ST. LOUIS - Although Ken Hitchcock wouldn’t show his hand, he did indicate that the lineup could look different when the Blues host the Minnesota Wild at 2 p.m. (NBC, Y98) in the regular season finale today at Scottrade Center.
For starters, Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko will be back on the ice.
“We’ve got to integrate those guys in quickly and see how they look and how our team looks when they’re in,” Hitchcock said Friday. “They’re our most creative players, they’re the guys that have led our team in scoring all year. They’re going to do nothing but help us, but how it affects the way we play with everybody else is going to be a little bit of a change. Getting them in the lineup and having them play (Saturday) is real good for us.”
Without Steen and Tarasenko, Hitchcock was forced to shake up his lines and make adjustments, saying his club transitioned from more of a puck possession team to more of a “territorial” one.
Steen will be making his first appearance since sustaining a lower-body injury on March 28 vs. Columbus. Tarasenko will play in his first game since March 30 vs. Vancouver. Both players have been skating for several days but have joined the team practices more recently.
Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who was dealing with a pre-existing upper-body injury, will also be in the lineup. Brian Elliott will be between the pipes.
Outside of that, the roster is anyone’s guess.
With the Wild being a potential first-round playoff opponent, Hitchcock wants to keep everyone guessing.
“We’re going to make some changes,” he said. “We’re going to sit some people who are a little banged up and I’m sure they’re going to do the same thing. I don’t think either team is interested in showing their hand.
“You’ve got to do what’s best for Game 1 of the playoffs right now. What’s best for Game 1 is some guys need to get and get playing, and some guys need to get a little bit healthier. We’re still going to ice a lineup that’s capable of winning the hockey game.”
The game has significant playoff implications. A Blues win could put them in first place in the Western Conference (pending the result of the Anaheim / Arizona game later tonight). The Blues could play either Minnesota, Chicago or Winnipeg in the first round.
Here's the scenario from the NHL on how the Blues can win the West tonight:
The Blues would clinch the top seed in the Western Conference if they defeat the Wild in regulation or overtime AND the Ducks post a shootout win or a loss of any kind against the Coyotes OR if they defeat the Wild in a shootout AND the Ducks lose to the Coyotes in any fashion OR if they get one point against the Wild AND the Ducks lose to the Coyotes in regulation.
Got all that?
The NHL is expected to release the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoff schedule after the conclusion of the regular season tonight. The Blues’ schedule will be posted as soon as it’s available across the digital platforms, including stlouisblues.com, the mobile app, Facebook and Twitter.
Blues players will wear St. Louis Cardinals hockey jerseys during warm-ups today to celebrate the return of baseball season. All jerseys will be autographed and auctioned online at stlouisblues.com beginning at approximately 1:30 p.m.
As part of Fan Appreciation Week, Blues fans will be randomly selected to go to ice level and receive a game-worn jersey directly off a player’s back after the game.
Jaden Schwartz has five goals and five assists in his last 10 meetings with the Wild.
The Blues have lost two straight games to Minnesota but won 10 of 11 games before that.