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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 3:22 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Crosby remains in California after visiting specialist

ST. LOUIS -- The Pittsburgh Penguins continue to try to give daily updates on star center Sidney Crosby, but coach Dan Bylsma said Tuesday that he's in California after visiting with Dr. Robert S. Bray, a neurological spine specialst, to continue to treat the lingering effects of concussion-like symptoms, which will force Crosby to miss his 21st straight game tonight after playing in eight upon his return.

So in essence, no new real information.

"Not a timetable because it's possible he could stay there for a little bit of a break as well," Bylsma said of Crosby. "Not a definitive day back in Pittsburgh because he'll be staying on the beach for a little bit."

Crosby first went to Atlanta to pay a visit to Ted Carrick, the chiropractic Neurologist who treated the 2009 NHL MVP for his concussion symptoms last summer.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 3:15 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Homecoming for Missouri native Vitale

ST. LOUIS -- Tonight's game against the Blues isn't just a run-of-the-mill hockey game for Pittsburgh Penguins center Joe Vitale. It's a chance to play at home.

Vitale, from nearby Sunset Hills, Mo., will make his first appearance on Scottrade Center ice since his senior year in high school, when he helped CBC High School knock off De Smet in the Missouri Mid-States State Championship game in 2004.

"I had some good memories here when I was a kid and playing two periods at Blues games," said Vitale, who has 2 goals and 9 points in 41 games this season. "I obviously played in playoff state championships here. To play here and come back and play (against) the Blues, it's pretty crazy, but I'm pretty sure it'll sink in sometime later this week when I'm on break."

Vitale will have a plethora of family and friends in attendance, to which he said: "I lost count. They got about three boxes. I let them have at it with that. People keep asking for tickets, but I finally had to shut my phone off. It's gameday and I'm trying to focus now."

His dad helped him in that aspect, but he's just glad to see a dream come true for a local kid.

"Twenty years ago, this wasn't really a hockey hotbed," said Vitale, who played most of his youth hockey at the local Affton Ice Rink. "So the expectations were pretty low. I was just kind of out there having fun. So it's definitely exciting being out there.

"I glanced at (the schedule), but I was hopeful that I would be here. Around Christmas time, I thought I had a shot to play here. I really started getting excited then."

Vitale's teammates know the feeling.

"It's a great thing to have your family, siblings in the stands and all your friends you grew up with," defenseman Kris Letang said. "To have them get the chance to see you play live, it's pretty amazing that he has a chance to do that.

"I'm from Montreal, so when we play in Montreal, there's always a little something about it because I grew up watching (the Canadiens) play. It's always special to play in your hometown."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 01.21.2012 / 3:04 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ex-Blues forward Boyes returns to St. Louis

Former Blues forward Brad Boyes returns to Scottrade Center for the first time since he was dealt to the Sabres near the trade deadline last season -- Feb. 27 to be exact.
 
The Blues, who were out of the playoff hunt, dealt Boyes to the Sabres for a 2011 second-round draft pick, which the Blues used to draft Moose Jaw defenseman Joel Edmundson with the 46th pick.

Boyes went on to tally five goals and 14 points in 21 games with Buffalo a season ago and helped the Sabres reach the playoffs, but like many of his teammates, Boyes has struggled to find an offensive stride this season.

He has just three goals in 34 games this season -- one in his last 25 and a grand total of nine in 62 games, including the playoffs.

"It's been tough and frustrating for me," Boyes said. "But we've got another game, keep working at it, keep getting chances and putting those chances in. I've gone through stretches, but this is something that's obviously a little different.

"As for us as a team, it's been tough. It's something we're trying to figure out. We've been struggling scoring goals. That's one of the biggest things. We've just got to find some more ways to get some chemistry and get the power play going. Those are things we're really looking at. We've got the guys in the room to do it. We played really well early in the season. We're in one of those grooves in the wrong way."

Boyes spent Friday might with some of his ex-teammates with the Blues.

"I was able to grab dinner with some of the guys, so it was nice," said Boyes, who had 106 goals and 232 points in four seasons with the Blues. "I was with them for a long time and we became really close. It was good to see them again. It felt like old times again. They're doing well, which is great to see."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 01.21.2012 / 2:59 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Stingy Blues know how struggling Sabres feel

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues enter tonight's matchup with the Buffalo Sabres as stingy as can be.

They're the only team in the Western Conference to not have allowed 100 goals on the season (94) and are one of three teams (the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins are the others) to be in such selective company.

A big reason for that is not only do the Blues (28-12-6) have four shutouts in six games, but they have a string of 10 consecutive games in which they haven't allowed a third-period goal.

They're chasing a record of 13 straight set by the 1928-29 Montreal Canadiens, which is quite a feat in itself.

A big key to the success is the shutdown goaltending of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. They're No. 1 in the NHL with a goals-against average of 1.91 and have a combined save percentage of .926. But for the Blues, this has been a collective effort, from the forwards backchecking to the defensemen limiting second and third opportunities and then to the goaltending making timely saves.

It all adds up to game where scoring chances are limited against this bunch right now, something coach Ken Hitchcock wants.

"Hitch stresses team defense," winger Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We've bought into that pretty darn well. You obviously have to have goalies making some big saves. You're going to make mistakes out there and they're going to have to come up big. They've done that. Our D has played solid and our forwards have come back and working for them."

Hitchcock agrees.

"One of the things that really helps is that our forwards work for our defensemen," he said. "It allows our defensemen to have a very good gap, it allows our defensemen to trust our forwards and that's why we're successful. We have four lines that really work for the defense and the goalie."

The Blues certainly realize the run they're on and would like for it to continue.

"We do bear down in the third and kind of say to ourselves, 'let's take care of the defensive side of it first,' " defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "Our M.O. is we want to be a third-period team. It's been great to kind of lock down in the third period and know that our goalies are gonna save the pucks and we're going to limit those second and third opportunities."

The St. Louis Blues (28-12-6), who entertain the Buffalo Sabres (19-23-5) in the teams' only meeting of the season, know what Buffalo is going through and don't wish it on anyone.
It's become a mental mindset for the Sabres, who have lost a franchise-record 11 straight regulation road games and are 1-6-1 on their last eight games. This is after the team that started 8-3 away from home.

"When I watch them play, the feeling is they go great and then there's the 'oh no,' and when the 'oh no' comes in, it's the hardest thing in coaching to put the brakes on," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "... They've got the 'oh no's' going. They get a bad play and it seems like every bad play ends up in your net."

Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers agreed.

"We're having good moments throughout games," Myers said. “It's just a matter of 10 or 15 minutes where we have those mental mistakes. If we really focus on going into a game trying to eliminate those, it'll definitely help us."

"I'm feeling for Lindy," Hitchcock said of Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "We've all been through that stuff. We were through that in Columbus. We took the big step, made the playoffs, we're thinking things are really going to go and then we get the 'oh no' games going. We're on the wrong side of every darn road game. You get a bad feeling amongst your team. You feel for the guy.

"... Winning is a feeling. When you're on the wrong side of the feeling, it looks like you can never get over it, and when you're on the right side, it looks like you're never going to lose again."

Buffalo's last road win was a 3-2 victory at Nashville on Dec. 3. Going against the team with the best home record in the Blues, who are 20-3-3, could certainly boost the morale of a group fighting it.

"It's perfect for us," Myers said. "They're on a big roll right now. It would be a great team to end this streak we have going right now. We're going to have to bring our best to beat them. Obviously things are going pretty bad for us right now. Everyone in the room believes we can work out of it. It's just a matter of getting back to working hard and playing within our system. I think after this morning, we have a good mindset coming into tonight."

Ruff, believes the Blues will come at his team with full force early in the game.

"I imagine they're licking their chops, they should be," Ruff said of the Blues. "Any time you see a team at the end of a road trip that has struggled, I'm sure they're gonna really want to come after us with all five guys."

The Blues, who are 7-0-1 in the month of January and 12-0-2 in their last 14 home games, are aware of what they face and don't want to be the team that breaks the Sabres' losing skid.
"We definitely don't want it to be us that kick-starts their comeback if they get it going," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "If you look at Buffalo, they were pegged to be one of the best teams in the East. I still think they have a very solid team.

"Teams get into ruts in the middle of the season. It happens, but we can't come into it thinking it's just another game that we can walk through and start looking at Monday (at Detroit) and forget about this one. If anything, they're going to come out hitting and play physical."

Here are the projected lineups for the Buffalo Sabres and St. Louis Blues from Scottrade Center:

SABRES

Thomas Vanek - Jochen Hecht - Jason Pominville
Drew Stafford - Derek Roy - Nathan Gerbe
Ville Leino - Luke Adam - Patrick Kaleta
Matt Ellis - Cody McCormick - Brad Boyes

Andrej Sekera - Tyler Myers
Joe Finley - Jordan Leopold
Mike Weber - Marc-Andre Gragnani

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth

Defenseman TJ Brennan has the flu and will not play. Center Paul Gaustad (upper-body) is also out after being injured Wednesday in Chicago. Wings Tyler Ennis (ankle) and Colin Stuart (lower-body), and defensemen Christian Ehrhoff (upper-body) and Brayden McNabb (upper-body) are on injured reserve. Defenseman Robyn Regehr (upper-body) has missed the last three games.

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Matt D'Agostini - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott
Halak is 10-0-3 with a 1.50 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in his last 13 starts. He is coming off back-to-back 1-0 shutout victories and carries a 148:25 shutout streak into the game.
The Blues will be without wing Alex Steen (concussion symptoms), who is day-to-day. On injured reserve include forward Andy McDonald (concussion) and defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle). Defenseman Ian Cole and wing Chris Porter are healthy scratches.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 2:56 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Steen still not ready for Blues

ST. LOUIS -- For the second time in a week, the St. Louis Blues were anticipating the return of winger Alex Steen to the lineup.

And for the second time, it's been determined that Steen (concussion-related symptoms) is not quite ready to return.

Steen will miss his 10th consecutive game when the Blues (27-12-6) entertain the Edmonton Oilers (17-24-4) at 7 p.m. Thursday (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM). Steen continues to skate, and even took part in a full-scale workout Wednesday at St. Louis Mills, determining himself to be "close." But after Thursday's morning skate, the Blues said he's not at 100 percent.

"Steen's not 100 percent and he's not coming in until he's 100 percent, so the next update we'll give you which ... who knows, will be when he's in," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "It's a very similar situation with Andy (McDonald). He's not 100, so he's not playing.

"He's had good days, but until he's 100 (percent) with that injury, we're not taking any chances. ... He's participating in everything, but this is 100 percent physically, 100 percent mentally and if it's 95 or 99, we're not taking any chances. We want this to be 100 percent, so if it's on a conditioning side where we're concerned with where there's kind of soreness the next day or he's missed a time and hit the wall, we're not taking any chances. We want the player for long-term so we'll keep him out and keep working him hard like we are now."

The good news for the Blues is that defenseman Kris Russell (groin) will make his return after missing nine games.

Russell, who has five points in 21 games with the Blues, will replace Ian Cole in the lineup.

"I didn't want to push it if I wasn't feeling right, but it felt good," Russell said after the morning skate. "Obviously a little bit of tightness in it, but I'm fully confident in my skating ability now. It should be good."

Hitchcock is one that if a player is ready to play, he's in; so there won't be any type of easing Russell back in.

"Hitch is always like that," Russell said. "If you're ready to go, you better execute and play within the system, be an effective player. That's what I want to do."

So for Russell, it's just do what he does best.

"Mostly it's just simplifying your game," Russell said. "Try not to do much, make quick first outlet passes, be sharp on the puck and let your game evolve from there. That's what I'm going to try and do."

With Alex Steen out of the lineup, the St. Louis Blues will keep things as they have been the last handful or so games. That means Matt D'Agostini will stay in a top-six role with Patrik Berglund and T.J. Oshie, while David Perron moves back up with David Backes and Chris Stewart.

That means the return of the 'Kid Line' will have to wait for the time being.

"We'll just go back to flipping him (D'Agostini) and flipping Perron back in with Backes and go back to where we were before," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "If we get in a situation like we did in the third period (Monday) where we think we need Oshie's energy and a little bit different role, then we'll go back to that.

"Oshie's been good wherever we play him. The thing that concerned me the last game, the (Backes) line was spending too much time on their heels. They were defending too much. It was too conservative. Wherever you play Oshie, it's not going to be a conservative group. You'll be on the forecheck all night. He created the energy that the line came with and he did a helluva job."
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POSTED ON Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 2:48 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Edmonton's Hall discusses facial injury

ST. LOUIS -- The Edmonton Oilers, who have suffered as many freakish injuries as any team in the NHL, addressed the strangest one of all, that of winger Taylor Hall, who suffered a scary cut to his head after being cut by a skate blade of teammate Corey Potter during pregame warmups Tuesday in Columbus.

Hall, who has 15 goals and 31 points in 36 games this season, accidentally stepped on a puck near the Oilers' goal, wiped out teammate Ladislav Smid in the process before being accidentally stepped on by Potter.

Hall received 30 stitches on the left side of his head and is sporting a black eye and swelling around the eye. He was not wearing a helmet when the incident occurred.

"I'm feeling better every day," said Hall, who will not play Thursday night. "From the time it happened and the freezing came out, it's pretty painful. But I'm not feeling too much pain now. I got some exercise in this morning and it held up. My face didn't swell up too much. I'm looking forward to getting back as soon as possible.

"I didn't feel too much pain (when the incident occurred). I thought it was just kind of a little cut. I knew right away when the blood was coming out pretty bad that it was serious. I just tried to get in the (locker) room as soon as possible and slow the bleeding down."

Hall said there's an outside chance he plays when the Oilers return home to face Calgary on Saturday.

"I'd like to think that I can try and play on Saturday against Calgary, but that's not for sure by any means. I want to get a helmet on and see how that feels and get a couple bumps in. There's no for sure when I'm going to play."

Oilers coach Tom Renney said there are no major repercussions with Hall.

"He certainly feels a lot better. He slept well for two nights now," Renney said. "The wound looks really good ... for me.

"The bottom line is it's a matter of impact and whether not the stitches might open up or whatever if in fact he gets hit. It's kind of a day-to-day thing. I know he would tell you he's ready to go tonight in talking to him. ... He's had no head issues whatsoever. He slept well, his appetite's good, no dizziness, nothing like that whatsoever. It's a matter of the healing of the wound."

What was Hall's reaction when he saw himself in a mirror for the first time?

"It doesn't look good, that's for sure," he said. "I looked a lot better before.

"What can you do? I said to someone this morning that it's lucky and it's unlucky at the same time. You can say that I'm lucky that I didn't get my eye taken out or my throat sliced or I'm just unlucky because something like this has never happened in the history of the sport with guys that have not worn a helmet in warmups. ... It's kind of the way the injuries have gone for this team."

Potter was shaken up before the game Tuesday but is obviously relieved his teammate is fine.

"Now that I know he's doing well, things are starting to calm down here and feeling a little better. I'm just happy that he's alright," Potter said. "... The guys in the locker room after warmups were definitely letting me know that it's alright. It was just kind of a freak accident and not to take it personally. They were there to back me up for sure."

The Colorado Avalanche issued a release stating that they are mandating all their players to wear helmets during pregame warmups. It might become a trend in the wake of the Hall incident.

"We're discussing that internally right now," Renney said. "You'll see everyone on with a helmet tonight.

"I'm not sure it's a (NHLPA) issue. Obviously they have a voice that we should all pay attention to. At the same time, at the end of the day, if this is what I want as a head coach or we as an organization, we do it."

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POSTED ON Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 2:44 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Probable lineups for Blues vs. Oilers

Thursday night's probable lineups between the St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers:

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - Chris Stewart
Matt D'Agostini - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

Halak is 9-0-3 with a 1.62 goals-against average and .938 save percentage in his past 12 starts, will get his sixth start in the past eight games Thursday night. He has shutouts in two of his previous three starts.
Forward Andy McDonald (concussion) and defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle) remain on injured reserve. Alex Steen (concussion symptoms) was expected to play Thursday night but will not after taking part in morning skate. Healthy scratches include defenseman Ian Cole and forward Chris Porter.

OILERS

Jordan Eberle - Sam Gagner - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Smyth - Shawn Horcoff - Ryan Jones
Anton Lander - Josh Green - Magnus Paajarvi
Darcy Hordichuk - Ryan O'Marra - Ben Eager

Ladislav Smid - Corey Potter
Andy Sutton - Jeff Petry
Theo Peckham - Colten Teubert

Nikolai Khabibulin
Devan Dubnyk

The laundry list of injured players for the Oilers is a long one. Included are defensemen Cam Barker (ankle), Ryan Whitney (ankle) and Tom Gilbert (knee), center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder), center Eric Belanger (leg) and winger Taylor Hall (facial laceration).
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POSTED ON Monday, 01.16.2012 / 1:58 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Pietrangelo starting to produce points for Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Alex Pietrangelo's six-game points streak is no fluke. But the St. Louis Blues' top defenseman wasn't quite himself in the early portions of the first half of the season.

"I kind of found myself second-guessing my shot there in the first half of the season," said Pietrangelo, who has 9 points in his last six games after only picking up 11 in his first 37 contests. "I think just simplifying it and putting pucks towards the net. I just want to shoot pucks towards the net a little more. It's made a huge difference."

But instead of getting discouraged, Pietrangelo kept at things and did all the other things that was making his game more complete.

Plus, the Blues (26-12-6), who host the Dallas Stars (24-18-1) tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, KMOX 1120-AM), were doing what cures all players' ails.

"We were winning," Pietrangelo said. "If I don't get any points and we win every game, I'm happy.

"Watching some video, I caught myself passing off when I could have shot it. Ever since then, it's really been a turnaround."

------------

His mind and body was into accomodating all St. Louis Blues fans Sunday night at the team's annual Rink Tours event, but for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, a Greenwich, Conn. native and huge New York Giants fan, part of him was elsewhere ... and rightfully so.

Shattenkirk was also busy celebrating the Giants' 37-20 upset win over the Green Bay Packers, who many touted to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

Shattenkirk was able to watch the first half of the game before departing to his venue, which was the U.S. Ice Sports Complex in Fairview Heights, Ill.

"Fortunately, they had a little breathing room and I hopped in the car on my way there and turned the radio on and listened to the end of the game on the way there," Shattenkirk said. "I got to watch the majority of it and it was a great win for the G-Men.

"I've followed them through the tough times and the good ones."

But did you know Shattenkirk, listed as 5-foot-11 and 208 pounds, was a football player himself in high school?

It never amounted to much, especially when his hockey coaches got wind of what he was doing.

"My high school hockey coach told me no more. I had to causally let it go," Shattenkirk said. "When I was younger, I started playing (football) when I was like 10 years old or so. I played in high school for two years and once I went out to Ann Arbor (Mich.), that was it. I played linebacker and running back and then I was a punter."

Shattenkirk's popularity Sunday was not only evident by fans realizing he was a Giants fan but also because he helped the Blues snap their shootout funk with the winner in Saturday's 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild.

"A lot of people came up saying thanks for breaking the curse," Shattenkirk joked. "A lot of people were giving me props for the Giants, too. I think there were more Packers haters than Giants fans, but we'll take them."

------------

The Blues will go once again without winger Alex Steen (concussion symptoms) and defenseman Kris Russell (groin) tonight against the Stars. Both skated again and both didn't hit any speed bumps, and according to coach Ken Hitchcock, Thursday's home game against Edmonton is a realistic option.

"He had a very good day yesterday, very good day today," Hitchcock said of Steen, who will miss his ninth consecutive game tonight. "We'll practice him hard Tuesday and Wednesday and see how he is for Thursday. He hasn't had a team practice yet. All he's done is isolation practices. He'll get team practices in the next two days. Looks very good. We'll work him up and hopefully continue to get him ready for Thursday.

"Russell, same thing conditioning-wise. Not quite there. Tuesday, Wednesday practice and hopefully ready for Thursday also."

Forward Andy McDonald, out with a concussion, has played in three of 45 games this season.

Hitchcock was asked when he feels McDonald will shed the red no-contact jersey.

"Until the color changes, don't even get in there," Hitchcock said. "He's our best player on the ice, every day in practice but don't even get me going there. He scores all the goals in the shootouts, all the goals in the line rushes, but until the color of the sweater changes ... no."

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POSTED ON Monday, 01.16.2012 / 1:54 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blues, Stars

ST. LOUIS -- Tonight's probable lineups between the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars:

BLUES
David Perron - David Backes - Chris Stewart
Matt D'Agostini - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
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 8-0-3 in his last 11 starts with a 1.76 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. He is 1-4-0 with a 3.04 GAA and .874 save percentage in five career games against the Stars.

F Andy McDonald (concussion), D Kent Huskins (ankle) and D Kris Russell (groin) are on injured reserve. LW Alex Steen (concussion symptoms) is still day-to-day. Chris Porter is a healthy scratch for the fifth straight game and eighth out of the last nine.

STARS
Brenden Morrow - Tom Wandell - Loui Eriksson
Adam Burish - Steve Ott - Radek Dvorak
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Michael Ryder
Francis Wathier - Jake Dowell - Toby Petersen

Trevor Daley - Nicklas Grossman
Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Mark Fistric - Alex Goligoski

Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman

Lehtonen is 7-1-0 with a 1.72 GAA and .944 save percentage in his career against the Blues.

The Stars are without C Jamie Benn (appendectomy), C Mike Ribeiro (knee), D Philip Larsen (concussion-like symptoms) and RW Tomas Vincour (knee). Defenseman Adam Pardy is a healthy scratch.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 01.14.2012 / 2:37 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wild get back to basics in looking to break skid

ST. LOUIS -- The Minnesota Wild, who are 0-7-1 in their last eight road games (they've scored only seven goals in those games) and 2-9-3 in their last 14 games to fall out of the top spot in the Western Conference, are coming off a disheartening 5-2 loss at Chicago on Thursday night. Afterwards, coach Mike Yeo and the players voiced their frustration and anger over the recent play.

It's not something a locker room wants to go through, but as forward Kyle Brodziak said, a good kick in the pants is something that's needed at times.

"There's a lot of pride in the locker room and a lot of character," said Brodziak, who has 12 goals and 21 points in 44 games. "When you go through something like this, it's a very tough thing. I think if you stick with it and make sure your attitude doesn't change, eventually you get out of it because you only become stronger because of it. That's what we need to focus on is finding ways to get out of it. Once we do that, we'll be stronger for it.

"It's just a matter of preparing for every game. We can do a better job of preparing ourselves for the games and when we get to the game, we've just got to get back to basics and what we were doing when we had success. We were playing a pretty straightforward game going north with the puck and finding ways to get it behind their D and putting pressure on them and creating offensive zone time. I think that's a good key for us."

Yeo, in his first season as the Wild's coach, didn't reflect on the recent negatives on the road but stressed what has been accomplished in the past.

"The message for us is let's play our game," Yeo said. "We've gone into San Jose and beaten San Jose. We've gone into Detroit and beaten Detroit. It's time to go into another building and give ourselves a chance to win.

"We did those things because we played our game and we were true to the way we were supposed to play it, and that's what we need tonight. That's what we need now to the rest of the season. ... I'm very anxious to see how we come out here and play tonight."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and his players are very aware.

"I don't like it when teams come in and the coach is angry, the players are angry," said Hitchcock, whose team is 19-5-6 since he took over. "Usually you get their 'A' game. From an opponent's standpoint, it doesn't feel good. I think our players recognize that we're going to get their 'A' game tonight.

"It's hard when you're standing there as a coach or player to think we might not win another game for a month or we might not win a game for a week. Sometimes you get swallowed up by the day-to-day rather than the week-to-week or month-to-month. If you were to give both teams the chance to be where they're at right now based on what people said they were going to be, they'd be happy. Minny's in the playoff hunt, we're in the playoff hunt. We're both kind of where people thought maybe if we played well, we'd (be where we are). So you've got to look at that."

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After taking a risk in placing left wing Colton Gillies on waivers Friday, the Minnesota Wild now prepare for life without him, as Gillies was claimed by Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

The Wild was hoping to get Gillies, who had struggled with only 2 assists in 27 games, through waivers and send him to the Houston Aeros of the AHL, but that never became an option.

"I'm happy for him," Yeo said of Gillies. "He's a guy that has worked very hard for this opportunity and cares very much. I'm happy for him, but having said that for us, it is disappointing because he was still in our plans. We were hoping that he could go down there (to Houston) and get things going and would be back with us soon, but that said, it's a good opportunity for him and we're happy for him."

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With their recent struggles, Yeo has opted to sit veteran defenseman Greg Zanon and in his place will be Mike Lundin, who has 1 assist in 12 games this season.

"It's not an easy decision," Yeo said of benching Zanon, who has 3 points in 23 games. "These are veteran guys and a guy like him ... he pays a price when he plays. He's going to play hard for the team, but even talking to him, this is a decision that we made just for tonight.

"Even going in before the game, we thought that we wanted to get Lundy in. When we looked at last game and what we need for tonight, that's the decision we made."

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I didn't think it would actually work, but it ended up working, so I'm thanking my lucky stars tonight.

— Columbus forward Nick Foligno on scoring the overtime goal after telling the Blue Jackets in the locker room that he would win the game