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Preview: Avalanche at Blues

Sobotka to make season debut for playoffs-bound St. Louis; Colorado looks for strong finish

by Louie Korac / NHL.com Correspondent

AVALANCHE (22-55-4) at BLUES (45-29-7)

6 p.m. ET; FS-MW, ALT2, NHL.TV

 

Avalanche team scope

The Colorado Avalanche enter their final game of the season 2-9-1 in their past 12 games, with one of the two wins a 2-1 shootout victory against the St. Louis Blues on March 31. After goaltender Jeremy Smith made 42 saves in a 4-3 shootout at the Dallas Stars on Saturday, Calvin Pickard is expected to start. Colorado's 55 regulation losses are its most since the franchise moved from Quebec in 1995 and second-most in franchise history. The Quebec Nordiques lost 61 games in 1989-90. Colorado will be playing St. Louis for the fourth time since March 5 but first on the road. The Avalanche are 9-29-2 on the road this season, the only team in the NHL that has not won at least 10 games away from home. Despite finishing 30th in the League, coach Jared Bednar has had the chance to look at the future in recent weeks. "I believe that some of the energy that our kids are giving us is contagious," he said. "They continue to work and skate and are tenacious on the puck. That is helping is in the right direction for next season."

 

Blues team scope

St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka, signed to a three-year, $10.5 million contract (average annual value $3.5 million) Thursday after spending the past three seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League, will make his season debut after not playing Saturday. It will be the first NHL game for Sobotka, 29, since the 2013-14 season, with the Blues. St. Louis will face the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference First Round after clinching third place in the Central Division with a 5-4 shootout win at the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. Coach Mike Yeo, who took over after Ken Hitchcock was fired on Feb. 1, will go against his former team; he coached the Wild from 2011-16. "It's something we set our sights on," Yeo said of clinching third in the division. "... These last couple months, it's been quite a run and now we can get geared up and get excited for a real tough opponent [in Minnesota]." The Blues enter the regular-season finale 14-2-2 in their past 18 games, and are 21-8-2 under Yeo. Goaltender Jake Allen will start; he's 10-2-2 with 24 goals allowed and two shutouts in his past 14 starts.

 

Avalanche projected lineup

Sven Andrighetto -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Mikko Rantanen

Matt Nieto -- J.T. Compher -- Matt Duchene

Gabriel Landeskog -- Tyson Jost -- Rocco Grimaldi

Rene Bourque -- Carl Soderberg -- Blake Comeau

Mark Barberio -- Erik Johnson

Francois Beauchemin -- Tyson Barrie

Anton Lindholm -- Duncan Siemens

Calvin Pickard

Jeremy Smith

Scratched: Mikhail Grigorenko, Joe Colborne, Cody Goloubef, John Mitchell, Fedor Tyutin, Patrick Wiercioch

Injured: None

 

Blues projected lineup

Jaden Schwartz -- Ivan Barbashev -- Vladimir Tarasenko

Vladimir Sobotka -- Patrik Berglund -- David Perron

Magnus Paajarvi -- Zach Sanford -- Dmitrij Jaskin

Scottie Upshall -- Kyle Brodziak -- Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester -- Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson -- Colton Parayko

Carl Gunnarsson -- Jordan Schmaltz

Jake Allen

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Alexander Steen, Jori Lehtera

Injured: Paul Stastny (foot), Robby Fabbri (knee), Robert Bortuzzo (upper body), Nail Yakupov (undisclosed)

 

Status report

Rantanen returned to the lineup Saturday after missing two games with a lower-body injury and scored. ... There's a chance the Blues could rest several players. … Lehtera was ill Saturday and could re-enter the lineup. ... Steen is a candidate to rest and be replaced by Sobotka. … Pietrangelo, who leads the Blues in minutes and is eighth in the NHL (25:16) is another candidate to rest. ... Bortuzzo did not make the two-game trip and is not expected to play.

 

Who's hot

Andrighetto has nine points (three goals, six assists) in his past nine games. ... Schwartz (five goals, six assists) and Tarasenko (four goals, seven assists) each has 11 points in his past 10 games. … Perron has five points (two goals, three assists) in his past four games.

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