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Playoff rematch as Blues, Blackhawks renew rivalry

by Louie Korac

BLACKHAWKS (4-1-1) at BLUES (2-3-1)


ST. LOUIS -- As much as players and coaches won't admit it, all is not forgotten from the Western Conference First Round series between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks from the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Blackhawks won the series in six games after falling behind the Blues 2-0, and the teams have developed a healthy rivalry ripe with animosity.

They resume acquaintances Saturday when the Blues host the Blackhawks at Scottrade Center.

"I think there's a healthy respect," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "There's players on their team we don't like; they don't like guys on our team. But at the end of the day I think both teams play such an honest game. Every game is like a playoff game."

The Blues have gotten off to a rocky start at 2-3-1, but have been dealing with a bacterial infection that's affected players in the locker room.

It started with center Jori Lehtera, who felt sick after a 6-1 victory against the Arizona Coyotes last Saturday that caused him to miss a 3-0 loss against the Anaheim Ducks the following night.

Lehtera missed practice Tuesday but was back Wednesday and played in a 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, a game in which multiple Blues players played after contracting the infection.

But Hitchcock said Saturday things are looking up.

"We're better. [Saturday] is the best we've been since [last] Saturday," Hitchcock said. "We're better [Saturday]. This is a lot better."

Blues right wing Ryan Reaves, one of the players affected, said it's been a rough time.

"I think it's more just frustrating; you've got a bunch of guys getting sick but it's not really an excuse," Reaves said. "I think a lot of teams go through it. One team gets it, a couple guys are going to get it. You've just got to find a way to play smarter and conserve your energy when you can, take short shifts and leave your teammates in a good spot."

The Blackhawks (4-1-1) come in off their first regulation loss of the season, Thursday against the Nashville Predators. They won't look at the Blues as a team struggling to stay healthy but one that's a formidable opponent.

"They have a good team," defenseman Duncan Keith said of the Blues. "They have a good organization with great coaching and good players. They're a tough team to play against. They play hard, they compete hard and they play their system well. It just makes for a challenging game playing those guys. It's fun at the same time."

Teammate Brent Seabrook, who stirred the pot between the teams during the playoff series last season with a hit on Blues captain David Backes in Game 2, agreed.

"They're a hard, big, physical team," Seabrook said of the Blues. "They do a good job of playing tight defensively so it's tough for our forwards. It makes it more of a grinding, physical-type game and you're trying to get to the net and trying to get shots through."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said goalie Corey Crawford (upper-body injury) was scheduled to skate Saturday in Chicago. Antti Raanta will start his third consecutive game in goal. Brian Elliott will start in goal for the Blues.

The Blues recalled left wing Dmitrij Jaskin from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League on Friday after the team placed center Paul Stastny (shoulder) on injured reserve.

"I'm going to try and do my best and do everything I can to stay here," Jaskin said. "I don't want to be that guy traveling back and forth. I'm going to do everything I can.

"It's a huge game, big opportunity for me."

Here are the projected lineups:


Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Kris Versteeg - Andrew Shaw - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Brad Richards - Brandon Saad

Daniel Carcillo - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Trevor van Riemsdyk - Michal Rozsival

Antti Raanta

Scott Darling

Scratched: Jeremy Morin, David Rundblad

Injured: Corey Crawford (upper body)


Jaden Schwartz - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

Alexander Steen - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij Jaskin - Patrik Berglund - Joakim Lindstrom

Steve Ott - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Ian Cole - Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman - Jordan Leopold

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Scratched: Chris Porter, Magnus Paajarvi

Injured: Paul Stastny (shoulder), Carl Gunnarsson (hip)

Status report: The Blues switched Schwartz and Steen on their top two lines, but Hitchcock said the left wings will alternate at times during the game. ... Gunnarsson was cleared to play nearly two weeks ago but still has yet to make his Blues debut. … Darling, recalled from the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL after Crawford was injured, could make his NHL debut when the Blackhawks host the Ottawa Senators on Sunday.

Who's hot: Toews has 32 points in 36 games against the Blues, Hossa has 34 points in 42 games, Kane has 37 points in 40 games and Richards has 22 points in 20 games. … Oshie has 22 points in 28 games against the Blackhawks and Tarasenko has five points in the past four games against the Blackhawks.

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