the Kings, Thursday’s match against the Flames looms large for both teams with so much at stake. The Flames are in third place in the Pacific Division, but they lead the Kings by just one point, and the defending champs have a game in hand. Calgary must then close out the regular season with a game against a Jets team that is also hell-bent on punching its own ticket.