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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 2:21 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Back-to-back has challenges for both Blues, Jackets

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- They used to be quite common in the NHL years ago when teams would play home-and-home back-to-back games, especially division rivalries.

They're not quite as frequent these days, but for division rival St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets, they'll go at it again Sunday night after locking up Saturday night in St. Louis.

The Blues (44-18-7) kept their NHL-best mark with a 4-1 victory, snapping the Blue Jackets' winning streak at four and winning their fourth straight. It'll be a successful weekend for the Blues if they can sweep, with this being the start if a seven-game trip.

"Only if you win them," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. "They become survival games.

"This is a tough go for both teams. This is a quick turnaround with (a) bad time change. You lose an hour (with daylight savings), then you lose another hour in the (eastern) time change. This is a tough go for both teams and then have an early start. This is a hard go for us."

There were fisticuffs throughout, and one would expect in these home-and-home series for some bad blood to carry over.

"I think they're cool," said Blues winger Chris Stewart, whose second-period goal snapped a 1-1 tie. "I think they build that playoff atmosphere. Any runs we can get in before the playoffs here and some high-intensity games here are going to be good for us."

Added Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk: "It reminds me of the college schedule, at least back east, we used to do a lot of home-and-homes. It makes it interesting hockey and you get some bad blood brewing. I'm sure there's going to be some stuff carrying over into (tonight's) game. It's good for the league."

- - -

Blues defenseman Ian Cole continues to learn and make strides towards that permanent spot on the Blues' roster.

The first step was when the team decided that even with more than enough healthy defensemen available, Cole would remain on the active roster here rather than go back to Peoria and become eligible to be on their playoff roster.

Cole has since played three games with Kent Huskins sidelined with a bruised hand, and Hitchcock has seen both sides of the ledger.

"He's had some really good stretches and then ... he's had some stretches where he's tried to overextend himself, defensively or whatever," Hitchcock said. "I think moving forward, if we're going to use him as a real player, we're going to have to work with him on the good things he's doing. He's got strength one-on-one and he moves the puck at times well. But defensively, we've got to get him to receive the rush more rather than attack people. He's taking some penalties attacking people."

Cole took a pair of penalties in the game Tuesday against Chicago, particularly one where he was whistled for interference that Hitchcock said is all about making the correct read and not rushing into judgment.

"That's just patience," Hitchcock said. "I think it's just getting him to be more patient in his game will make him a better player. The way he plays and his skill-set is, less is more. It's not so much more with the puck, it's without the puck. Over-exuberance at times.

"If we can get that calmed down at times, we're going to get a good player here."

- - -

The Blues will try once again for a fifth straight win this season, an area they have failed to capitalize on six previous times.

The Blues have had six four-game winning streaks this season and have failed to win a fifth on each occasion.

They are tied with Detroit for the most wins in the league with 44, and Hitchcock feels like his team is finding ways to win and there's more to accomplish.

"I don't think it's clicking," he said. "I think it's more finding a way. For maybe six weeks, it was five-on-five play, PK was just OK and the power play wasn't very good, goaltending's kind of been the key thing all year. They've given us the big save, but we've really been good five-on-five. Now five-on-five's slipped a little bit and the special teams have come back up.

"I just think it's a combination of finding a way. ... We've got great team spirit. We don't overwhelm you with our skill level. We don't lead the league in anything scoring-wise, but we just find a way to chip it in and get that one-goal edge that you need to win."

- - -

Columbus (22-39-7), which saw its season-best four-game winning streak snapped with Saturday's loss, is looking at the future rather than a playoff berth. It's been that way for some time with the horrendous start to their season.

Interim coach Todd Richards is looking at players the team has recalled from their AHL affiliate in Springfield (Mass.) and said they need to embrace an opportunity.

"As an American (Hockey) League player and as a young guy, these are the opportunities ... when the door opens up, you're looking forward to it," Richards said. "(St. Louis) is a big, heavy team, plays fast, obviously first in the league, so a challenge but an opportunity for players.

"It's a chance for us as a staff and organization to see some of these guys play in a difficult situation."

As for playing against the Blues, Richards mentioned before the teams' meeting here in Feb. 14 that for the Jackets to be successful and win, they need to be prepared to win a 2-1 type of game -- which is exactly what they won by.

"Still the same," Richards said regarding playing the Blues. "They play hard, a very disciplined team. I will use the word patient and what I mean by that is I think they're aggressive, and I know that's a contradiction in saying aggressive and patient. What I mean by that is they'll dump pucks, they'll continue to play a certain way. They're going to go after it, but they play a certain way and they wait for you to break or make a mistake and then capitalize and they tend to feed off the momentum that's usually created there.

"If the game is dumping and chasing, we have to do the same thing. We can't turn pucks over and (we have to) play along with the patience. We still want to be aggressive and match their puck management."
Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 2:19 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected Blues-Blue Jackets lineups

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The probable lineups for tonight's Central Division rematch between the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets from Nationwide Arena.


Vladimir Sobotka - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Chris Porter - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

Halak, who has won seven straight starts (matching a career best) will get the start looking for his eighth straight win. Elliott stopped 21 shots in Saturday's 4-1 win over Columbus.

D Kent Huskins (bruised hand), D Kris Russell (concussion), RW Jamie Langenbrunner (broken foot), RW Matt D'Agostini (concussion) and LW Alex Steen (concussion) are on injured reserve. C T.J. Hensick is a healthy scratch. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock did say that three of the injured players (likely Huskins, Russell and Langenbrunner) would become available at some point on the first leg of the trip.


RJ Umberger - Derick Brassard - Rick Nash
Vinny Prospal - Mark Letestu - Cam Atkinson
Colton Gillies - Darryl Boyce - Jared Boll
Dane Byers - Ryan Johansen - Ryan Russell

Jack Johnson - James Wisniewski
Aaron Johnson - Nikita Nikitin
John Moore - Brett Lebda

Curtis Sanford
Allen York

The Blue Jackets are without D Fedor Tyutin (hand), C Derek MacKenzie (concussion), LW Kristian Huselius (lower body), D Radek Martinek (concussion) and D Marc Methot (jaw). All are on injured reserve. RW Derek Dorsett (upper-body) missed Saturday's game and is day-to-day. Richards said Saturday he didn't think Dorsett would be ready for Sunday's game but didn't rule him out either. G Steve Mason (hand), who was in goal for the four-game winning streak for the Jackets last week, will not play again tonight after missing Saturday.
Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 3:46 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Sanford returns to St. Louis with Blue Jackets

ST. LOUIS -- It's a homecoming of sorts for Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Curtis Sanford, who will get the start tonight against the St. Louis Blues.

Sanford, 32, got his NHL career started here in St. Louis, playing in parts of three seasons (2002-03 and 2005-07) that were certainly lean years for the St. Louis franchise.

He was 5-1-0 in eight games in 2002-03 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in limited duty for a Blues team that was 41-24-11-6 and used seven goalies that season.

But from 2005-07, Sanford was part of some tough teams that labored through some tough moments and the records certainly reflected them. He also spent time in the Blues' minor league system

However, Sanford was 21-25-10 in those two seasons and did his part to keep the ship afloat for the Blues to get to where they are now.

"That's a hard thing for franchises to accept that sometimes you have to go through lean years to really cherish the good times when they do come," Sanford said. "You take a look at teams around the league, a lot of teams have had to do it and build from within and they've done that. They've done an extremely good job.

"It's been a while (since his time in St. Louis), but I'm just trying to enjoy this experience again and make the most of it. You just never know when it's going to end, so you make the most of it."

Sanford, who is 10-15-4 with a 2.61 GAA and .912 save percentage with Columbus this season, is making the most of an opportunity after some tough and mentally draining years laboring behind Roberto Luongo in Vancouver and then having to shuffle around playing in the AHL.

"I didn't play a lot when I went to Vancouver," said Sanford, who played with current Blues Barret Jackman, David Backes and Roman Polak here in St. Louis. "Obviously Roberto played a ton there, so starts were hard to come by. Then I had to go down to the minors for a couple years in Hamilton with the Montreal organization.

"It's been a tough go, but just basically I've tried to stay on top of my game, not get too down on myself and just look at the positives in life. … I've tried to make the most of the opportunity. I didn't know what the start of the year was going to bring. I just wanted to make sure that I was prepared to play at this level when I was called upon. That's basically the way I've looked at it. It's been a tough year, but on a personal level, I've enjoyed the experience and play as well as I can."

Sanford, who has since added two more sons to the household since his playing days in St. Louis and has three boys, is a busy dad.
"It's a crazy household," Sanford joked. "Being away from them has been the tough part to deal with because I didn't know what was going to happen at the beginning of the season, but they've been great."


The Blue Jackets are currently riding a four-game winning streak, their longest winning streak since winning five in a row in November of 2010. For a team that has had to endure the turmoil of a horrendous start to the season, all the trade rumors of captain Rick Nash and dealing Jeff Carter to Los Angeles for a package that included defenseman Jack Johnson, it's been a pleasant change of pace for interim coach Todd Richards.

"Having won four games in a row with the teams that we've beat, how we've won the games, there's a confident group in the room," Richards said. "We respect our opponents, a lot of respect for the St. Louis team coming in. This will be a great challenge, but I think the guys are feeling good about themselves and are ready for that challenge."
Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 2:45 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Blues welcome NFL coach Rex Ryan to morning skate

ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock's clone made an appearance at Scottrade Center Saturday morning.

No, there's no twin brother for the veteran Blues coach, but judging by the physique and coaching mannerisms to a certain degree, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan is a lot like Hitchcock in many ways.

Ryan is in town and will be a spectator tonight for a Central Division matchup between a matchup of the NHL's top team (the Blues) and the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets.

Ryan is in town visiting older brother Jim, who lives in St. Louis, and nephew James and was on hand for the morning skate Saturday.

"We're now in James' element and older brother Jim's element," Ryan said afterwards. "It was kind of neat. A sport is a sport and you're watching this team ... this is what I want for our football team to where everybody buys in. They have one all-star player and it's the backup goalie. That's incredible, and here they are having the best record in hockey.

"When you look at it, I think, 'Man, you coach this team like a football team.' And that's true. He spent a lot of time around football coaches as well. This is my first opportunity to really be around a great hockey coach, and clearly that's what he is."

When Hitchcock was coaching the Philadelphia Flyers, he would often spend time with friend Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles' practices and absorbed a lot of teaching tools from those experiences.

"I've learned from football," Hitchcock said. "I've learned about the sense of timing, I've learned about preparation, I've learned about details from it. I spent that year with the Eagles and I learned a lot. I learned what we thought was attention to detail wasn't even close to what they do. I've learned about the discipline, I learned about how they coach people up hard and get people to respond that way.

"They're at a level above us. I knew (Ryan) was a big hockey fan. He lived with his mom in Toronto there for a long time. I knew he was a big hockey fan there. He talked about it a lot. He appreciates our sport and I think he likes our team and likes the way we play. Any time other people from other sports can be around your team, I think it energizes everybody in the building because it's nice to see other sports respect our sport. It was nice to see all the Cards hanging around here. It was good for us. It's good to see a guy like Rex and his family hang around."

New York Giants fan and New York native Kevin Shattenkirk jokingly said it would have been nice to look over and see Giants coach Tom Coughlin but appreciated the talk with Ryan.

"Coach Ryan is a very nice guy," Shattenkirk said. "I went up and chatted with him about the New York area and talking about when he played goalie when he was younger. He knows the game a little bit. He was just telling us to get to the playoffs and do what we do best.

"We had just a quick conversation, but he seemed like he was like a kid on the bench watching us play. He said he could feel how close our team was and how great our team chemistry seems. It's nice to get it from a guy like that."

Ryan, whose Jets missed the playoffs this past season after back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship game, said hockey and football are a lot alike from a personnel standpoint.

"I have some kind of control when I'm on a field. I feel a little out of place here," Ryan joked. "The skill level of these guys is incredible.

"The odds of playing in the National Hockey League or the NFL, you have better odds of winning the lottery. That's how special these guys are. That's kind of neat watching them."

- - -

With the teams at the opposite ends of the NHL standings, there's a sense that the top team can tend to have a bit of a letdown facing a team that hasn't had things together. But for the Blues, who will have a home-and-home series with the Blue Jackets this weekend, they can't have that mindset ... especially when they are trying to maintain their stay atop the NHL standings.

"The fortunate thing for us is we always know we get a battle when we play the Blue Jackets," Shattenkirk said. "There's a little bit of a rivalry factor there, especially with it being a divisional opponent. It keeps us on our toes.

"We know how good this team can be, how good Columbus can really play when they're at their best. There's a lot of threats on the team, so we can't sit back. All these points mean just as much for us. It's going to be important."

Hitchcock appreciates the attitude his team takes on a night in, night out basis.

"There's a sense of discipline here, but there's also attention to detail," Hitchcock said. "We don't let a pregame skate off the hook, we don't let a practice off the hook, we stop it. Everything is scripted. If we got the players to respond to that, I think that's what football is."

- - -

The Blues will bring in a 28-4-4 home record against a team that's 9-20-4 away from the home confines of Nationwide Arena. The 28 wins matches the top spot in the NHL with Detroit and Hitchcock said the fan appreciation is an element that can't be overlooked.

"This is a crowd that's in their seats at 6:45," he said. "The game's at 7:08. This is a crowd that's in the seats at 6:45. This isn't a 7:15 crowd. I think that part really helps us. You come in and the place is full before the drop of the puck, I think that energizes any team, and I've seen that. It's not a lot different.

"It's the same in San Jose, it's the same in Detroit. They're in their seats. That helps the players a lot. It's a blue-collar team with a blue-collar crowd. Everybody comes and wants to see the start and they want to come see the puck get dropped. They're here early. I think our players feed off that energy. It's very relevant."
Posted On Saturday, 03.10.2012 / 2:17 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blues, Blue Jackets

ST. LOUIS -- The probable lineups for a Central Division game tonight between the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets from Scottrade Center.


Vladimir Sobotka - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Chris Porter - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

Elliott (20-8-2 with an NHL-leading 1.63 goals-against average and .937 save percentage) gets only his second start in 10 days and third in 18; Halak, who has accumulated the bulk of the starts recently, will get a day off and will start Sunday in Columbus.

D Kent Huskins (bruised hand), D Kris Russell (concussion), RW Jamie Langenbrunner (broken foot), RW Matt D'Agostini (concussion) and LW Alex Steen (concussion) are on injured reserve. C T.J. Hensick will once again be a healthy scratch.


RJ Umberger - Derick Brassard - Rick Nash
Vinny Prospal - Mark Letestu - Cam Atkinson
Colton Gillies - Darryl Boyce - Maksim Mayorov
Dane Byers - Ryan Johansen - Ryan Russell

Jack Johnson - James Wisniewski
Aaron Johnson - Nikita Nikitin
John Moore - Brett Lebda

Curtis Sanford
Allen York

Sanford started his NHL career with the Blues and played in St. Louis for parts of three seasons (2002-02 and 2005-07). York was recalled from the minors Friday to replace the injured Steve Mason (hand).
The Blue Jackets are without D Fedor Tyutin (hand), C Derek Mackenzie (concussion), LW Kristian Huselius (lower body), D Radek Martinek (concussion), D Marc Methot (jaw) and RW Jared Boll (foot). All are on injured reserve. RW Derek Dorsett (upper-body) is day-to-day. Mason will not play in either game this weekend against the Blues.
Posted On Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 2:20 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Simplifying game got Shattenkirk out of rut

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk has by his own admission been a streaky player. So when the 23-year-old recently went through a stretch without a point in 14 of 15 games, the tendencies were to try and press the issue, force something that may not be there.

"When things kind of take a downward spiral for me, I start thinking too much," Shattenkirk said. "You can see it out there just in some stagnant play. That's something that we talk about day in and day out, is just go out there and play, skate and let everything kind of come naturally to you. (The coaches) know as well as anyone that I like to play off my instincts and I react to plays more to kind of set (the teammates) up ahead of time. It's nice to have coaches who understand how I play and who understand how to get players out of those ruts."

Shattenkirk is out of that "rut." With 8 points in five games and 12 in the last 11, he is setting a standard along with fellow defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (29 points in 29 games) that the Blues have some special blueliners.

"He was forcing it," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Shattenkirk. "He was looking at stats, he was looking at points and he wasn't doing enough, so then he started forcing it and then it just snowballed and got worse and worse. Now he's just back simplifying it. He's not forcing it.

"To me, when he stopped forcing it defensively, then he started getting better offensively. I think he went through a stretch where he was gambling too much defensively and we were giving up odd-man rushes and pucks were in our net. I think he's just calmed down a lot and letting the game come to him. He's been way more effective."

Having a defensive partner like Barret Jackman seems to be a calming influence on the younger Shattenkirk, a go-getter who likes to join in the rush and attack the offensive zone as opposed to the more stay-at-home Jackman.

"He's getting some points on our power play and that's where he gets a lot of his points," Jackman said of his d-partner. "But it's simple hockey, he hasn't changed all year. He's been playing solid all year, moving the puck well and just moving his feet. He's such a great skater, sees the ice so well ... they're going to come. Speaking from a guy that went 150 games, eventually they come.

"He's got the skills, he's got all the tools. Sometimes the simpler you make it, the easier things come. You're not over-thinking the game. You just go out there and play and things fall into place. Once in a while, it just takes a bounce that goes your way. All of the sudden, you go into a stretch that both him and Petro are on right now. They're picking up points every night. We don't need them to do that every other night, but it definitely helps out our offense and gets our defense involved."

Shattenkirk, who is tied for fourth in the NHL at plus-26, is feeling it right now. And the feeling is pretty good.

"I always seem to have spurts when things kind of start falling into place," Shattenkirk said. "For a while there, it seemed like I was pressing and things weren't going my way or bounces weren't going my way. Now things are kind of just happening for me. When I feel these times coming along, you feel confident and you just stick with it because you have a feeling that maybe something might fall for you."
Posted On Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 1:46 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blues, Ducks

ST. LOUIS -- Here are the probable lineups for Thursday's matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks:

Vladimir Sobotka - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Chris Porter - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

Halak is 6-0-0 with a 1.46 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in his last six starts. Elliott will get the start Saturday against Columbus.

On injured reserve are Alex Steen (concussion), Matt D'Agostini (concussion), Jamie Langenbrunner (broken foot) and Kris Russell (concussion symptoms). Defenseman Kent Huskins (bruised hand) will miss his second straight game. Huskins, Russell (in red no-contact jersey) and Langenbrunner all took part in the morning skate.

Niklas Hagman - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Bobby Ryan - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Andrew Cogliano - Nick Bonino - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jason Blake - Rod Pelley - Matt Beleskey

Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Lubomir Visnovsky - Luca Sbisa
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers

Hiller, who leads the NHL in appearances and starts this season, will make his 62nd appearance this season. Hiller will be making his club-record 27th straight start tonight.

Healthy scratches for the Ducks will include winger George Parros and defenseman Nate Guenin. Goaltender Dan Ellis (groin strain) is on injured reserve.
Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 3:21 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Blues' Russell sent home with concussion-like symptoms

The St. Louis Blues may be dealing with yet another concussion after defenseman Kris Russell was sent home following a 3-2 shootout win Thursday at Nashville to be evaluated for concussion-like symptoms.

Russell may have been injured on a play where he may have taken an elbow to the head from the Predators' Colin Wilson after being stripped from behind with the puck with 12 minutes, 47 seconds remaining in the game.

The Blues, who completed the first leg of a six-game trip that takes them to Winnipeg on Saturday, have recalled defenseman Ian Cole from Peoria.

Russell, who has already missed nine games earlier this season with a groin injury, has three goals and three assists in 36 games with the Blues.

If Russell in fact has a concussion, he would be the the sixth player to have dealt with a concussion since the start of the season, joining David Perron, Andy McDonald, Carlo Colaiacovo, Alex Steen and Matt D'Agostini. Perron's absence carried over from a concussion last season.

Cole would be making another trip back to St. Louis on recall this season. He has a goal and six points in 18 games for the Blues this season and nine points in 44 career games.

The team is likely to reinsert Kent Huskins into the lineup against the Jets on Saturday but coach Ken Hitchcock likes Cole and could use him at times for the remainder of the trip.
Posted On Wednesday, 02.22.2012 / 2:44 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Bruins continue to search for missing offense

ST. LOUIS -- In an effort to spark their suddenly anemic offense, the Boston Bruins (35-20-2), who have been shut out in four of the last nine games, will continue to go with a line they used in a 2-0 loss Sunday at Minnesota that features Chris Kelly in the middle and David Krejci, a natural centerman, on the wing with Milan Lucic.

"I thought our line had some good chances," Kelly said. "David's a smart player. We can figure the right wing, center thing out pretty easily. I don't see that being a problem. Hopefully we can go out there and generate some chances."

Bruins coach Claude Julien said it's a case of finding the right pieces.

"It's a situation that we don't have much of a choice right now," Julien said. "We're trying to find combinations here that will give us some offense. This is what we're trying right now. We hope that they adapt well enough that they'll be able to bring something to the game tonight. That's where we are. It's the reality of having to deal with injuries and having to move players around."

The Bruins, who are 0-2 on their current six-game trip, have dropped seven of 11 games and are still second in the Eastern Conference but have the Ottawa Senators right on their tails, only two points back with 70.

Their 2-0 loss to the Wild Sunday generated 48 shots but Niklas Backstrom was nothing short of a brick wall in net.

"We got close to 50 shots, some quality scoring chances," Kelly said. "I don't think we gave up a ton of chances. Give them credit, they capitalized on the chances they had. Hopefully we can continue to build on, especially that third period, I thought we played well in Minny."

Julien is still searching for more effort.

"The effort ... I think the will is there," he said. "Is the effort directed in the right area? Maybe not. I think a lot of it has to do with being probably a little more positive. What we've tried to do here in the last couple days is stay positive and fight our way through it."

Fighting through it won't come easy against a Blues team that is 26-3-4 on home ice.

"They don't give up much," Julien said of the Blues. "They're a hard team to play against. They're feeling good about themselves right now so I think that's a challenge within itself. ... They're very hard to play against and they like to do a lot of the things we like to do."
Posted On Wednesday, 02.22.2012 / 2:38 PM

By Louie Korac - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Blues to honor Tkachuk's induction into U.S. Hall

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues will honor Keith Tkachuk and his recent induction to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame with a pre-game ceremony tonight when the Blues host the Boston Bruins at Scottrade Center.

Tkachuk, a Boston native, was a four-time United States Olympian and silver medalist at the 2002 Winter Games. Among American-born players in NHL history, the five-time All-Star ranks second in goals (538) and fifth in points (1,065).

A number of the current Blues, including B.J. Crombeen, remember what it was like learning to be a pro under the watchful eye of a player likely destined for the NHL Hall of Fame as well.

"It was a great honor to even be able to play with a guy like that," Crombeen said of Tkachuk, who played in 542 games with the Blues, recording 208 goals and 219 assists. "You look at the history he's had, everywhere he's went, he's been successful.

"It was pretty neat for me as a young guy to come in and have a guy like that to look up at and see how he plays the game and how he gets ready every day. It's exciting for all the people here in St. Louis. It's neat that he gets honored in a way like he is tonight."


Vladimir Sobotka, who was acquired by the Blues from the Bruins in 2010 for the rights to Boston native and defenseman David Warsofsky, will face his former teammates for the second time since the trade.

Sobotka, who has 3 goals and 17 points in 50 games this season, scored in his first game against the Bruins a season ago, a 2-1 Blues shootout win at TD Garden.

"He's a good fit for us, just like he was in Boston," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Sobotka. "He was a versatile guy in Boston, moved him up and down the lineup. ... He's one of those guys that's an underrated player, kind of a glue guy for the hockey club. He fits the way we play. You're trying to build a work ethic, you're trying to build a kind of an edge to your game. He's a tough little guy. That's exactly what we need.

"I think where he helps us is that when we get in trouble injury-wise or we get down roster-wise, he's a guy that can step up in the short-term and play up in the lineup, just like he is right now."

Sobotka will move up and play on the Blues' top line tonight with David Backes and T.J. Oshie.

"It's a good fit for us because he takes a lot of the left side faceoffs for David," Hitchcock said. "That helps, so they start with the puck more. He's a smart player. He knows how to manage the game properly. He's good on the forechecks. To me, he's a lot like (Chris) Kelly is or (Rich) Peverley is for Boston. He's able to move up and down the lineup and be productive. We'd like him to hit the net more. He's wearing out the glass in some of the buildings, but if we can get him hitting the net a little more, he'll be alright."


The Blues (36-16-7) will go back with Carlo Colaiacovo tonight after the defenseman missed the previous three games, including one with a right wrist injury.

Kent Huskins, who returned to play three games following a fractured bone in his left ankle, will sit out.

"One thing we didn't read was missing so many games for Husky because he was good, and then he hit the wall," Hitchcock said. "This is a way to regroup and get the energy back going getting ready for this weekend."
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Quote of the Day

We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
World Cup of Hockey 2016