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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."

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

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."

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

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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Posted On Saturday, 01.14.2012 / 2:28 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Wild

Tonight's lineups between the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild:

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 7-0-3 in his last 10 starts with a 1.76 goals-against average and .934 save percentage over that time. However, he's 0-2-3 in his career against the Wild but received just nine goals of support in those five games.

Andy McDonald (concussion), Kris Russell (groin), Kent Huskins (ankle) and Alex Steen (concussion symptoms) continue to sit out with their injuries. Winger Chris Porter and defensemen Cade Fairchild are healthy scratches.

WILD
Devin Setoguchi - Mikko Koivu - Dany Heatley
Cal Clutterbuck - Matt Cullen - Casey Wellman
Darroll Powe - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
David McIntyre - Warren Peters - Brad Staubitz

Nick Schultz - Jared Spurgeon
Marek Zidlicky - Justin Falk
Clayton Stoner - Mike Lundin

Josh Harding
Matt Hackett

Harding is 6-2-0 with a 1.69 GAA and .940 save percentage in his career against the Blues. Greg Zanon is the healthy scratch.
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 3:06 PM

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

Canucks to be well-represented at All-Star Game

ST. LOUIS -- The NHL announced the remaining roster for the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, slated for Jan. 29 in Ottawa.

The Blues' lone representative is goalie Brian Elliott, who will start tonight against the Canucks. Elliott is 15-5-0 and is second in the League in goals-against average (1.62) and save percentage (.940).

The Canucks will be represented by Daniel and Henrik Sedin as well as defenseman Alexander Edler. Forward Cody Hodgson was one of 12 rookies selected.

"I'm having fun," said Hodgson, who has 10 goals and 25 points in 44 games. "I'm enjoying playing hockey. It's a good bunch of guys that make you feel like part of the team. Hopefully, it continues."

For Edler, it's his first time being selected.

"It's obviously a big honor. It's fun for us," said Edler, who has 30 points in 44 games. "You always watch the guys that go there, so obviously, it's a dream."

The Sedins hope to get the chance to play together this year. At last year's game, they were on opposite teams thanks to the All-Star Player Fantasy Draft.

"It's a great privilege and a lot of good players there," Daniel Sedin said. "You go there and have fun for two days ... it's a good experience."

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault is pleased that his team is represented well.

"For all those guys, from Hank to Danny to Eddy (Edler), to Cody for the younger players, it's always a great experience and they'll make the best of it," Vigneault said. "They're going to represent us real well."
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 2:59 PM

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

Rome back for Canucks; Booth getting close

ST. LOUIS -- The Vancouver Canucks will get defenseman Aaron Rome (broken thumb) back into the lineup tonight after missing 13 games after blocking a shot Dec. 17 at Toronto.

It means Keith Ballard goes to the sidelines as a healthy scratch.

"We talked this morning and he said he's good to go, so we're going to put him in the lineup tonight," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said of Rome. "When Aaron is playing his game, he helps us in the back end with our puck movement. He's one of our defense that likes to move it, as Don Cherry would say, 'Easy early,' and we like that with our group. He also brings a dimension to our power play."

The Canucks also are on the verge of getting left wing David Booth (knee) back in the lineup, but Booth will not play tonight.

"As a player, you've got to feel that you're ready," Vigneault said of Booth. "Obviously if he hasn't come to see me, it's because he's not ready and we respect that.

"When he feels that he's ready to help this team, he's going to come and see me and tell me he's ready to go."

With Rome in and Booth still out, here's the lineup the Canucks will put on the ice tonight.
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 2:57 PM

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

Canucks know what Blues are capable of

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues and Canucks have a tremendous amount of respect for one another heading into tonight's matchup, which sees the top spot in the Western Conference be up for grabs.

The Blues are 2-0 against the Vancouver Canucks this season and the Canucks are very aware of it.

"They've always played well defensively," Canucks forward Daniel Sedin said. "They've got a hard-working team. It's for first in the conference and it's fun to see St. Louis up there. They should be up there and they're finally here."

Added Canucks forward Cody Hodgson: "They're one of the top teams in the League, no question. They've got emerging real stars. They have a real good team that plays together and they've just been getting better since (coach Ken) Hitchcock got there."

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, who spent parts of two seasons as a player with the Blues, saw the makings of a good hockey team in St. Louis.

"Because we had that playoff series against them a couple years back (in 2008-09), we knew there was a tremendous amount of potential that that team had, the great kids that that team had," Vigneault said. "At some point I remember comparing them to the Blackhawks. With the young players that they had in their lineup in that group, they would be like Chicago and they would be able to challenge for top billing.

"I'm not exactly sure what happened, but this doesn't surprise me at all. They've got a lot of talent and a lot of potential. They've got a good-sized team that right now is playing a good system and playing a real good way. Obviously right now, they are one of the best teams in the NHL."

Hitchcock said his team isn't where the League's top heavyweights are yet, but continue to make progress.

"We're in the evaluation stage against good teams," Hitchcock said. "When you play against teams like Vancouver or Detroit, we're the ones that learn the most. They already have that knowledge. We want that knowledge.

"At the end of the day, we want to know what makes teams like Vancouver tick. We're hoping that they bring their 'A' game and they give us their best game so that we can evaluate our players. We respond when we're a little bit scared."
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 2:49 PM

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

Jackman, Steen nearing return for Blues

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues were hoping a couple key pieces would be ready for tonight's Western Conference heavyweight battle with the Vancouver Canucks, but will have to wait at least one more game.

Defenseman Barret Jackman, who injured a hip Tuesday in Montreal, and left wing Alexander Steen, out since Dec. 27 due to concussion symptoms, will miss tonight's game. Jackman took a twirl on the ice at this morning's skate and Steen took part in the entire skate, but coach Ken Hitchcock decided they will need one good day to practice and feels they will be ready for Saturday's home game with Minnesota.

Here's what the Blues lineup will look like, as well as what lineup the Canucks likely will ice tonight.

"He'll play Saturday probably, but he's not ready for tonight," Hitchcock said of Jackman, who was checked into the side boards by the Canadiens' P.K. Subban. "Steen -- same thing. He feels OK, but he wants to have a full practice with us, so he'll play again Saturday.

"It'll be good to get those guys back on the weekend. That's kind of what we're hoping, both guys get a good practice in tomorrow and then they're ready to go."

Steen, who will miss a seventh consecutive game, feels he's close.

"I feel much better. It's a different injury," Steen said after skating. "It's my first time going through it. It's kind of a lonely feeling because you don't know what to expect or what the next day's going to bring. It's weird not having a timetable and not being able to push yourself through something, but a lot of credit to the doctors and the training staff. Everybody's been really supportive and have done the right things.

"I felt like I could have played a while ago, but sometimes you want to make sure everything is in order. ... I'm starting to feel really good, feel like myself again."

Added Hitchcock: "He's got no issues now. We haven't really had a practice. ... Having (Steen) get a good skate with the group tomorrow will be good for us and getting him back is going to be a huge boost for everybody. We're looking forward to it."

Hitchcock said he things Ian Cole can pick up Jackman's competitive edge.

"He plays with a real edge. He's a real feisty, competitive guy," Hitchcock said of Cole. "Plays with a real edge. He's got a little bit of meanness to him. It's who he is. He's a spirited player. We're asking a lot of him. He hasn't even played 50 games in the NHL and all of a sudden, he's playing against the other teams' best players.

"We're a week from getting healthy on the back end where we get both Jackman and (Kris) Russell back. But Cole's making a real niche for himself. He's a real competitive guy."

The Blues are looking to get Russell (groin) back into the lineup sometime in the next week. Also, forward Andy McDonald (concussion) continues to make progress but still is wearing a red no-contact jersey. He traveled with the team for the first time for Tuesday's game in Montreal, which is a good indicator he's ready to shed the no-contact jersey.

The Blues have been mixing and matching lineups for some time now with all the injuries, but continue to persevere. With a win tonight, they can claim the top spot in the West.

"We're competitive," Hitchcock said. "We don't wow you off the rush, but we score off the grind. If we get some room off the grind, that's where we get all our goals and we're willing to work for our chances. This is a real competitive group right now."
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Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 2:42 PM

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

Lineups for Blues, Canucks

ST. LOUIS -- Here are the probable lineups for tonight's Western Conference clash between the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks:

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

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Ian Cole - Kevin Shattenkirk
Cade Fairchild - Roman Polak
Brian Elliott will start in goal, with Jaroslav Halak backing him up.

Defenseman Barret Jackman (hip) and left wing Alex Steen (concussion symptoms) are day to day. Left wing Andy McDonald (concussion), defenseman Kris Russell (groin), defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle) are on injured reserve. Forward Chris Porter is a healthy scratch.

CANUCKS
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - Cody Hodgson
Chris Higgins - Maxim Lapierre - Jannik Hansen
Mike Duco - Manny Malhotra - Dale Weise

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Sulzer - Alexander Edler
Andrew Alberts - Aaron Rome
Roberto Luongo will start in goal, with Cory Schneider serving as the backup.

The Canucks will be without forward David Booth (knee), who is close to returning to the lineup. Defenseman Sami Salo (concussion) is out indefinitely, as is left wing Aaron Volpatti (shoulder). Center Andrew Ebbett (shoulder) is out for the rest of the regular season. Defenseman Keith Ballard is a healthy scratch.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 2:22 PM

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

Blues welcom streaking Avalanche to St. Louis

ST. LOUIS – The Blues (23-12-5) will have to continue their impressive home play (16-3-2) if they want to beat the red-hot Colorado Avalanche, who have suddenly thrust themselves into the Western Conference playoff race by winning nine of their last 10, 10 of 12 and 13 of 18.

The Avs (23-18-1) are coming off an impressive 4-0 win at Chicago on Friday night.

"They're a very fast, energetic, physical team," Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said. "If we want to beat them tonight, we'll have to match that and maybe initiate that speed and physicality."

Hitchcock agreed.

"They're all on the same page," Hitchcock said. "They've got speed and when they play with speed, they have speed without the puck, which has created problems for everybody. If you're not ready for their pressure, their forechecks and their physical play, you're going to be surprised, in trouble and on your heels. You look at their hit totals in the last 10 games, it's really high. When you're playing physical, that means you're skating. When you're hitting people that means they're on the outside and you're on the inside, and that's what they're doing. That means they're playing very physical."

Hitchcock said this will be a game of gaining success in the dirty areas.

"It's going to have to be. You're not going to get anything easy," he said. "They're not giving you odd-man rushes now. They're not giving you easy opportunities. Chicago had one odd-man rush yesterday. They're making it hard on the opposition and if you're not ready to pay the price, then they're going to beat you every time.

"I told the players today you're going to get checked hard. How you react to getting checked hard is going to determine how long you stay in the game. They've pushed some really good hockey clubs right out because of their hard play."

Here are the probable lineups for tonight's game between the Colorado Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues from Scottrade Center:

BLUES

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

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Cade Fairchild - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

The Blues are without F Andy McDonald (concussion), LW Alex Steen (concussion symptoms), D Kent Huskins (ankle), D Kris Russell (groin) and D Ian Cole (suspension), who is eligible to return Tuesday at Montreal. Expected scratches include LW Evgeny Grachev and F Chris Porter. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said there was a good chance Reaves (hip) would be taken off injured reserve today but if he's not available, Porter or Grachev would be inserted into the fourth line LW slot.
 
AVALANCHE

TJ Galiardi - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Daniel Winnik - Jay McClement - Chuck Kobasew
Cody McLeod - David Van Der Gulik - Kevin Porter

Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Kyle Quincey - Stefan Elliott
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Semyon Varlamov

The Avalanche, coming off a 4-0 win at Chicago Friday, chose not to skate today. Only Varlamov, RW Brandon Yip and D Ryan Wilson were on the ice for the optional. On injured reserve for the Avs include C Matt Duchene (knee) and C Peter Mueller (concussion). Both are out indefinitely. Wilson missed 13 games with a concussion but was taken off IR on Friday. Wilson, Yip and Hunwick are expected to be healthy scratches.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 2:08 PM

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

Blues look to turn it up a notch during home stretch

ST. LOUIS -- With the Blues in the midst of their first three-game winless streak entering tonight's home game against Phoenix, it begins a stretch of 11 games in the month of January. Nine of them are played in the friendly confines of Scottrade Center.

The Blues have one of the league's best records at home (14-3-2), trailing only Detroit's 15 home victories. And if they want to stay among the NHL's best, Hitchcock wants to see the team get back to doing what was working best for this team previous to this 0-2-1 hiccup.

The Blues entered January a season ago still in the mix for a playoff berth, but a 2-8-2 month buried them and they found themselves playing catch-up with the rest of the conference's best. With the parity in the league nowadays and so many tight games that end up in three-point affairs, the Blues were fighting a losing battle.

"It's the time of year where playoff teams come to play," winger Chris Stewart said. "This is where the contenders separate themselves from the pretenders. If you look last year, you look at the Chicagos, the Detroits, the San Joses ... this is where they built their separation. From here on in, this is where they start their season. Not to say that before didn't count, but they really turn it up a notch here. Now we've got to do it, too. We've got to stick right with them. It's going to be a dogfight to the end here."

The Blues are in sixth place in the West, just two points out of fourth and five back of Chicago for the top spot. But where the team can really gain separation is from those teams on the outside looking in. The Blues are four points clear of ninth place, but to solidify their place among the top eight, going on a tear in January will only enhance their chances. They will become road warriors once they enter February and March.

"It's time to get our game back. We've stumbled in the last few," Backes said. "We're not too far away from righting the ship. We continue to give our home fans good performances and they've reciprocated the fun with giving us some great support."

Added coach Ken Hitchcock, who doesn't want his team looking too far ahead: "The thing for us is it's just one day at a time. You can look at being home for most of January and we get a really long break during the All-Star break. Our thing is just one day at a time and trying to play well."

And by playing well, that means hitting people and pinning them back on their heels.

"How many (home) games we have is not relevant, because it doesn't matter," Hitchcock said. "You can do this forever and win on the road, or you can do this and win forever at home. It doesn't matter. If you have the right mindset, you can win wherever you want. But it's the mindset.

"It's two things: It's get ready to get played hard because you're not sneaking up on anybody anymore, and No. 2, it's get your 'A' game out there from a checking standpoint. You'll end up spending no time in your zone and a lot of time in the other zone."

The Blues only have one-game trips to Montreal and Detroit in January. Otherwise, there won't be any lengthy trips for another six weeks.

"The opportunity is definitely there," Stewart said. "We've definitely got to use that to our advantage. Not to say we don't have tough opponents coming up, but we've got to show them that it's our building and we're going to do anything to get the win."
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Quote of the Day

He's able to play now, we just want to see other guys. We know what he can do.

— Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on not rushing Steven Stamkos onto the ice