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Blackhawks vs. Blues preview: Grand Central faceoff for playoff positioning

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Chicago host St. Louis in a key battle in the Central Division race.

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Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Crawford will get the start and Marcus Kruger will play when the Chicago Blackhawks host the St. Louis Blues on Sunday at the United Center.

Kruger rested Sunday morning. Patrick Kane, who began practicing this week, took Kruger's center spot on the fourth line. Michal Rozsival is expected to play for David Rundblad on the blueline. Rundblad will be a healthy scratch. Forward Kyle Baun and defenseman Michael Paliotta also practiced but neither will make their NHL debuts.

Nashville leads the Central Division with 104 points, but the Blues and the Blackhawks are just one and two points behind the Predators, respectively. Nashville has three regular-season games remaining, while Chicago and St. Louis each have four left, including two against each other.

[MORE: Blackhawks playoff picture: April 5]

The Blackhawks lost the first two games in last spring's postseason matchup before winning four straight to win the series in six games. If Nashville wins the division, a rematch would be in order.

Chicago dropped the season series opener this year, but has claimed the past two contests. The Blackhawks have won four of the past five regular-season games overall, including three straight at the Madhouse on Madison.

The Blackhawks enter Sunday's game on a four-game winning streak. After a night off, Crawford will man the crease, he is 12-2-3 with a 2.25 goals-against average in 17 regular-season games against St. Louis.

[MORE: Teuvo Teravinen carving out a niche on the fourth line]

The Chicago Cubs also host the St. Louis Cardinals on Opening Night, while the Chicago Bulls tip off against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Ohio. With three Chicago teams facing their biggest division rivals Sunday, it could be a great day for Chicago sports or a disaster. Hopefully, the latter won't happen.

Here are the lines from Sunday's morning skate:

Versteeg Toews Hossa
Sharp Richards Vermette
Bickell Shaw Saad
Desjardins Kruger Teravainen

Opponent Breakdown: St. Louis Blues

The Blues stumbled into April, winning only once in their final six games in March but have reversed their fortunates to begin the new month with consecutive wins. St. Louis posted a 4-1 victory Thursday against the Calgary Flames before winning a 7-5 wild affair against the Dallas Stars on the road.

Jaden Schwartz scored his second career hat trick, Patrik Berglund also tallied a pair of goals, while Zbynek Michalek and Alex Pietrangelo each posted a goal and an assist. Brian Elliot stopped 26 shots in the win, but Jake Allen will get the start against the Blackhawks.

Allen stopped 29 shots in a 4-1 loss Dec. 3 in his only appearance against the Blackhawks.

Blues' star players Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko have been sidelined with lower-body injuries. Steen is questionable leading into Sunday's game, while Tarasenko will miss his third straight game. Tarasenko paces the Blues with 36 goals and 71 points, while Steen is the team's second-leading scorer with 62 points.

Schwartz has stepped up in Steen's and Tarasenko's absence with six points (four goals, two assists) in his last four games. This season, he has 28 goals and 61 points. Schwartz has posted a goal and an assist in three games against Chicago.

Injury Report

ChicagoPatrick Kane (collarbone) and Joakim Nordstrom (upper-body)

St. Louis: Vladimir Tarasenko (day-to-day, leg) and Alexander Steen (day-to-day, knee)

Game Information

When: 6:30 p.m. CT

Where: United Center


Radio: WGN-720

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