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Blues, Hitchcock focused on points

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- When the St. Louis Blues played the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 16 it was the start of what eventually turn out to be an 11-game absence for Alexander Steen.

The Blues' leading scorer would play in two more games following the Senators' 3-2 overtime victory, but it was a hit 24 seconds into the game by Ottawa center Zack Smith that ultimately led to Steen's concussion, an injury that sidelined the Blues left wing for nearly a month. Smith was penalized two minutes for an illegal check to the head but no further discipline was handed down by the NHL.

That incident is a distant memory for the Blues.

"I think if it was a Western Conference opponent we might look at it differently but these are two games ... we might never see these guys again," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Points matter more than anything right now. That's our focus right now. We're not prepared to be distracted by that right now."

The Senators dodged a scare Monday in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, when left wing Clarke MacArthur appeared to get injured in the game. There was some initial question whether he'd play Tuesday but according to coach Paul MacLean the Senators will go with the same lineup from Monday minus Craig Anderson in goal.

"Robin Lehner's going to be the goalie, but at this point right now that's all the changes we're going to [have]," MacLean said. "We'll go with the same group. We know we have a difficult opponent [Tuesday] and we have to be ready."

Senators right wing Mark Stone, who's missed seven games with an upper-body injury, is not quite ready to get back into the lineup, although MacLean said he's close.

"He's getting closer. We want to make sure that he's ready to go," MacLean said of Stone. "We're going to have two more games before the break. We want to make sure we don't put him in a place where he comes back early and gets re-injured. That's the biggest thing we want to avoid. We feel he's getting closer but not ready yet."

Here are the projected lineups for the Senators and Blues:


Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Mika Zibanejad

Clarke MacArthur - Kyle Turris - Bobby Ryan

Colin Greening - Zack Smith - Chris Neil

Cory Conacher - Stephane Da Costa - Erik Condra

Jared Cowen - Erik Karlsson

Marc Methot - Eric Gryba

Patrick Wiercioch - Cody Ceci

Robin Lehner

Craig Anderson

Scratched: Joe Corvo, Matt Kassian

Injured: Mark Stone (upper body), Chris Phillips (lower body)


Alexander Steen - David Backes - Chris Stewart

Jaden Schwartz - Derek Roy - Vladimir Tarasenko

Magnus Paajarvi - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie

Brenden Morrow - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk

Jordan Leopold - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Carlo Colaiacovo, Ian Cole, Dmitrij Jaskin

Injured: Vladimir Sobotka (lower body)

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