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Blues reunite familiar lines in attempt to even series

by Louie Korac / NHL.com

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The St. Louis Blues are going back to lines that were highly successful before injuries derailed their success earlier in the regular season.

When the Blues face the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday in Game 4 of the Western Conference First Round series (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, FS-MW, FS-N), they will go with units quite familiar with one other.

Alexander Steen, David Backes and T.J. Oshie made up the Blues' top line for much of the season, the "STL Line" with Jaden Schwartz, Jori Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko will rejoin forces and Paul Stastny will center Patrik Berglund and Dmitrij Jaskin.

Down 2-1 in the best-of-7 series, the Blues are looking for whatever brings them the most success, and coach Ken Hitchcock feels now is the perfect opportunity.

"They play well. It got blown up there at the end because of the two significant injuries [to Steen and Tarasenko]," Hitchcock said. "Then when we came back, Backes had good chemistry going with what they had [with Jaskin and Berglund]. Then we just slipped Steen and Tarasenko in with Lehtera and they obviously played very well in the last game and have played pretty well, but … these are the three lines that have been together the most during the year. We want to make them familiar with each other. We know it's going to be a hard game and there's great chemistry; there has been all year, especially with the first two lines and we want to stay with that."

On defense, it's more of the same.

Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo will be reunited, as will Carl Gunnarsson and Kevin Shattenkirk.

"And the same thing on the first two D pairs," Hitchcock said. "We've reached a stage with our own team where we've just got to expect a little bit more from guys, put them in positions to succeed, put them with the guys they've spent most of the year with. Unfortunately, [Shattenkirk] was out for a long, long time, so things kind of got blown up on the back end also. But they had great chemistry when they were together until he got hurt and we'll go back to it."

The line of Backes, Steen and Oshie was among the top points producers in the NHL. Leading by example is something Backes said they hope to get back to along with instant chemistry.

"There's something that's worked for us for years," Backes said. "I thought we may have found something different with a few of the different combinations (recently), but you're down 2-1 in a series, it's time to make some adjustments and we really like the way that these line combinations have produced results for us and away we go."

Here are the projected lineups:

BLUES

Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij Jaskin - Paul Stastny - Patrik Berglund

Chris Porter - Steve Ott - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman - Zbynek Michalek

Jake Allen

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Olli Jokinen, Marcel Goc, Chris Butler, Robert Bortuzzo, Ty Rattie, Niklas Lundstrom

Injured: None

WILD

Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Chris Stewart

Thomas Vanek - Charlie Coyle - Nino Niederreiter

Sean Bergenheim - Kyle Brodziak - Justin Fontaine

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Jordan Leopold - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Scratched: Ryan Carter, Erik Haula, Jordan Schroeder, Christian Folin, Nate Prosser, Matt Cooke, Niklas Backstrom

Injured: Keith Ballard (concussion)

Status report: The Blues first change in the lineup for the series will have Porter replace Goc. It will be Porter's first playoff action since last season.

Who's hot: Allen has allowed two or fewer goals in the past 10 starts. Tarasenko and Shattenkirk each have four points in the series. Steen has three.

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