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Oshie Returns as Blues Look to Clinch Playoff Berth

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - T.J. Oshie watched Saturday’s game against the Blue Jackets at home while he battled the stomach flu. Seeing the team trailing after 40 minutes, he entertained the idea of trying to make it for the third period.

Of course, that wasn’t realistic. He couldn’t even keep a full meal down until Sunday night. But he skated today, is feeling better and will be back in the lineup tonight when the Blues meet the Vancouver Canucks at 7 p.m. at Scottrade Center (FSMW, KMOX).

Where will he find the energy needed to compete?

“Red Bull,” Oshie joked after the morning skate.

But seriously, though.

“It’s not too hard to get up for an NHL game, especially when you sit out and you have to watch your team on TV and they lose a game. You want to get out there,” Oshie said. “I’m excited to get my legs back underneath me. Obviously it’s going to take a few shifts maybe in the first period to start feeling good again, but hopefully (David Backes) can carry me until then.”

The Oshie-Backes line will be without Alexander Steen (lower-body) tonight. Steen was injured in the first period Saturday against the Blue Jackets but has been labeled day-to-day. Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said Steen is feeling better and is a “short-term” injury.

Without Steen, forward Olli Jokinen will slide into his spot on the top line.

“Yesterday’s (practice) was one of his best days with us,” Hitchcock said of Jokinen. “It’s a good fit for (Backes), because Olli can take faceoffs on the left side…this is a good fit and we’re going to give him lots of ice time and get a real strong evaluation in the next couple games on him.”

The Blues are facing a Canucks club that currently sits second in the Pacific Division with 91 points. Vancouver has lost two straight, most recently a 4-3 overtime decision against Dallas on Saturday. But against the Blues, Vancouver has won both meetings this season: 4-1 at Scottrade Center on Oct. 23 and 6-5 in a shootout at Rogers Arena on March 1.

“We’ve had really good games against them,” Hitchcock said. “They’ve been hard fought and pretty emotional. It’s two teams that play a very similar style. A lot of it is based on puck pursuit and physical game. They’re fun games to coach in and they really test us.”

Oshie said he expects a hard game tonight.

“They’re battling for their lives over there. It’s been the same story the last month or so though, so nothing new to expect for us,” Oshie said. “We just need to play our game, focus on ourselves, get back to our 200-foot game and a full 60.”

PLAYOFF CLINCH SCENARIO

According to the League’s mathematicians, the Blues can clinch a playoff berth in one of the following ways tonight:

1. The Blues win in regulation or overtime.
2. The Blues win in a shootout AND either the Flames or Kings lose in any fashion.
3. The Blues get one point and either the Flames lose in regulation OR the Flames lose in any fashion and the Kings lose in regulation.

“It’s win and worry about everything else later,” Kevin Shattenkirk said. “I could probably tell you that 75 percent of the team doesn’t know we can clinch a playoff spot, and that just speaks about the whole conference - it’s been so tight you forget about these things. You just worry about winning your games and see how everything shakes out on April 12.”

Added Oshie, “There’s been so much talk about first place and second place and who we’re going to play in the playoffs - we’ve got enough to focus on with Hitch’s video, so we’ll just stick with this: focus on our game, and after 82 games, wherever we are, that’s where we’re going to be.”

CENTRAL DIVISION UPDATE

Nashville lost 5-2 to Calgary last night. Chicago beat Winnipeg 4-3 and moved to within three points of the Blues in the division.

1. Nashville Predators - 77 GP, 47-22-8, 102 PTS
2. St. Louis Blues - 75 GP, 46-22-7, 99 PTS
3. Chicago Blackhawks - 75 GP, 45-24-6, 96 PTS

BLUE NOTES

The Blues earned points in five of their last six regular season home games against Vancouver, going 3-1-2.

A win tonight would give the Blues their seventh 100-point season in club history and third in the last four seasons.

Through 11 games in march, the Blues penalty killers have stopped 41 of 45 chances (91.1 percent), which ranks second overall for the month. The Islanders are first at 96.4 percent.

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