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Preview: Blues at Panthers

St. Louis can clinch third place in Central; goaltender James Reimer returns for Florida

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

BLUES (43-29-7) at PANTHERS (33-35-11)

7:30 p.m. ET; SUN, FS-MW, NHL.TV


Blues team scope

The St. Louis Blues will clinch third place in the Central Division if they defeat the Florida Panthers in any fashion and the Nashville Predators lose to the Dallas Stars in any fashion, or if the Blues get one point against the Panthers and the Predators lose in regulation. A third-place finish would ensure a matchup against the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference First Round. The Blues are 12-2-2 in their past 16 games, but they're coming off a 5-2 home loss against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. "It's not an easy thing, I'll be honest," coach Mike Yeo said. "I know that a number of teams are dealing with the same challenge and I know that in past experience you face similar challenges as well. It's hard. You've fought all year long to get into the playoffs and you're so excited about the playoffs, it's hard not to have one eye on that and when you only have one eye on what you're doing, then you're missing out a little bit. That's our challenge." Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson will return after missing four games with a lower-body injury. Goaltender Jake Allen is expected to start; he's 9-2-2 with 21 goals allowed and two shutouts in his past 13 games.


Panthers team scope

Goaltender James Reimer will start for the Panthers after missing three games with an upper-body injury. Reimer was injured during a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 28. "It's just nice to get back in, nice to play with the guys and have a good finish," Reimer said. "You always want to play. It's fun to get back out there." Defenseman Ian McCoshen, the No. 31 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, will make his NHL debut. He played with Panthers defenseman Michael Matheson at Boston College but will be paired with Mark Pysyk. Forward Jussi Jokinen will join goaltender Roberto Luongo, center Aleksander Barkov and defenseman Aaron Ekblad on the list of Florida players shut down for the rest of the season because of injuries. The Panthers, who have been eliminated from playoff contention, hope to avoid their sixth straight loss.


Blues projected lineup

Jaden Schwartz -- Ivan Barbashev -- Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen -- Patrik Berglund -- David Perron

Magnus Paajarvi -- Jori Lehtera -- 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: Petteri Lindbohm, Zach Sanford

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


Panthers projected lineup

Jonathan Huberdeau -- Vincent Trocheck -- Jaromir Jagr

Colton Sceviour -- Nick Bjugstad -- Reilly Smith

Thomas Vanek -- Denis Malgin -- Jonathan Marchessault

Michael Sgarbossa -- Derek MacKenzie -- Shawn Thornton

Keith Yandle -- Jason Demers

Michael Matheson -- Alex Petrovic

Ian McCoshen -- Mark Pysyk

James Reimer

Reto Berra

Scratched:  Jakub Kindl, MacKenzie Weegar

Injured: Roberto Luongo (hip), Aaron Ekblad (neck), Aleksander Barkov (upper body), Jussi Jokinen (undisclosed)


Status report

Barbashev, who has nine points (four goals, five assists) in 27 games since being recalled from Chicago of the American Hockey League, will move to the top line between Schwartz and Tarasenko. "What I hope to like about it is [Barbashev] has shown us some ability to make plays, some ability to create but is real sturdy and a guy that we can count on to go out against basically anybody," Yeo said. "This is a very rich test for him, so I just want to see how he does." Steen will play despite sitting out practice Wednesday for a maintenance day. … With Reimer back, the Panthers returned goalie Adam Wilcox to Springfield of the American Hockey League. Weegar will be a healthy scratch after making his NHL debut in a 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.


Who's hot

Tarasenko has 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in his past 15 games. Schwartz has eight points (four goals, four assists) in his past eight games. Allen is tied for first in the NHL (with Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets) since Feb. 1 in save percentage (.939) and is second (behind Ben Bishop of the Los Angeles Kings) in goals-against average (1.79). … Marchessault has eight points (seven goals, one assists) in his past seven games, including his 30th goal of the season against Montreal on Monday. Florida leads the NHL in penalty-killing with an 85.6 percent success rate.

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