ST. LOUIS -- For the St. Louis Blues, with the Stanley Cup Playoffs scenario in their own hands and not having to rely on outside help, two words fit the description heading into the season finale Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks: no excuses.
If the Blues (28-17-2) win, they will finish as the fourth seed in the Western Conference and have home ice in the first round of the playoffs. A regulation loss eliminates them from a possible fourth seed because the teams they're jockeying for position with (San Jose and Los Angeles, each one point back), play each other. One point Saturday gives the Blues a chance.
"It's win and move on," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "To me, regardless what happens, 90 minutes after the game we've moved onto the next event. If it ends up in a win, great, we're the four seed and we watch TV. If we don't win, we adjust accordingly. To me, you can't carry any baggage postgame."
The Blues will face a Blackhawks team (36-6-5) with that will be minus most of its top-heavy skill players, including Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Viktor Stalberg, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarrson. They'll play a makeshift lineup chock full of American Hockey League call-ups from the Rockford IceHogs and start a goalie (Carter Hutton) who will make his NHL debut.
"We know some of the guys in the lineup," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "They left a lot of their feistier guys kind of in there (Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell, Jamal Mayers, Brandon Bollig and Daniel Carcillo). There's going to be players here trying to prove themselves and have good standing with their organization who want to show them that they can play at this level against us who's fighting for home ice advantage. They're going to get our best game."
The Blues, who are the only team from the Central Division with a win against the Blackhawks (4-3 shootout win at Chicago on April 4; the Blackhawks are 16-0-1 against the division), can't consume themselves with who's in and who's out.
"It's something staring us right in the face with a good performance tonight puts us at home ice for the first round and there's something to be said for that," captain David Backes said. "It's get the job done, whatever we need to do as a group of 20 guys in here, commit to the game plan and sort it out afterwards."
The Blackhawks' predicted lineup; they didn't skate Saturday morning and coach Joel Quenneville will rest a majority of his top-end players, along with the Blues' probable lineup:
Scratched: Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp, Marcus Kruger, Viktor Stalberg, Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad, Michal Handzus, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Steve Montador and Henrik Karlsson
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