St. Louis Blues Game Preview: Team Engages in First Place Battle with Chicago Blackhawks


Sunday night will be a great night for the Chicago-St. Louis sports rivalry, as the Cardinals and Cubs will be opening up the 2015 MLB season at the same time as the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues take part in a highly consequential matchup. With the Nashville Predators’ overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday, the winner of Sunday’s game between the Blues and Blackhawks will take first place in the Central Division, which would be a big momentum booster with four regular season games remaining for each team.

It could be arguably the most important game for the remainder of the Blues’ season, as Sunday’s game may be the biggest determinant as to whether they get home ice advantage for the first round of the postseason. A Blackhawks win would push the Blues down to third place in the division, which would put them in position to start the playoffs on the road. Of course, the teams play again this Thursday, which will be another huge factor in how the division standings play out.

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There will be a potentially controversial change for the Blues on Sunday evening, as Jake Allen will get the start in goal against the Blackhawks. Allen had been in net for the Blues’ past two wins prior to Friday night’s victory over the Stars, in which Brian Elliott gave up five goals and didn’t necessarily play well. The rookie has been the Blues’ better-performing goalie of late, though it had been thought that Elliott would still be the team’s number one goalie going into the playoffs. It’s looking more like that position could be up for competition now that Allen is getting the start in such an important divisional game this late in the season.

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Injured forward Alexander Steen is unlikely to return to the Blues’ lineup on Sunday night, while Vladimir Tarasenko has already been ruled out for the contest. That means the Blues will have to utilize two forwards among Chris Porter, Olli Jokinen, and Ty Rattie. None of those three has experienced any measurable success against the Hawks this year, as all three have failed to register any points in the games they’ve played against the division foes. Jokinen has played the most against the Blackhawks this year, seeing action in three games against Chicago while with the Predators.

It should be interesting to see what the Blues do with their defensive group on Sunday. Robert Bortuzzo has dressed for the past two games and made a noticeable impact on Thursday against the Calgary Flames, though he didn’t play as well on Friday against Dallas. Bortuzzo’s size and aggressiveness may not be as necessary against a more finesse Blackhawks squad, which would allow players like Barret Jackman and Carl Gunnarsson, who have been healthy scratches in recent games, to stick in the lineup.

Next: This Day in St. Louis Sports History: April 4