for this game

Blues host Blackhawks in key Central battle

Apr 9, 2015 - 2:59 PM ( - The Chicago Blackhawks will try to prevent the St. Louis Blues from having a shot at clinching the Central Division on Thursday night as the rivals square off at Scottrade Center amidst a tight playoff race.

The Blues are leading the Central standings with 105 points, one ahead of the Nashville Predators and three up on the Chicago Blackhawks with two games to play for all three teams.

St. Louis can clinch the division crown with a victory and a regulation loss tonight by Nashville to the visiting Minnesota Wild, while a Blackhawks win would help to keep them alive in the hunt for first place.

Chicago also has fourth-place Minnesota on its heels at four points back and the Blackhawks are coming off a 2-1 loss to the Wild on Tuesday. Corey Crawford made 28 saves, but Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk stopped 32 shots and nearly had a shutout until Bryan Bickell scored with 1:48 to go in regulation.

"We need to play playoff hockey these next couple of games," Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell said.

Chicago lost its second in a row and finished the regular season 24-12-5 at home. The Blackhawks end the regular season on Saturday in Colorado.

Forward Brad Richards won't play in Chicago's final two games due to an upper- body injury, while defenseman Kimmo Timonen sat out Tuesday's loss with an ailment to his upper body.

The Blues are ending the regular season with three in a row at home, beginning that stretch with Tuesday's 1-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. St. Louis had a three-game win streak snapped.

Jake Allen stopped 30 pucks for the Blues and Paul Stastny had a potential game-tying goal waived off as he was called for slashing the stick of Jets defenseman Tyler Myers late in the second period.

"I don't think we played with enough urgency," Allen said. "We didn't match their intensity."

St. Louis played again on Tuesday without top scorers Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko due to lower-body injuries and neither are expected to return to play tonight.

The Blues have lost four of their past five versus the Blackhawks and had a four-game series home winning streak halted with a 4-2 loss on Feb. 8.

Crawford is 12-3-3 with a 2.24 goals against average, .917 save percentage and two shutouts in 18 games (17 starts) versus the Blues.

Allen is expected to start again tonight over Brian Elliott and has split two previous starts versus the Blackhawks, giving up five goals on 72 shots faced.