By R.B. FALLSTROM
(ST. LOUIS, AP) — Without Jimmy Howard, Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson, the Detroit Red Wings warmed up for the playoffs with a win.
They sent the sagging St. Louis Blues, minus even more big names, limping into the postseason.
“They didn’t have their team and we didn’t have chunks of our team, too, so I don’t know if you can evaluate much about the game,” coach Mike Babcock said after a 3-0 victory on Sunday. “But it’s always nice to win it.”
Backup goalie Petr Mrazek earned his second career shutout for the Red Wings, who are locked into the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and will play Boston. Justin Abdelkader scored twice, Riley Sheahan added a goal and Pavel Datsyuk had two assists.
“I think the regular season you sort of just have to go flush out, to tell you the truth,” Abdelkader said. “I think everything is tossed to the side and it’s a new season. It really is.”
The Blues had been in contention for the No. 1 overall seed but lost their last six and missed a chance at taking the Central Division with Colorado clinching on a tiebreaker before playing at Anaheim Sunday night. Minus three of their top five scorers, their top faceoff man and two top defensemen, they were shut out for the second straight game and third time during the slump.
St. Louis hasn’t scored a goal in 143 minutes and 59 seconds, and hasn’t scored one at even strength for 217 minutes and 21 seconds.
“There’s no point dwelling on stuff. Nothing’s going to change,” said forward Alexander Steen, who led the Blues with 33 goals and 62 points but had two assists the last five games.
“It’s the way we finished the season, that’s all. Now, we have to regroup and get ready for the first round.”
Before the end of the Blackhawks series, coach Ken Hitchcock expects the Blues will get all of their players back. Speedy forward Vladimir Tarasenko has been out the longest, missing 15 games with a broken right thumb.
“We got caught in a vortex,” Hitchcock said. “We’ll have guys that will be coming back, but I would imagine during this series at some period of time, every player that was out for both squads is going to be a participant.”
The Blues set a franchise record with 52 wins but are the third seed in the Western Conference entering a first-round series against the defending Stanley Cup champions. They’re scuffling to say the least with the franchise’s longest losing streak since a seven-game skid from Dec. 26, 2009 to Jan. 7, 2010, and they’ve mustered five goals the last six games.
“That’s going to be a challenge, but that’s why I’m the coach. That’s my job,” Hitchcock said. “This is the first time since I’ve been here that we took every team’s best licks.”
The Red Wings were 3-1 against Boston. The Blues were 3-2 against Chicago.
“Well, we’re not throwing it out the window,” Babcock said. “We’re telling our guys that’s what matters.”
Mrazek is 2-4 this season with both wins by shutouts, and has three career victories, one of them in his NHL debut in St. Louis on Feb. 7, 2013.
“Sometimes the puck goes in and sometimes it doesn’t,” Mrazek said. “It didn’t today, so I’m happy.”
Miller, acquired by the Blues in hopes of making a deep playoff run, has lost his last five decisions.
“There’s challenges in every season, we’re facing ours right now,” Miller said. “How are we going to react? How are we going to respond?”
T.J. Oshie (head), David Backes (foot) and Alex Pietrangelo (undisclosed) led a long list of scratches for the Blues. Oshie has 60 points, Backes 57 and Pietrangelo 51.
The Red Wings were outshot 7-4 in the first period, but took the lead on Abdelkader’s deflection at 13:30. Near the midpoint of the period, an apparent goal by Tomas Tatar was waved off by a goaltender interference on Joakim Andersson, who slashed Miller’s stick seconds earlier.
Sheahan scored for the third straight game on the counter-attack with his ninth overall making it 2-0 at 16:19 of the second and Abdelkader made it 3-0 with another deflection in the third.
Notes: Blues D Jay Bouwmeester played in his 717th consecutive game — the longest streak in major pro sports — and was the only St. Louis player to dress every game. … Miller is 2-9-2 against Detroit. … The Red Wings are preparing for their 23rd consecutive playoff appearance. … After the game the Blues assigned F Ty Rattie to Chicago.