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Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 2:36 PM

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

Projected lineups for Kings, Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Tonight's probable lineups between the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues from Scottrade Center:

KINGS
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jarret Stoll
Trevor Lewis - Brad Richardson - Trent Hunter 
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Kevin Westgarth

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Jack Johnson - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

Defensemen Davis Drewiske and Alec Martinez along with center Andrei Loktionov are expected to be healthy scratches. Winger Simon Gagne (concussion) and winger Scott Parse (hip) are on injured reserve.

BLUES
Vladimir Sobotka - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
David Perron - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Matt D'Agostini - 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

The Blues are without Andy McDonald (concussion), Alex Steen (concussion symptoms) and Kent Huskins (ankle). Huskins will travel with the team for an upcoming three-game trip but McDonald and Steen will stay back. Chris Porter is the lone healthy scratch.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 3:24 PM

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

Blues get another stiff test heading into break

ST. LOUIS -- Playing their fourth game in six nights, the St. Louis Blues haven't gotten any free passes heading into the All-Star break.

After a playoff-type intensity for 60 minutes in a 3-1 loss at Detroit Monday, the Blues jumped on a plane and headed back home, where they have the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins awaiting for tonight's matchup at Scottrade Center.

The Penguins (27-17-4) have reeled off six wins in a row after dropping six. In the six games they've won, the Pens have picked it up offensively with 25 goals. They scored only six in the previous six losses in a row.

"Pittsburgh's playing really well," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They've got the good winning feeling going. We're in the same position when we went into Pittsburgh. We played very well there, so if we can duplicate the game there we played in Pitt, it'll be really good for us. That was a jumping off point for us. We really took the ball from there and played well for about a month. That's what we want to do is keep building on the good things we're doing and address some of the things we need to get better in."

The Blues won 3-2 in overtime on Nov. 23, which was Sidney Crosby's second game back from a concussion, on an overtime goal by Alex Pietrangelo. It started a string of four straight wins for the Blues, and the Penguins remember it quite well.

"They're a formidable challenge," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "They play a physical, aggressive game. They have been tough to score against, they haven't given up a lot of goals, they've gotten good goaltending, and they're a team that takes the attack to the other team as well, quickly and with aggression. They're playing well on the road and at home."

The Blues (29-13-6) went on a 9-1-2 run starting with the win over the Penguins, a game they used as a building block to what Hitchcock is trying to preach to his squad.

"We want to do the things they do," Hitchcock said of the Penguins. "They're one of the best north-south teams in the League. They have been for four years now. We want to learn to play that way. It's a hard way to play, it's very demanding but very successful.

"We played that way for the most part against Pitt and were very successful. It helps selling it down the line in other games. We were able to use that game for over a month as a reference point that this is how you have to play to win hockey games in the League now."

The Blues will have the challenge of facing the scorching-hot Evgeni Malkin, who leads the NHL with 58 points (26 goals, 32 assists) in 41 games.

Malkin has 15 points in nine games coming into tonight, and combined with James Neal's 26 goals and 20 assists, the Penguins will throw a lot at the Blues' top line, led by captain David Backes.

"I think when you play against teams who are good offensively, they challenge you defensively," Hitchcock said. "They're a little different opponent. They play a different way, but it'll be a good challenge for us."

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

The St. Louis Blues' loss at Detroit on Monday night marks their third and final time playing at Joe Louis Arena this season. They went 0-3 there, and those defeats are the Blues' only regulation losses in their last 15 games (10-3-2).

"They dialed up their ability to play defense and didn't give us much and created a lot on the transition," Backes said of the Western Conference-leading Red Wings. "Rather than having a good response to it and staying with our game, putting pucks in and going on the forecheck, we kind of tried to play a finesse game and tried to play an easier game. You can't respond that way or else they take advantage. They create a lot of penalties and capitalized on a lot of their chances."

Hitchcock agreed.

"They don't dial up their skill, they dial up their checking," Hitchcock said of the Red Wings. "They dial up the checking and they pushed a few of our guys out. Lessons learned.

"We're a young team trying to learn to win. We're getting closer and closer. There's going to come a time when we're going to beat them, whether it's in a series or whatever, we're going to end up beating them. But we're going to have to learn the lessons. ... All the games were very similar. We had an advantage early, they had the advantage late and they ended up beating us. The same thing happened here, too. They had the advantage early in both games here and then we took it over. They're up 3-2 in the series, but it's their checking that dialed it up yesterday. They pushed us out from that aspect and got some guys discouraged. We dealt with it today and it's going to make us better moving forward."

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

The game against Detroit changed for the Blues late in the first period on Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart's check on Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

The Blues were leading 1-0 at the time and the jolt along the right boards seemed to spark the Wings. They went on to score twice in the second and late in the third.

The Blues' Chris Stewart took exception to Stuart's hit, came off the bench on a line change and challenged Stuart. Stewart went on to drop Stuart in a fight but got 17 minutes in penalties, including an instigator penalty that led to Pavel Datsyuk's game-tying power play goal.

Still, the Blues had no issues with Stewart sticking up for a teammate.

"I loved it. No problem," Hitchcock said. "What he did was a teammate's response. No issue."

Backes added: "We need to be able to kill off that penalty and pick a guy up. Maybe he took an extra penalty, but he stood up for a teammate. We're going to stick together and go through the battles together. He gets a lot of respect and admiration from our team; we don't think that was a poor play at all."


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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."

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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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Quote of the Day

Great players need great players to play with. That's why we'll have a training camp and we'll find who the best two guys are suited to play with Stamkos.

— Tampa Bay Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness on Steven Stamkos' potential linemates for the 2014-15 season