NHL on NBC: Blues take on shorthanded Blackhawks

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NBC continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign today when the Chicago Blackhawks host the St. Louis Blues at the United Center at 12:30 p.m. ET.

During back-to-back games this weekend, the St. Louis Blues receive tastes of what they could face in second-round series in the 2014 playoffs, assuming they can make it that far.

On Saturday, the Blues were walloped by the Colorado Avalanche 4-0 in a game that became ugly in the end. Now they turn around for a matchup against the Avalanche’s virtually guaranteed first-round opponent in the Chicago Blackhawks, aka the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Granted, the champs might look a little different than most teams and fans are used to seeing. The Blackhawks’ two marquee stars won’t make it into action on Sunday as both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are nursing injuries from a long season that includes a normal 82-game schedule plus the 2014 Olympics.

Chicago’s goal at this point in the regular season is to keep it simple, as the team told CSNChicago.com on Thursday:

“I think if you play the right way, you give yourself a chance (to win),” Head coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think keeping it simple is something that we stressed a lot. And we got ourselves up to speed here tonight. If you have balance, keep yourself mentally aware of what you need to do and play the team system well, everybody compliments each other.”

St. Louis is also likely to play a straightforward game, as that’s the Blues’ preferred style and they’re finishing up a set of back-to-back games, anyway. They’ll be a little shorthanded in their own right, as sniper Alexander Steen is out of action with an upper-body injury today.

Ultimately, it’s about tuning up and improving postseason positioning. The Blues continue to fight for the top spot in the West and the Presidents’ Trophy while the ‘Hawks still have a shot at getting home-ice advantage in the first round against Colorado.

To do so, one of these teams will need to overcome one of their biggest rivals on NBC this afternoon.