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Blues Will Need Their Best to Eliminate Hawks

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Blues have a chance to send their division rivals home for the summer, and they could do it in front of nearly 20,000 fans at Scottrade Center.

All they need is a win tonight in Game 5 (8:30 p.m., FSMW, NBCSN, KMOX), and that’s all they’re focused on.

“To win a series, you’ve got to win four games and we’ve only won three,” Blues captain David Backes said. “We’ve got a tall task ahead of us and we’re focused.”

If you’re the Blues and you’ve got the defending Stanley Cup Champions on the brink of elimination, you can probably expect a big pushback tonight. After all, the old adage says the fourth game in the series is the toughest to win.

“It’s obviously an important game,” said Blues goaltender Brian Elliott. “They’re going to have their backs up against the wall, and we’ve got to put it away. It would be nice to do it at home, and that’s going to be our goal.”

The Blues have the opportunity to win the series because they’ve battled and overcome tremendous amounts of adversity so far. In Wednesday’s blog, we talked about how the Blues responded in every situation that has gone against them in the series.

They also have this opportunity to win tonight because they’re a more experienced team entering the postseason than they have been in years past.

Here’s how Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock explained it:

“I’ve never seen a team pour so much into a series like we did against LA and in that series against Chicago (two years ago). We just weren’t good enough. They were a little bit deeper, a little bit stronger, they had a little bit more in their game than we did and it showed. What I left there with was ‘holy smokes, there’s a real level out there you’re going to have to find.’ I think what’s happened with this team is adversity has forged a bond but I also think you have to give a little it of credit to the younger players… Now we feel like we’re a real team and we really want to give it a go.”

Despite having a 3-1 series lead in the best-of-7 series, Hitchcock says this series have been extremely close, citing scoring chances, quality chances, goaltending, power plays - all the same.

So, will the Blues have that killer instinct to separate themselves from the Blackhawks in Game 5?

“I don’t know what ‘killer instinct’ is. It’s the most misused term in the world for me. Everyone wants to win,” Hitchcock said. “I know one thing: they’re going to get our best and we’re going to get their best. That’s all you can ask.”

PROJECTED LINEUP

Hitchcock said he really liked the way Robert Bortuzzo played in Game 4, so he’ll stay in the lineup tonight. Carl Gunnarsson also returns after missing one game with an upper-body injury. Joel Edmundson will likely be the odd man out tonight on the blueline.

Forwards

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer

Robby Fabbri - Patrik Berglund - David Backes

Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Steve Ott

Defense

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Kevin Shattenkirk - Colton Parayko

Carl Gunnarsson - Robert Bortuzzo

Goalie

Brian Elliott

BLUE NOTES

Vladimir Tarasenko is averaging 0.76 goals per playoff game, which is the best rate in NHL history for players with at least 15 postseason games. Over his last 10 playoff games, Tarasenko has nine goals and 12 points.

The Blackhawks will be without forward Andrew Shaw for tonight’s Game 5. Shaw, who is tied for the team lead with four points in the postseason (two goals, two assists), was suspended for one game due to his actions in Game 4.

Paul Stastny won 19 face-offs in Game 4 - the most by a Blue in a playoff game since Mike Eastwood won 20 on April 21, 2001 vs. San Jose.

Alex Pietrangelo is averaging 28 minutes and 48 seconds per game in the playoffs this season, second only to LA’s Drew Doughty (31:11).

The Blues have returned home for Game 5 carrying a 3-1 series lead five times in franchise history. They’ve won each of those series in five games.

The Playoff Plaza Party presented by The Bud Light Party will begin today at 5 p.m. Live music from Trixie Delight begins at 6 p.m., and fans can enjoy drinks at the Bud Light Bar. Louie, Angella and Blue Crew will also make an appearance.

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