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Preview: Blues at Hurricanes

St. Louis can clinch third place in Central Division; forward Bryan Bickell set to retire after final two games for Carolina

by Kurt Dusterberg / NHL.com Correspondent

BLUES (44-29-7) at HURRICANES (35-31-14)

7 p.m. ET; FS-MW, FS-CR, NHL.TV

 

Blues team scope

The St. Louis Blues can clinch third place in the Central Division with at least one point against the Carolina Hurricanes or if the Nashville Predators lose against the Winnipeg Jets in any fashion on Saturday. The Blues, 13-2-2 in their past 17 games, lead the Predators by one point; St. Louis has two games remaining and Nashville one, and the Blues have four more regulation/overtime wins, which is the first tiebreaker. Center Vladimir Sobotka, who signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract (average annual value $3.5 million) to return to the Blues on Thursday after three seasons with Omsk in the Kontinental Hockey League, will not play. "We would definitely like to get him in [Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche]," coach Mike Yeo said. "He's been off the ice for a while, so it's pretty tough to have two quick skates and hop into a game. We want to give him the opportunity to work with power-play units and good lines and put him in a situation that makes him feel like he's preparing for a game." Sobotka had 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists) with the Blues in 2013-14. Goaltender Carter Hutton will start for the Blues, 16-6-1 in their past 23 road games and 20-8-2 under Yeo, who replaced Ken Hitchcock as coach on Feb. 1.

 

Hurricanes team scope

Carolina Hurricanes forward Bryan Bickell, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, will play his final home game before retiring at the end of the season. "I've made the decision with my family that I'm going to call it quits, so it's just these last two games," Bickell told NHL.com Saturday. "Hopefully we can fill the net up for the last home game for the fans. Hopefully I can get one myself. You never know when the last one is. It would be special." The Hurricanes will wear stickers with Bickell's No. 29 on their helmets for Carolina's final two games. Bickell, 31, who won the Stanley Cup three times with the Chicago Blackhawks, will start each game for the Hurricanes and play in front of the net on the power play, general manager Ron Francis said. Carolina will try to end a four-game losing streak. The Hurricanes will miss the playoffs for the eighth straight time, but their play at PNC Arena, where they were 23-12-5 this season, has been a bright spot. "We've had a good year at home," coach Bill Peters said. "Our home record is very strong. We want to finish with a win, and our fans deserve that. Our players know how to do it right individually and collectively for each other." Forward Jeff Skinner, who has a career-high 35 goals, played down his personal accomplishments. "Any time a team doesn't accomplish its goal, it's disappointing," said Skinner, who has yet to appear in the playoffs in his seven seasons. "That pretty much how I judge it."

 

Blues projected lineup

Jaden Schwartz -- Ivan Barbashev -- Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen -- 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

Carter Hutton

Jake Allen

Scratched: Petteri Lindbohm, Zach Sanford, Vladimir Sobotka

Injured: Robert Bortuzzo (upper body), Paul Stastny (lower body), Nail Yakupov (undisclosed), Robby Fabbri (knee), Jori Lehtera (illness)

 

Hurricanes projected lineup

Sebastian Aho -- Jordan Staal -- Teuvo Teravainen

Joakim Nordstrom -- Victor Rask -- Sergei Tolchinsky

Jeff Skinner -- Elias Lindholm -- Lee Stempniak

Bryan Bickell -- Derek Ryan -- Brock McGinn

Jaccob Slavin -- Brett Pesce

Noah Hanifin -- Justin Faulk

Klas Dahlbeck -- Matt Tennyson

Cam Ward

Eddie Lack

Scratched: none

Injured: Jay McClement (lower body), Ryan Murphy (lower body)

 

Status report

Sanford will replace Lehtera on the third line, and Allen will start in the regular-season finale against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday, Yeo said. … The Hurricanes recalled Tolchinsky from Charlotte of the American Hockey League and returned center Andrew Poturalski.

 

Who's hot

Schwartz has 11 points (five goals, six assists) in his past nine games. … Tarasenko has seven points (four goals, three assists) in his past six games. … Perron has five points (two goals, three assists) in his past three games. … Skinner has 18 points (14 goals, four assists) in his past 15 games.

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