By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Magnus Paajarvi, come on down.
Paajarvi is the next contestant on The Price is Right, or it's next-man-up time again for the Blues (46-22-9, 101 points), who will be without rookie left wing Robby Fabbri on Friday when they play host to the Boston Bruins (40-29-8) at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).
Paajarvi, a healthy scratch the past five games, will move into the lineup with Fabbri, who has a lower-body injury, out of the lineup for at least one game, and perhaps more.
Paajarvi will step in and play alongside Paul Stastny and Troy Brouwer in what arguably has been the Blues' hottest line as they look for a sixth straight win.
"I'm trying to do my thing and hopefully the chemistry is going to be good," Paajarvi said. "It's unfortunate with 'Fabs.' I know it's not too danger of an injury so he'll be back soon. I want to do my thing and see where it goes. ... I have to focus on myself and hopefully bring something to the table and hopefully I can."
Coach Ken Hitchcock said Fabbri and injured defensemen Jay Bouwmeester (upper body) and Carl Gunnarsson (lower body) all skated before an optional.
"All those guys skated this morning and if the beat writers would have gotten here a little earlier, they would have seen that," Hitchcock joked. "But everybody skated this morning and they were full-go. We'll just continue on the daily updates, but it was good to see everybody out there blasting away."
Paajarvi was picked over Dmitrij Jaskin, who Hitchcock said will play at some point against either Colorado on Sunday or Arizona on Monday.
"Just the speed and the quickness of this game, we anticipate a hard game with a lot of quickness in it," Hitchcock said of his choice. "We're looking at playing Jaskin on one or both of the games on the weekend, so he's going to get in also.
"I just look at (the Bruins') lineup. They've got so much quickness up front. You're going to have to be able to skate, you're going to have to cover a lot of ice. The transition play ... we were effective in Boston because we didn't allow them to get loose on transition. We want to guard against it. Also with the way Brouwer and Stastny play and the tempo that Fabbri (brings), Magnus is the closest player we've got to play with that tempo. He's hungry right now; he really wants a chance to play right now. I think we're going to get an 'A' game from him."
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When Hitchcock opposes close friend Claude Julien of the Bruins, who are one point ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for third place in the Atlantic Division, he will be coaching his 1,400th NHL game and tie another close friend (Pat Quinn, who passed away in 2014) f or seventh on the all-time list.
"I didn't know that," Hitchcock said. "Because it's Pat, it means a lot. We were great friends. He really gave me my start when I was coaching junior; he let me coach in some training camp games for Vancouver, made a fool of myself. We had a lot of laughs from there right to the end; it means a lot."
Hitchcock's regular season record is 754-451-194, and he has a 76-72 playoff record. With the Blues, Hitchcock is 221-101-36 with a 10-17 playoff record.
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The Blues are hoping to keep the Bruins down.
Boston, after starting March 5-0-2, is 1-6-0 in the past seven games and the Bruins have scored a grand total of 10 goals.
"If you turn down the volume, it looks like they should win," Hitchcock said of the Bruins. "My God, how do they not score in that game in New Jersey. They had five odd-man rushes in the first period. You start to think about being snake-bit.
"We talked this morning, and competition's competition. They're good points for us, too. We need these points to keep pace with Dallas; home ice means the world. You've just got to believe, and the way his team's playing, they're hard to play against and they compete on the puck as good as anybody we've played against. The game we had in Boston was one of the best-played hockey games by two teams all year. We're expecting the same from them again. It's hard to believe when you play that well, you're not going to have success. Hopefully it isn't tonight, but they are doing a lot of things very well right now."
The Blues defeated the Bruins 2-0 on Dec. 22 at TD Garden, the only meeting of the season.
"It's respecting what they have on their side," Julien said of the Blues. "They've got good balance throughout their whole lineup. It's important that we play a real tight game here, respect that part of their game. They're big, they're strong, they protect the puck well. We just want to make sure here that we're making some solid plays and then at the same time, we're minimizing the mistakes and the breakdowns."
The Blues, who trail the Stars by two points, have a game in hand.
"We play a pretty tough defensive team (tonight)," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "We have to know it's going to be a tight game and our team defense is going to have to be probably our best that it's been in the past five games because those guys can make you pay. They're a team that's going to be fighting, they're a desperate team right now. I think we're going to have to match that desperation and try to draw from it because I think that's when we play our best hockey when we play like that.
"I think this is kind of the best thing for us is to be in this race. In years past we've had a bit of a cushion. You see what's happening to Washington now. We know that feeling. When there's nothing in front of you to grab hold of it's tough to kind of fight for something. From our standpoint, we have a great battle going on with Dallas, just back and forth, win, win, win, I think it's forcing us to play our best hockey. Whatever happens at the end of it we'll see but right now it's forcing us to play our best hockey and I think that's something that's only going to be good for us going forward."
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The Blues' 100-plus point season is their third in a row, and fourth under Hitchcock.
"This one feels different though," Hitchcock said. "This one feels like a lot of challenges and very much next-man-up team. All the words that come out, but this is a true team. We saw a lot of teams who just couldn't handle absorbing the injuries that they did to key guys. We went the other way. Guys adapted in a great way, we changed the way we played and had to adapt. Guys bought in and bought in quick. When we went through that stretch in December and January and we had to get points when we were scoring one goal, two goals, that's what really changed our season because it could have been like some of the teams that are out now, we could have been in the same boat."
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Patrik Berglund-Alexander Steen-David Backes
Magnus Paajarvi-Paul Stastny-Troy Brouwer
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves
Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo
Kevin Shattenkirk-Colton Parayko
Petteri Lindbohm-Robert Bortuzzo
Brian Elliott will start in goal. Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Dmitrij Jaskin and Anders Nilsson. Jay Bouwmeester (upper body), Carl Gunnarsson (lower body), Robby Fabbri (lower body) and Steve Ott (hamstrings) are out.
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The Bruins' projected lineup:
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Loui Eriksson
Matt Beleskey-David Krejci-David Pasternak
Frank Vatrano-Ryan Spooner-Lee Stempniak
Landon Ferraro-Noel Acciari-Jimmy Hayes
Zdeno Chara-John-Michael Liles
Joe Morrow-Kevan Miller
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Tuukka Rask will start in goal. Jonas Gustavsson will be the backup.
Tyler Randell, Zach Trotman and Seth Griffith are expected to be healthy scratches. Brett Connolly (undisclosed) and Dennis Seidenberg (undisclosed) are out with injuries.