St. Louis Blues Game Preview: Team Wraps Up Regular Season Against Minnesota Wild


The St. Louis Blues end their 2014-15 regular season with a Saturday afternoon matchup against their potential first-round playoff opponents, the Minnesota Wild. With the Blues having clinched the Central Division (and, by extension, home ice advantage) with their win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night, there’s not a whole lot left to play for. However, the Blues could still take the overall Western Conference title on Saturday if they win while the Anaheim Ducks lose. Finishing the season as the conference’s top team could actually end up being rather advantageous for the Blues, as they’d be able to play the Winnipeg Jets, who they’re 3-1-1 against this season, rather than playing Minnesota, who they’ve lost two of three games against in rather disappointing fashion. The Blues’ only victory against the Wild, who are 27-8-2 since trading for goalie Devan Dubnyk in mid-January, came in a shootout.

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The regular season finale will present an important test for recently injured forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. The three players have not seen action since March 30, March 28, and April 5, respectively, and all of them will be aiming to get up to speed in a lower-pressure environment  on Saturday before returning to the grind of the postseason schedule. Tarasenko and Steen are the Blues’ first and third-leading scorers and will be key assets in this year’s playoff run, while Bortuzzo plays a very important role as the Blues’ physical anchor on the blueline. He’ll be particularly needed if the Blues play an exceptionally big and aggressive team like the Wild or the Winnipeg Jets in the first round.

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According to’s Lou Korac, Hitchcock said that “five to six” players could sit out for Saturday’s game to get rested and prepare for the playoffs. However, that sounds like some of Hitchock’s typical exaggeration, as the Blues only have five extra players on their roster and therefore would not be able to accommodate the resting of a sixth player unless a call-up was made. It’s theoretically possible that they could call someone up in time for Sunday’s game. If that’s the case, however, the team didn’t do a very good chance of preparing to do so, as all the players who would be realistic candidates to be recalled took part in the AHL Chicago Wolves’ Friday night game in Milwaukee.

Saturday would seem to be an opportunity to give defenseman Chris Butler one final opportunity to play for his hometown team during 2014-15. Butler, who delivered a big boost for a time earlier this year after the Blues suffered several injuries on the blueline, has played in 32 games this season but has suited up just once in the past month. Guys like Olli Jokinen, Chris Porter, and Ty Rattie who have been bit players this season also seem likely to be dressed for Saturday’s game.

Brian Elliott will get the start on Saturday in what could be his final game action of the year. Elliott, an All-Star this year who was rather effective in net until about a month ago, has yielded the starter’s role to rookie Jake Allen, who is expected to be the number one netminder for the playoffs. With that said, Sunday will be a good opportunity for Elliott to get some work in and build confidence in case the Blues need him at some point during the postseason.

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