Steen, Tarasenko back from injury, will play in Blues’ season finale


The St. Louis Blues will have a shot at clinching the top seed in the Western Conference on Saturday, and they’ll go after it with two of their best offensive weapons back in the lineup.

Vladimir Tarasenko, out since Mar. 31 with a leg injury and Alex Steen, out since Mar. 28 with a lower-body ailment, will both play when the Blues face the Wild at Scottrade (3 p.m. ET, NBC).

Tarasenko, who leads the Blues in goals with 36, has missed all five of the team’s games in April. He’s going to be an incredibly important player come playoff time; the Russian winger emerged as St. Louis’ most dynamic sniper this season and, last spring, showed an ability to raise his level by scoring a team-high four goals in six games during a Round 1 loss to Chicago.

Steen, who had 24 goals and 62 points in 73 games this year, will also be a key figure for the Blues — but in a different sort of way. He needs to show something more after struggling to make an impact in previous playoff appearances. In 25 career postseason games for St. Louis, Steen has just five goals and a minus-5 rating — last year he only scored one goal against the ‘Hawks, after netting a career-high 33 in the regular season.

NBC Sports Group to air three games on ‘Super Saturday,’ including Wild-Blues and B’s-Bolts


All 30 NHL teams will play on Saturday as the league puts a bow on the 2014-15 regular season, and NBC will be right in the thick of ‘Super Saturday’ with a trio of games — two of which have major playoff implications.

From the network:

NBC will regionalize coverage at 3 p.m. ET, featuring T.J. Oshie and the St. Louis Blues hosting Zach Parise and the Minnesota Wild, while Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings welcome Logan Couture and the San Jose Sharks.

Coverage shifts to NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. ET, when Milan Lucic and the Boston Bruins travel to Tampa Bay to face Steven Stamkos and the Lightning.

The Minnesota-St. Louis game has significant postseason ramifications. Depending on results, the Wild could end up playing either Anaheim, Nashville or St. Louis in Round 1; the Blues will face either Minnesota, Chicago or Winnipeg. St. Louis could also finish as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, having already wrapped up the Central Division.

The Boston-Tampa Bay game could decide the Bruins’ season, depending on what Pittsburgh does in its final two games (versus the Isles and Sabres) and what Ottawa does in its last game against the Flyers on Saturday. If the results fall their way, the B’s could be playing for a wild card spot. This game will also be significant for the Bolts, who can still pass Montreal for top spot in the Atlantic Division.

Blues lock up Central Division after beating Blackhawks


The St. Louis Blues clinched the Central Division on Thursday, and they did it in a fitting way: winning by a narrow margin.

St. Louis locked up what might be the NHL’s best division after beating the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 while the Nashville Predators dropped a 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild. The one bit of good news for Nashville is that they’ll hold home-ice advantage in a Central No. 2 vs. No. 3 matchup, as the Blackhawks can finish no better than third in the division.

(The Minnesota Wild have a chance to catch them if they win their last game and Chicago drops its finale.)

Even with the division title in hand, the Blues have something to play for against the Wild on Saturday. Depending upon how things go for the West-leading Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis could conceivably grab the top seed in the conference on the last day of the season.

Edging the ‘Hawks

The Blackhawks and Blues smothered each other in a tight-checking contest. The first goal wasn’t scored until less than three minutes were remaining in the second period. A late Paul Stastny goal made it 2-0 and eventually stood as the game-winner after Andrew Shaw brought the contest to within one.

Jake Allen continues to make his argument to be the unquestioned No. 1 option for the Blues. If nothing else, he saw the kind of tough, low-margin-of-error contest a goalie will often experience in the postseason tonight.

Report: Prospects Fabbri, Barbashev to join Blues for playoffs


Two of St. Louis’ brightest prospects look as though they’ll be getting a taste of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

OHL Guelph’s Robby Fabbri and QMJHL Moncton’s Ivan Barbashev — the 21st and 33rd overall picks at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft — are likely to join the Blues as “black aces” once their junior seasons are over, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Fabbri, who turned 19 in January, is held in high regard by the Blues — he wowed the team during training camp and unexpectedly pushed for a roster spot before eventually being returned to junior.

“I don’t think our organization is at a point now where an 18-year-old is going to be the final piece of the puzzle to push us over the top,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said at the time. “But [Fabbri] was making it very difficult.”

Fabbri had 25 goals and 51 points in 30 games for Guelph this season, missing extensive time with an injury suffered while playing for Team Canada at the World Juniors. While recovering, he spent some time traveling with the Blues.

Barbashev, meanwhile, is enjoying a stellar season in Quebec, having scored 45 goals and 95 points in just 57 games. The Russian forward — who, like Fabbri, is only 19 — is best friends with St. Louis forward Dmitrij Jaskin, another good young player that has 11 goals in 52 games for the Blues this season.

As for timelines, Fabbri and Guelph are down 1-0 in their second-round series to Sault Ste. Marie, while Barbashev and Moncton have yet to start their second-round series against Halifax.

Goalie nods: After 39 straight starts, Dubnyk gets a rest


News and notes from around the crease…

“Duuuuuuubs” takes a break

For the first time since Jan. 15, the Minnesota Wild will start a goalie not named Devan Dubnyk.

Dubnyk, who’s made 39 consecutive starts — one with Arizona, 38 with the Wild — will be dropped from the lineup entirely tonight as Darcy Kuemper will start in goal against Nashville, with Niklas Backstrom backing up.

While kicking back and relaxing, Dubnyk can reflect on what’s been a truly impressive — and borderline unbelievable — bounce-back campaign. He’s 36-13-4 on the year with a 2.04 GAA and .930 save percentage, numbers made even more remarkable given that, last year, he bounced around three different organizations and finished with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in Hamilton.

For the Predators, Pekka Rinne is the likely starter.


Sens at Rangers: Andrew Hammond vs. Henrik Lundqvist

‘Canes at Flyers: Cam Ward vs. Ray Emery

Wings at Habs: Jimmy Howard vs. Carey Price

Devils at Bolts: Keith Kinkaid vs. Ben Bishop

Bruins at Panthers: Tuukka Rask (probable) vs. Roberto Luongo

‘Hawks at Blues: Corey Crawford (probable) vs. Jake Allen

Jets at Avs: Ondrej Pavelec vs. Reto Berra

Kings at Flames: Jonathan Quick (probable) vs. Jonas Hiller

Sharks at Oilers: Antti Niemi vs. Laurent Brossoit

Coyotes at Canucks: Mike Smith vs. Eddie Lack