By LOU KORAC
CHICAGO -- The Blues' lineup has been vanilla the past few days with the uncertainty of defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and rookie Robby Fabbri, who seem on the cusp of returning.
Add some more intrigue when the Blues (48-23-9) can wrap up home ice advantage through at least the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a minimum of one point when they take on division rival Chicago Blackhawks (47-26-7) at 7:30 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).
The Blues were supposed to hold a full skate today at the United Center and everyone was on the ice that was supposed to be except for defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Carl Gunnarsson and forward Scottie Upshall. David Backes (lower-body injury), Jake Allen (lower body) and Steve Ott (colitis) did not make the trip for the final road regular season game.
Both Bouwmeester and Fabbri were on the ice for the skate, but Fabbri stayed on long after teammates left, which lends to believe he may not be quite ready. Bouwmeester came off with the rest and lends to believe he could be available.
"We would prefer to take this lineup right to the edge," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We're still waiting approval on a couple guys to see if we can get them in.
"We'll have 20, that's about all I can say right now. We'll have 20 for tonight. We'll see how it goes. Some guys that we thought were in yesterday might not be in today, so wait right through to game time."
When asked about the guys that didn't skate today, Hitchcock wouldn't reveal anything, only saying, "We'll wait right through to game time."
Bouwmeester, who's missed six games and last played March 22 at San Jose, will play.
"I feel pretty good," Bouwmeester said. "I've been skating a lot. No real issues. I'll talk to these guys (the trainers). I don't know about tonight, but we'll see. ... I feel good. I think I'm at the point where I can play."
With two games remaining, including Saturday in the season finale at home against the Washington Capitals, Bouwmeester said it's important to play before the playoffs begin.
"I'd like to play; I want to play," he said. "I haven't played in two weeks just to kind of get a feel for things again. That's kind of the way it's looking now.
"Just feeling back to normal on the ice, every day sort of stuff. It's not something you can really push or anything like that. I've been going pretty good. I've been working pretty hard and trying to test things out. That part of it's been pretty good."
But everything's been good since he began to skate.
"Initially you wait and see how you feel, but then you've got to kind of keep moving things along and test yourself a little bit," Bouwmeester said. "Skating with the team, I've skated three times, four times with everybody now. It's gotten better as it's gone along."
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The Blues will keep an eye on the scoreboard tonight, because any points gained could affect where they stand Friday in terms to first place.
The Blues are tied with the Dallas Stars with identical records and 105 points, but the Stars hold the tiebreaker based on regulation and overtime wins.
The Blues do not want to lose in regulation tonight because then that would put the onus on them to at least get a point out of Saturday to fend off the Blackhawks for second place, because Chicago also holds the ROW's edge on St. Louis.
"They have a lot of meaning and then you move on and you get ready for playoffs," Hitchcock said. "In the context of are they important? Yes. Big picture? Not really, because as of Monday morning, every team's getting ready for whoever they're playing or whoever the opponent is. I just believe momentum, no matter who is in your lineup, you want to be playing well. You don't want to be spending the last week of the season trying to find your game. Who's in and who's out is not relevant. How you are playing is relevant because if you're not playing well, it's hard to gather it back in for the playoffs."
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With a win tonight, Brian Elliott would tie another franchise record. This one would be for consecutive victories established by Brent Johnson set in the 2001-02 season.
Elliott is 10-0-0 the past 10 decisions spanning 12 starts and 11-0-1 with a 1.77 goals-against average and .939 save percentage the past 14 starts. He's 22-7-6 this season with a league-leading 2.03 GAA and .931 save percentage.
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The Blues' projected lineup (updated through warmups):
Alexander Steen-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Magnus Paajarvi-Paul Stastny-Troy Brouwer
Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Dmitrij Jaskin
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves
Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko
Brian Elliott will start in goal. Anders Nilsson will be the backup.
The healthy scratches are Robert Bortuzzo and Petteri Lindbohm. Robby Fabbri (lower body), Steve Ott (colitis), David Backes (lower body) and Jake Allen (lower body) are out.
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The Blackhawks' projected lineup:
Andrew Ladd-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Teuvo Teravainen-Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell-Andrew Desjardins-Dale Weise
Brandon Mashinter-Marcus Kruger-Tomas Fleischmann
Trevor Van Riemsdyk-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Viktor Svedberg-Brent Seabrook
Erik Gustafsson-Michal Rozsival
Scott Darling will start in goal. Michael Leighton will be the backup.
Duncan Keith (suspended) will serve the fourth of his six-game suspension, Christian Ehrhoff and Dennis Rasmussen are the expected healthy scratches. Marian Hossa (lower body), Artem Anisimov (upper body), Andrew Shaw (upper body) and Corey Crawford (upper body) are out.