Push for the Playoffs: Blues turnaround has them eyeing Central title

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Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2018-19 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

This season has been a rollercoaster ride for the St. Louis Blues, but they’ve found a way to put themselves within striking distance of the second spot in the Central Division. Heading into tonight’s action, the Blues find themselves just two points behind the Nashville Predators, who are currently in second.

Not only does St. Louis have a game in hand on Nashville, they also have one more regulation/overtime victory so far this season. Tonight could be the night the Blues overtake the Preds, as both teams are in action.

The Blues have kept themselves within striking distance of the their division rival thanks to a perfect four-game home stand that saw them beat Edmonton, Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Vegas.

“This homestand’s been pretty good,” Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said, per NHL.com. “We haven’t been great at home all year. I think to have a four-game stretch like this at home, still trying to push and get ready for the playoffs, that’s pretty big because you know that’s going to be pretty big in a series like that.

“The last two games, you knew there were really good teams coming in. I thought we played pretty well. You’re never going to play a perfect game and they’re going to get chances. They are who they are, but I thought we handled it pretty well.”

Of course, the all three spots in the Central are still pretty much in play. St. Louis is still only four points back of the Winnipeg Jets for top spot.

Another thing the Blues have going for them, is that they won’t face the most difficult schedule over the final few days of the season. After tonight’s game against the Rangers, they’ll play in New Jersey tomorrow before going up against a tough Colorado team and non-playoff squads like Chicago, Philadelphia and Vancouver.

They’ll need the teams around them to falter a little bit, but a division crown isn’t out of the realm of possibility for this Blues team.

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS
Blues vs. Rangers, 7 p.m. ET
Predators vs. Penguins, 7 p.m. ET
Devils vs. Red Wings 7:30 p.m. ET
Coyotes vs. Avalanche, 9 p.m. ET
Ducks vs. Flames, 9 p.m. ET
Wild vs. Golden Knights, 10 p.m. ET

TODAY’S CLINCHING SCENARIOS
The St. Louis Blues will clinch a playoff berth tonight if…
• They pick up a point in their game against the Rangers
OR
• If the Arizona Coyotes lose in any fashion against the Avs

The Vegas Golden Knights can clinch a playoff berth if…
• They get at least one point against the Wild
OR
• If the Arizona Coyotes lose in any fashion against the Avs

IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY
Lightning vs. Blue Jackets
Capitals vs. Hurricanes
Penguins vs. Islanders
Bruins vs. Maple Leafs

Flames vs. Avalanche
Jets vs. Stars
Predators vs. Blues
Sharks vs. Golden Knights

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Lightning — Clinched
Bruins — Clinched
Capitals — Clinched
Maple Leafs — 100 percent
Islanders — 100 percent
Penguins — 99.8 percent
Hurricanes — 87.7 percent
Blue Jackets — 82.4 percent
Canadiens — 30.1 percent
Flyers — Out
Panthers — Eliminated
Sabres — Eliminated
Rangers — Eliminated
Devils — Eliminated
Red Wings — Eliminated
Senators — Eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Flames — Clinched
Jets — Clinched
Sharks — Clinched
Predators — Clinched
Blues — 100 percent
Golden Knights — 100 percent
Stars — 99.8 percent
Avalanche — 72 percent
Coyotes — 22.7 percent
Wild — 4.2 percent
Blackhawks — 1 percent
Oilers — 0.3 percent
Canucks — Out
Ducks — Eliminated
Kings — Eliminated

JACK OR KAAPO? THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE
Senators — 18.5 percent*
Kings — 13.5 percent
Devils — 11.5 percent
Red Wings — 9.5 percent
Rangers — 8.5 percent
Sabres — 7.5 percent
Ducks — 6.5 percent
Canucks — 6 percent
Oilers– 5 percent
Blackhawks — 3.5 percent
Panthers — 3 percent
Wild — 2.5 percent
Coyotes — 2 percent
Flyers — 1.5 percent
Canadiens — 1 percent**
(*COL owns OTT’s 2019 first-round pick)

ART ROSS RACE
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning — 121 points
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers — 114 points
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 104 points
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 101 points
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins — 97 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals — 49 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 47 goals
John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs — 45 goals
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning — 41 goals
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 41 goals

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.