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Depleted Blues piece together lineup to face Stars

by Steve Hunt / NHL.com

DALLAS -- The St. Louis Blues not only lost 4-2 at the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night and fell out of first place in the Central Division, but the Blues are also down three players -- right wing T.J. Oshie (upper-body injury), center Derek Roy (upper body) and left wing Vladimir Sobotka (lower body) -- after that defeat at Xcel Energy Center.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock confirmed Oshie, Roy and Sobotka would not play for St. Louis on Friday against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center. Hitchcock added center and captain David Backes (lower body) and left wing Brenden Morrow (lower body), a former Dallas captain, will each miss a second straight game.

"We've been able to pretty much the whole year stay healthy. We would have preferred better timing, but it is what it is and it's all about who's in now," Hitchcock said of his team being in scramble mode. "You never know, everybody goes through this. We just got it at the end of year. You got to just stay focused on the guys you have."

Oshie is of course out after taking a hard hit from Minnesota center Mike Rupp in the second period against the Wild on Thursday. Rupp earned a match penalty for the infraction and was suspended four games Friday by the NHL.

With Oshie, Roy and Sobotka each out for Friday, the Blues recalled center Keith Aucoin, right wing Adam Cracknell and right wing Ty Rattie from Chicago of the American Hockey League.

Aucoin, who will make his St. Louis debut, will center the fourth line alongside left wing Magnus Paajarvi and Cracknell, while Rattie, who is making his NHL debut, will skate on the right side of the Blues' second line alongside left wing Dmitrij Jaskin and center Patrik Berglund.

Hitchcock said the decision to pair Aucoin and Cracknell was based on the fact they had been playing on the same line for much of the season in the AHL.

As for Rattie, the game Friday represents a great chance for Hitchcock to get a look at the young prospect.

"Yeah, he's playing in a top-six role and he's playing on the power play," Hitchcock said. "This is our time to look at him, and why not look at him?"

St. Louis' top line will consist of left wing Alexander Steen, center Steve Ott and right wing Jaden Schwartz. The third line will feature left wing Chris Porter, center Maxim Lapierre and right wing Ryan Reaves.

Goalie Ryan Miller will start his third consecutive game.

Hitchcock said his defensive pairings could remain the same, but there could be one change according to how things go in pregame warm-ups.

"The defense is staying the same for warm-up and we'll see in warm-up, but we might have to make a decision there based on injury too," Hitchcock said.

Dallas (39-30-11, 89 points) currently leads the Phoenix Coyotes by two points for the final wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference, but the Stars can snap a five-year playoff drought with a win against the Blues on Friday.

"Obviously we've worked hard to get to this point," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "You'd like to have a game even sooner when you're clinching, but it's an opportunity in front of our home fans to get done what we've been trying to get done the whole year."

Ruff is keeping his forward lines and defensive pairings the same. Goalie Kari Lehtonen will start for the 11th time in 12 games.

Stars left wing and captain Jamie Benn definitely wants to see them clinch on home ice, where they are 9-2-2 since Jan. 30.

"We want to get it done tonight. We don't want to leave it up to chance in Phoenix or depend on another team [Saturday] night. We're excited, we're ready to go and it should be a good game tonight," Benn said.

Here are the projected lineups:

BLUES

Alexander Steen - Steve OttJaden Schwartz

Dmitrij JaskinPatrik BerglundTy Rattie

Chris PorterMaxim LapierreRyan Reaves

Magnus PaajarviKeith AucoinAdam Cracknell

Barret JackmanKevin Shattenkirk

Carlo ColaiacovoRoman Polak

Ryan Miller

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Ian Cole, Jordan Leopold, Niklas Lundstrom

Injured: David Backes (lower body), Brenden Morrow (lower body), Derek Roy (upper body), T.J. Oshie (upper body), Vladimir Sobotka (lower body), Vladimir Tarasenko (hand)

STARS

Jamie BennTyler SeguinValeri Nichushkin

Antoine RousselCody EakinRyan Garbutt

Shawn HorcoffVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Erik ColeDustin JeffreyAlex Chiasson

Alex GoligoskiTrevor Daley

Jordie BennBrenden Dillon

Patrik Nemeth - Sergei Gonchar

Kari Lehtonen

Tim Thomas

Scratched: Kevin Connauton, Aaron Rome

Injured: Rich Peverley (irregular heartbeat), Ray Whitney (lower body)

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