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Blackhawks sticking with game plan against Blues

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks will host the rival St. Louis Blues on Sunday at United Center (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC,TSN2). Only four games remain in the regular season for Chicago (44-19-15), which trails the Colorado Avalanche by three points for second place in the Central Division with only four games left.

Each of the past two games was played without top forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who are sidelined with injuries until the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The lineup designed to be simpler in structure, yet the Blackhawks haven't lacked too much offensively. They beat the Minnesota Wild 3-2 in a shootout Thursday at United Center on 26 shots and followed it up a day later with a 4-3 victory at the Columbus Blue Jackets on 38 shots.

"We try to play in the now," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We try to focus on today's game and try to simplify – go down to periods, shifts. As a coaching staff we want to try to make sure we play the right way and not look too far ahead. I know it's not too easy to do that, but that’s our mindset. The last two days we were doing what we wanted to do. That's a recipe [against the Blues], as well."

Blackhawks rookie forward Teuvo Teravainen will be a healthy scratch for the third straight game and fourth in the past five. After coming over from Finland, the slightly-built 19-year old has struggled a bit adjusting.

Teravainen, who's played three games, also has a contract situation that might factor into his sitting. If he plays 10 games, regular season or the postseason, the Blackhawks burn the first year of his entry-level contract.

Quenneville said it's more about the current situation with Chicago chasing the team it will almost certainly play in the Western Conference First Round for home-ice advantage.

"Timing," Quenneville said. "It's [the] time of the year. It’s a big League, it's a hard League. We want to make sure that we're helping ourselves get points, and I think he's learning as well."

Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad was a healthy scratch. Saad has 19 goals and 26 assists with a plus-23 rating in 75 games but has struggled recently. He has no goals, one assist and a minus-6 rating in his past nine games, and his last goal was scored 10 games ago, March 12 against the Colorado Avalanche.

Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya (lower-body injury) will sit for the third straight game, but Quenneville said he's not concerned about his availability for the playoffs.

Forward Michal Handzus will likely re-enter the lineup after sitting out two games, Toews might wait until the end of this week to start skating on his own and Kane has skated the past two days.

Goaltender Corey Crawford will get the start for the Blackhawks and Brian Elliott will start for St. Louis.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock didn't speak with reporters pre-game, but said following a 4-0 loss at home Saturday against Colorado to expect some changes in his lineup against Chicago.

Here is how the Blackhawks and Blues might line up Sunday:


Chris Porter - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

Brenden Morrow - Vladimir Sobotka - Jaden Schwartz

Steve Ott - Patrik Berglund - Magnus Paajarvi

Dmitrij Jaskin - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman - Roman Polak

Carlo Colaiacovo - Kevin Shattenkirk

Brian Elliott

Ryan Miller

Scratched: Jordan Leopold, Derek Roy, Ian Cole

Injured: Vladimir Tarasenko (hand), Alexander Steen


Patrick Sharp - Andrew Shaw - Marian Hossa

Kris Versteeg - Michal Handzus - Ben Smith

Bryan Bickell - Peter Regin - Jeremy Morin

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Joakim Nordstrom

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Sheldon Brookbank - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Brandon Saad, David Rundblad, Joakim Nordstrom

Injured: Jonathan Toews (upper body), Patrick Kane (lower body), Johnny Oduya (lower body)

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