By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Tonight will be the final dress rehearsal for the Blues, when they host the Minnesota Wild at Scottrade Center.
But for some Blues players considered on the bubble, it's one final opportunity to showcase whether they belong among the final group of 23 that will start the season Thursday vs. Nashville.
Adam Cracknell, part of the 'CPR Line' with Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves that played really well down the stretch of last season and into the first round of the playoffs against Los Angeles, is one of those that will take one last opportunity to prove he belongs.
The Blues (2-2-1) will have a decision to make and will reduce the roster by one player by Monday's 23-man cutoff after 30-year-old defenseman Ryan Whitney was released Friday morning from his professional tryout. The final cut will come from a group of forwards on the back-end.
Cracknell will play right wing with Maxim Lapierre centering the line with Magnus Paajarvi on the left wing looking to make one lasting impression after signing a one-year, $600,000 contract over the summer.
"I've always been in this situation personally," Cracknell said. "Every day's training camp for me and coming into prove that I can stay around and be part of this organization. We know it's a numbers game. It always has been, always will be. I think our job here is to come give them a good effort every day in and day out. If it's not morning skates or practice, it's definitely games. At the end of the day, you have to give them your best. They're going to decide what they want in the lineup, what they're going to go forward with. You can only control your own effort, you give them your best and can't leave any excuses out there.
"I'm going to come out, give it my best effort. It's definitely the last time to showcase and just show them we do want to be here and make their job tougher up there. That's all they want. They don't want any easy decisions."
But according to coach Ken Hitchcock, who gave a surprising answer when asked if the players are making these decisions along the back-end difficult.
"No," Hitchcock said. "It's been easier than I thought would be the best way to describe it. I would have liked it to be more difficult, but it's not been there."
The consensus going into the season was that the 'CPR Line' would be locks to begin the season as the fourth unit. But with signings of Lapierre for two years and the addition of Derek Roy up front as well as the recent addition of Brenden Morrow, it's pushing players -- like Vladimir Sobotka and now Magnus Paajarvi -- to the back.
"We know we had a good playoff, but that was last year and we still didn't make it past the first round. It wasn't good enough as a team. ... I think it helped us build in the right direction, but at the same time, we can't live off the past.
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The Blues began the season with playing preseason games and just throwing line combinations on the ice for the purpose of his playing trios.
But Hitchcock was asked when do the preseason games become regular season daily routines for players and coaches.
"We started a little bit the last game, but it's hard because you're just arriving," Hitchcock said. "We did a little bit more today, but I've looked at the last game of the preseason and as much as you want to be prepared for it, you can't control whether guys are two days ahead.
"What I'm looking for is execution, I want our execution to be consistent for 60 minutes. I'm not concerned about the score, but I am concerned about the execution. I don't want us to do what we did the last game, which was kind of just have a free-for-all in the last 30 minutes (of Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the Wild in Minnesota). We were very good for 30 minutes. We limited their chances, we had a ton ourselves, but then when we went down 2-0, we just started throwing our sticks on the ice and just started to play kind of shinny (hockey). I don't want to do that."
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Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Brenden Morrow-Derek Roy-Chris Stewart
Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko
Magnus Paajarvi-Maxim Lapierre-Adam Cracknell
extras: Vladimir Sobotka, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Jordan Leopold-Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman-Roman Polak
extra: Ian Cole
Jaroslav Halak will start and play the entire game; Brian Elliott is the backup.