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Blues must win to keep division hopes alive

Capitals' Holtby can tie Brodeur's single-season wins record

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

CAPITALS (55-17-8) at BLUES (49-23-9)

TV: 8 p.m. ET; CSN-DC, FS-MW, NHLN

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues players said they won't be doing any scoreboard watching when they host the Washington Capitals on Saturday night in their regular-season finale at Scottrade Center.

The coaches are in a different mindset, but the players said Saturday morning they won't pay attention to what's going on in the game between the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators.

The Blues and Stars are deadlocked in points with 107, and depending on what happens in their respective games Saturday, it will determine who wins the Central Division and top seed in the Western Conference heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Stars and Blues share 49-23-9 records, but the Stars hold the tiebreaker with 46 non-shootout wins to the Blues' 42. If each win Saturday, Dallas will win the division.

"We haven't been scoreboard watching for the past month," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "That's why we've been playing so well [winning seven of the past eight]. We've just been worrying about ourselves. We've been in a position where we've just been doing what we have to do, which has forced us to play our best hockey, which is a good thing.

"This time of year in years past, we've had big leads and kind of squandered our good play and now we have something to play for, and I think it's bringing the best out of us."

That said, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and his coaching staff will make adjustments depending on circumstances in the Stars-Predators game.

"We have a way to know when it's time to go and when it's time to shut it down," Hitchcock said. "We'll know. I have a TV set in my office that they gave me when I came here so I can turn that on and put that game on. We'll have an idea what's going on period by period. ... If it's time to go, we're going to go full. If it's time to close it out, we'll close it out."

The Capitals clinched their second Presidents' Trophy in franchise history on March 28 and are locked in as the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Goaltender Braden Holtby will start, and attempt to tie Martin Brodeur's NHL record for most wins in a season with 48 set in 2006-07. The Capitals will be looking to end a three-game losing streak (0-1-2).

"Talking to every coach in this League that's been through this, they understand, what it is," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "... When you do get to a certain point and clinching a playoff spot, it's hard for a lot of the teams to sort of find their game because there are players on teams that you lose a little bit of the edge, because it is a grind." 

Right wing T.J. Oshie will face St. Louis for the first time since being traded to Washington during the offseason. Oshie, who spent the first seven seasons of his career in St. Louis, didn't play in the first game because of illness.

"It'll maybe be emotional going out for warmups, during the national anthem and maybe even the first couple shifts, but I think with the time gone by, it's a full season almost, and Washington feels like my new home now," Oshie said.

Here are the projected lineups:


Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Justin Williams

Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie

Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Tom Wilson

Daniel Winnik - Mike Richards - Jay Beagle

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik - John Carlson  

Dmitry Orlov - Mike Weber

Braden Holtby 

Philipp Grubauer

Injured: None

Scratched: Taylor Chorney, Nate Schmidt, Stanislav Galiev, Michael Latta


Alexander Steen - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer

Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - Magnus Paajarvi

Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko

Brian Elliott

Anders Nilsson

Injured: David Backes (lower body), Jake Allen (lower body), Steve Ott (colitis)

Scratched: Dmitrij Jaskin, Robert Bortuzzo, Petteri Lindbohm

Status report: The Capitals will insert Weber into the lineup for the first time since March 22; he has been a healthy scratch the past eight games. ... Fabbri will return after missing the past four games with a lower-body injury and replace Jaskin. 

Who's hot: Johansson has two goals and three assists the past two games. Carlson has one goal and five assist in eight games since missing the previous 13 games with a lower-body injury. ... Tarasenko has a seven-game point streak (five goals, five assists). Steen has five assists in five games since returning from an upper-body injury that forced him to miss 15 games. Shattenkirk has a five-game point streak (one goal, four assists). Stastny has points in 11 of the past 14 games (four goals, 14 assists).

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