Blackhawks

Blues want home-ice advantage, but Stanley Cup is ultimate goal

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Blues want home-ice advantage, but Stanley Cup is ultimate goal

The Blues had one goal in mind entering Thursday's contest against the Blackhawks: Collect two points and force the Stars and themselves to earn home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference on the final game of the regular season.

St. Louis did exactly that, overcoming a one-goal deficit — that felt like more, in a defensive battle — to beat the Blackhawks 2-1 in overtime and pick up their 107th point of the season, clinching at least home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Stars (107 points) held up their end as well, cruising past the Avalanche 4-2, meaning both teams may be doing a little scoreboard-watching during their respective games on Saturday.

"For us, the whole focus was home ice and to continue to keep pushing towards first place," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after the game. "Every team has to play (the final game) now; Dallas has to play for points, we've got to keep playing for points and then we'll just see where it goes. But it's nice to know that we're going to have home ice no matter who our opponent is."

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And it could be the Blackhawks, who finished 2-0-3 against the Blues this season. 

In the regular-season finale on Thursday, Jonathan Toews put the Blackhawks up 1-0 during the back-half of the second period, scoring his 28th goal of the year. It had the feeling that that would turn out to be the game-winner, but, like the Blues have done all season long, they displayed the type of resiliency every team serious about contending for a Stanley Cup needs when Vladimir Tarasenko tied things up with 1:16 remaining with the extra attacker on.

In overtime, Tarasenko scored the game-winner for the second time at the United Center this season, sending a sold-out crowd of 22,075 home thinking about the two points they could have gotten in regulation, which would have kept the hopes alive for potentially hosting a first-round matchup.

That's no longer feasible. It is for St. Louis, though.

"It's an important two points," Tarasenko said. "It's always good to win away, it doesn't matter if it's against Chicago or another team. We won a game against a truly good team is really good for our confidence."

Two more points that haven't come easy for the injury-ridden Blues.

[MORE: Late lead erased as Blackhawks fall to Blues in overtime]

The Blues rank No. 13 with 277 man games lost this season, according to mangameslost.com, which doesn't seem too terrible. But that ranking jumps to No. 4 in quality players lost, the highest among any team currently in the playoffs. 

Goaltender Jake Allen and captain David Backes are out with lower-body injuries until at least the start of the playoffs.

Steve Ott, who hasn't played since December due to a hamstring injury, was close to returning to action before being diagnosed with Colitis on Wednesday, and is expected to miss at least two weeks.

Robby Fabbri (ankle injury) and Jay Bouwmeester (upper-body injury) were both game-time decisions heading into Thursday's matchup against the Blackhawks, but only Bouwmeester returned to action. There's a "good chance" Fabbri will play Saturday, according to Hitchock.

Even Elliott suffered a minor scare at practice Wednesday, leaving early after hurting his hand, but, fortunately for the Blues, it wasn't bad enough where he'd miss time as they continue to battle for the No. 1 seed in the West.

[RELATED: Five Things: Good work for Scott Darling vs. Blues]

"That was a big game for us," Elliott, who made 24 saves in the win, said. "We really wanted that one, and to kind of prove a point — a measuring stick at this time of year.

"You go into every season, that's your goal is to finish at the top and get home ice, and march your way through the playoff to the ultimate prize. Just trying to give ourselves a chance."

The Blues are hosting the President's Trophy winner Capitals in the final game of the regular-season on Saturday while the Stars are hosting the Nashville Predators. Certainly no cakewalk for either team.

While the Blues would love to secure home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, they're not losing sight over the bigger goal.

"I think we need to think more about winning a Stanley Cup," Tarasenko said.

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

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AP

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident:

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

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USA TODAY

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

Win one game.

That was Joel Quenneville’s message during the Blackhawks’ eight-game losing streak, which finally came to an end on Saturday night.

How about a 7-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on home ice for a streak-breaker? Now that’s more like it.

Prior to Saturday, the Blackhawks hadn’t recorded a win in February — or a win at the United Center since Jan. 12. 

Though the Blackhawks will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were rookies, a blowout win over the leaders of the Metropolitan Division Capitals had to have felt great.

"It’s a nice way to get over the hump," Toews said. "Sometimes you might just win a 2-1 game or just kind of grind it out, but it was nice for us to fill the net the way we did tonight."

Added Joel Quenneville, "Certainly feels 100 times better than coming in and trying to explain how we had a lead and were unable to sustain it. The complete 60 minutes, three periods the right way, more consistency in our game, way more pace than we’ve seen recently, composure with the puck, shooting around the net. It was fun but that’s one. Let’s see how we respond to this because there’s a lot of hockey left."

The Blackhawks are 25-26-8 with 58 points, and are 11 points out the final wild card spot, currently held by the Minnesota Wild.

Among the highlights:

— Seven different Blackhawks scored: Toews, Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad, Artem Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman

— The Blackhawks are 74-6-4 in the regular season in which Kane and Toews both record a goal — and 41-0-0 in their last 41 games, according to NBC Sports Chicago stats guru Chris Kamka.

— Kane registered career assist No. 500, becoming the sixth Blackhawk with 500 or more. Kane is also the seventh U.S.-born player with 300-plus goals and 500-plus assists, joining Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Pat LaFontaine, Joe Mullen and Phil Housley, according to Kamka.

"You think about the amount of great Americans that have played the game, how many players actually play hockey in the United States... Growing up all I wanted to do was play hockey," Kane said. "That means a lot, especially when you talk about American-born players."

— DeBrincat's 22nd goal of the season has him tied for the rookie-lead with Tampa Bay Lightning's Yanni Gourde. DeBrincat and Kane also lead the Blackhawks with 22 goals.