NHL on NBC: Blues hope to position for Central Division crown by beating Red Wings

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NBC continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign today when the St. Louis Blues host the Detroit Red Wings at Scottrade Center at 12:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBC, you can watch the game online.

When the’s NHL’s schedule makers decided upon a season finale between historic (but no longer divisional or even conference) rivals, one can imagine that they were crossing their fingers that something big would be on the line for the Detroit Red Wings or the St. Louis Blues.

St. Louis’ stakes

Just a week or two ago, most people probably would’ve gambled everything that this would be a glorious scrimmage for the Blues and a do-or-die skirmish for the Red Wings. Instead, both teams are already guaranteed spots in their respective conferences … but that doesn’t mean this game lacks importance.

Simply put, the Blues face this consideration: finish Sunday with more points than Detroit’s old nemesis the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis wins the Central Division (and takes on the Minnesota Wild in the first round). Fall short or tie the Avs – Colorado holds tiebreaker advantages – and the Blues must thwart the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks to avoid a first-round exit for the third season in a row.

With all due respect to the Wild, that situation provides plenty of incentive for the Blues to earn a win on Sunday. (The Avalanche face the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night.)

Banged-up Blues

Despite the significance of this game, the Blues won’t face the Red Wings with their full compliment of players, though head coach Ken Hitchcock explained to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that it’s not necessarily by design.

“Anybody that can play is playing … anybody that can’t isn’t going to play,” Hitchcock said. “We’re playing that game to win and that’s going to be our attitude. Our roster is our roster, nobody is feeling sorry for us.

“But after the game is over, we’re going to move on quickly. It’s an important game. We’ve got to get a (win), but if we don’t, we’ve still got to get up Monday morning and find a roster to be able to play.”

Considering how Detroit got to this point, they can relate to that mentality.

Motivation to finish strong

Beyond that more pertinent motivation, the Blues and Red Wings would like to cut off recent struggles. Things are most glaring for St. Louis; they’re hoping to avoid finishing the season with a six-game losing streak in a 2013-14 campaign in which they don’t have any other losing streak that exceeds two contests. Detroit, meanwhile, has lost three of four games but finds itself firmly planted in a first-round series against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins.

To some, seeing all 16 playoff teams clinched already may seem anticlimactic. Yet, with such important seeding on the line, hockey fans should find plenty to enjoy beginning with this game on Sunday.

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Leafs’ Marleau becomes 18th NHL player to reach 1,500-game milestone

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Patrick Marleau’s three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs will end two months before his 41st birthday, a summer when many believe his NHL career will come to an end.

But as he celebrated game No. 1,500 Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the veteran forward was talking about reaching another kind of milestone.

“I’m going to keep going as long as I can,” he said Wednesday morning via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “I don’t know if my wife’s ready to have me at home full-time yet. If I feel good and still think I can contribute then I’ll keep it going.”

Marleau is the 18th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500 game mark. Should he stay healthy and play the entire 82-game slate or close to that, he’ll enter the 2018-19 season 11th all-time in that category. Gordie Howe holds the record with 1,767 games played.

Health has helped the 38-year-old Marleau reach the mark in his 20th NHL season. He hasn’t missed a regular game since the 2008-09 season and hasn’t played fewer than 74 games in a full season in his entire career.

Marleau has gone from being the youngest player in the league to the sixth-oldest in the span of 20 years and considering his history of good health, better fitness regiments of players and treatment by training staffs, challenging Howe may not be a crazy idea.

Of course, that is unless Jaromir Jagr sticks around. If that happens then Marleau would likely have to settle for No. 2.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Blues

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This week’s edition of NBCSN’s Rivalry Night will feature a central division clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

It’s still early days, but the two sides are battling atop the Central, with the Blackhawks powered by great starts from a number of players including Brandon Saad and Ryan Hartman. The Blues, meanwhile, are looking to halt a two-game skid after winning their first four games of the season. The game also features the return of NHL on NBC analyst Ed Olczyk to the booth.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Blues get Alexander Steen back against Blackhawks

Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk’s ‘best medicine’

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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