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Posted On Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 6:54 PM

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

Blues put Colaiacovo on IR

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues on Tuesday placed defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo on injured reserve, retroactive to Nov. 18.

Colaiacovo has a left hamstring strain that he initially injured in the first period of Thursday's 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers.

Colaiacovo, who has a goal and six points in 13 games this season, is eligible to come off injured reserve on Friday. Earlier in the day, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Colaiacovo, who missed five games earlier this season with a concussion, is feeling better and the team is hopeful he can get back on the ice by the end of the week.

The Blues recalled defenseman Cade Fairchild from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen. The 22-year-old Fairchild is the team's fourth-round pick (No. 96) in the 2007 NHL Draft. He will be available for Tuesday night's home game against the Los Angeles Kings.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 1:50 PM

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

Hitchcock, Murray go back a long way together

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues' Ken Hitchcock and the Los Angeles Kings' Terry Murray have seen a few NHL games in their time.

When the Blues (10-7-2) host the Kings (10-7-3) at 6:30 p.m. CT tonight (Versus, KMOX 1120-AM), it will be the 1,048th game for Hitchcock and 1,004th game for Murray. The two are the oldest coaches in the NHL (Hitchcock is 59, Murray is 61) and the two friends go back a long way together.

"We go back way into the (International Hockey League) for crying out loud," Murray joked this morning. "He was coaching Kalamazoo where we spent some time together."

Murray, whose Kings beat the Blues 5-0 on Oct. 18, is glad to see his friend back in the game.

"I'm real happy for him. He's a real quality guy," Murray said of Hitchcock. "He's a real good coach, obviously. He's got a lot of games under his belt and had some great success, a Stanley Cup winner in Dallas.

"He waited for his time. He stays involved in the game when he was out ... probably running coaching clinics someplace, working with some people, some teams on the ice helping out there. He loves the game. I like to see a lifelong coach get back in."

When the Blues and Kings drop the puck, Hitchcock said look for a game of wits between two crafty guys behind the bench.

"Pretty snarly," Hitchcock said when asked to describe the Kings. "It'll be an interesting game; two coaches who know each other very well, are good friends, have the same belief system with the way the game has to be played.

"I would say this would be a game with not a lot of room. You're going to have to fight for your space and it isn't going to come easy. If both teams are on the mark, you'll see a helluva hockey game. We've coached against each other and with each other for a long time. Not much changes."

Added Murray: "That's so true in the game today. The way teams are structured on their checking part of the game. Everybody's relentless. There's a lot of dot-to-board battling going on. You've got to really fight for your space in front of the net now. The spacing that everybody shows defensively and offensively for puck support is getting tighter. There has to be a lot of dig-in attitude here tonight, for sure."

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Murray was asked how he would assess the first quarter of his team's season, considering they opened in Europe and on the east coast for two games.

The Kings played their home opener against the Blues on Oct. 18.

"I like where we are," Murray said. "Starting off with the trip over to Europe, I thought it was a very demanding start to the schedule. To come back with a couple more games on the east coast, we got through that.

"With all of the scheduling that we've had, especially the week before going over to Europe, then going overseas and regrouping and coming back, we got through the first quarter of the season in pretty good shape."
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Posted On Friday, 11.18.2011 / 3:30 PM

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

Blues' Colaiacovo ruled day-to-day

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- St. Louis Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo is listed as day-to-day after suffering a mild strain of his left hamstring in the first period of Thursday's 4-1 win against the Florida Panthers.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Friday that Colaiacovo will not make the trip to Minnesota for Saturday's game against the Wild and will be evaluated when the team returns. Ian Cole will return to the lineup Saturday.

"We'll further evaluate it the next couple days," Hitchcock said. "... This is mild so that's good news there. It could have been a lot worse there, too. Got a break there."
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Posted On Thursday, 11.17.2011 / 2:45 PM

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

Stewart expected suspension

ST. LOUIS -- After finding out Chris Stewart's fate on Wednesday, the Blues will move on and do without their bulky power forward for the next three games beginning with tonight's game at Scottrade Center against the Florida Panthers (8 p.m. ET, FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).

The Blues have accepted the ruling of the NHL's Senior Vice President of Player Safety, Brendan Shanahan, and moved on.

Stewart was suspended for a hit Tuesday on Detroit's Niklas Kronwall in the first period. Kronwall left the game but returned for the second and third periods and suffered no injury.

Stewart reflected on the suspension for the first time after the morning skate today. He had a conversation with Shanahan and understands where the League is coming from.

"When in doubt, you probably shouldn't do it when you see his numbers to you," Stewart said. "There's definitely a gray area there.

"I was obviously hoping for no suspension, but I kind of expected it. I've seen a couple replays. It looked pretty bad."

Added captain David Backes: "It's up to the rest of the guys now to fill that void and make sure that we're making up for his absence. When he comes back, he'll be more energized and more determined than ever."

Backes said the League is trying to crack down on any type of hit, whether done by accident or not, and the team accepts the consequences.

"It's those kinds of hits that he said as a League we're going to have taken out," he said. "Unfortunately, it's a guy on our team that's the recipient of a suspension. I think he's been relatively consistent throughout the season on hits that are into the boards or hits from the backside.

"Chris plays hard. He's a great part of our team. We wish he wasn't suspended, but the fact of the matter is when you play hard like he does, when you're in the trenches, when you're battling all the time, you're probably going to be suspended. Especially with the way things are right now."

Stewart, who has 3 goals and 5 points in 17 games, said he'll use caution but won't change his style.

"I've got to stick to my game here," he said. "I'm definitely more valuable to my team on the ice than in the press box.

"I'm probably going to think twice the next time I see a guy's numbers to me. As far as competing and going out there and playing with that edge, I'm still going to play with that edge, for sure."
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Posted On Thursday, 11.17.2011 / 2:40 PM

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

Blues turn back to Halak against Panthers

ST. LOUIS -- Despite leading the NHL in goals-against average (1.43) and holding down second in save percentage (.946), Brian Elliott will take a seat as Jaroslav Halak will get back in goal for the Blues tonight against the Florida Panthers.

Halak, who is 2-6-1 with a 2.78 GAA and .882 save percentage, hasn't played in a week when the Blues dropped a 3-2 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a shootout.

"Obviously I'm looking forward to get in," Halak said. "I know it's not going to be easy. Florida has been playing really good hockey on the road this season. We need to be ready for that and for their tempo. We need to try and create our tempo and be ready."

Both goalies are now into form. Elliott's been solid all season, and Halak, after an inauspicious beginning, seems to be finding his game as well. Blues coach ken Hitchcock seems to have a problem in goal -- a good problem.

"I'm happy with both guys," said Hitchcock, whose team is 9-7-1 overall and 3-0-1 since his arrival. "We get into these debates in here, I don't know what everybody's thinking. When both guys are playing well, it's pretty easy for me who goes.

"When they're both playing good, just play them."

The netminders seem to push each other on off-days, which is creating that proverbial healthy competition, and the players are thriving off of it themselves.

"It is good for our team," Halak said. "Brian has been getting the wins for us. It's great every time you get a win. When you have competition, it makes it better for both of the goalies. They both want to play.

"You need to work hard every practice and every game you play. You need to give it the best you have and that's what it's all about."

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Posted On Thursday, 11.17.2011 / 2:25 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Panthers

Here are the projected lineups for when the St. Louis Blues take on the Florida Panthers tonight at Scottrade Center:

BLUES
Alex Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Evgeny Grachev - Patrik Berglund - Matt D'Agostini
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Chris Porter - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

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

Jaroslav Halak will start in goal; Brian Elliott is the backup.

Chris Stewart starts serving his three-game suspension. Defenseman Kent Huskins (left ankle surgery), winger Andy McDonald (concussion), winger David Perron (post-concussion syndrome) and winger B.J. Crombeen (shoulder) are on injured reserve. Defenseman Ian Cole will be a healthy scratch for the third consecutive game.

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Evgenii Dadonov - Mike Santorelli - Tomas Kopecky
Marco Sturm - Marcel Goc - Jack Skille
Shawn Matthias - Tim Kennedy - Sean Bergenheim

Ed Jovanovski - Keaton Ellerby
Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Jose Theodore will get the start in goal; Scott Clemmensen is the backup.

The Panthers are without injured Mikael Samuelsson (hip), Scottie Upshall (hip) and Matt Bradley (upper body). Defenseman Erik Gudbranson is a healthy scratch.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 2:24 PM

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

Shutout earns Elliott second straight start

ST. LOUIS -- The philosophy for St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is simple: earn a shutout one game, start the next.

So there's no debating who's in goal when the Blues host the Detroit Red Wings tonight: Brian Elliott.

After a 19-save performance, including some acrobatic ones in the waning seconds of Saturday's 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, Elliott earns another game in a big Central Division showdown instead of No. 1 Jaroslav Halak, who's also played solid.

"For me, a shutout ... you've got to reward. That's just the way I feel," Hitchcock said. "I think for us, the goaltending is also a product that we're not giving up odd-man rushes, we're not giving up easy scoring opportunities, we're not giving up breakaways. If you play in the zone, I think both guys are good. But no goalie looks good when you're giving up a ton of odd-man rushes. We've got to eliminate them and if we do that, then we give ourselves a chance every night."

Elliott, who leads the NHL with a 1.49 goals-against average and is second in save percentage (.946) behind Minnesota's Josh Harding (.948), is 6-1 on the season and gives the Blues (8-7-1) a nice 1-2 punch these days.

"We kind of push each other in practice," Elliott said of himself and Halak. "I try to stop every puck that comes my way. Having two guys is great for the team."

Halak is only 2-6-1 on the season and his current numbers (2.78 GAA and .882 save percentage) don't crack the League leaders. But considering he once sported a season-low 3.53 GAA and .835 save percentage, the players are noticing the confidence both netminders have.

"Let's talk about our goalies. A 1-2 punch ... they've been playing great," winger Alex Steen said. "The way our goalies have been playing the last little while has just calmed everything down in the D-zone. I think we've played some pretty good hockey."

Added Hitchcock, "It looks like we've got two guys that can play. It's a good feeling."

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In an effort to get their second line going a bit, Hitchcock won't move anyone onto it, just switch a couple wingers.

Patrik Berglund will stay in the middle, but the Blues will move Chris Stewart to the left side and Matt D'Agostini to the right against Detroit.

The move is in hopes of getting the line scoring on a consistent basis, despite the trio getting scoring chances.

"We practiced with it two days ago and really liked it," Hitchcock said. "For whatever reason in the game against Tampa, Dags ended up on the right side a lot. He showed great speed and the ability to bring the puck to the net.

"For me, it doesn't matter whether Stewy plays right or not. When you've got a quick stick like he does, which you need to play on the off-wing, he's effective either way. For me, it's more for Dags."

The two players have no preference on moving.

"It's no different," said Stewart, who played left wing in Colorado. "It's a little easier to attack when you're on your off-wing there as opposed to cutting to your back end there. It's a little easier to protect the puck. It shouldn't be any difference.

"We're playing with poise, getting opportunities off the rush too. That's always a good thing. It's just a matter of time before we start capitalizing."

D'Agostini and Stewart would up playing opposite sides in Saturday's 3-0 win over Tampa Bay.

"It's not that much of a change," D'Agostini said. "We're reading off of each other during the game. ... I've moved from left to right, right to left before during the season, so it's not a big change.

"We've played well the last couple games. We've been playing in the offensive zone most of the time, but we just haven't been able to bang that many in yet. The law of averages, they'll go in sooner or later."

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The Blues will insert winger Chris Porter into the lineup tonight in place of enforcer Ryan Reaves. It will be Porter's first game under Hitchcock and first since Oct. 30 at Edmonton.

"I've watched him in practice. He's got great speed. He gets after it," Hitchcock said of Porter. "We're looking at this being a really quick game. Detroit just drops the puck and plays. There's no stuff after the whistle. They play as hard whistle to whistle as anybody in the National Hockey League.

"We just feel like we're going to need to play with tempo tonight to match theirs and we think Porter has a chance here. But this is, for me, a look. I don't really know much about him as a player. I'd like to look at him because he's looked very good the past two practices. He's looked like he's dug in and bit and wants to play some hockey. So I want to give him that opportunity to see what he does."

Porter's been a healthy scratch the last five games and has no points in seven games played.

"I've been working hard," Porter said. "When your name's called, you have to go out and perform. That's what I plan on doing tonight. ... My game is based around speed and physicality. Hopefully, I can bring that tonight. Obviously Detroit carries the puck. They don't like to dump the puck too much. I'll have to be good defensively. Hopefully, we can minimize their chances offensively and play in their zone all night."

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Upon further review, Blues defenseman Kent Huskins does in fact have a fracture in the left ankle that he injured in a game Oct. 28 in Calgary, and will be out the next eight weeks.

Huskins, who was initially diagnosed with the fracture by doctors in Calgary, then was looked at by doctors here who determined it was a deep bone bruise. Huskins skated Monday and had no problems with straight line skating. But when came down to turns, there were problems.

Blues trainers immediately sent Huskins to the hospital, where X-rays determined a fracture. Huskins will have a screw inserted Wednesday.

"They skated him hard yesterday in straight lines ... no issue," Hitchcock said of Huskins. "Then they started to do turns with him and there were issues. They did another test on him, and they found the fracture. They never found it skating the first time. They never found it skating ahead the second time, but on the turn part of the practice, it started giving him pain."

It means Ian Cole, recalled from the American Hockey League affiliate in Peoria, will be here for the near future.

"This obviously gives a guy like Cole a long-term opportunity here," Hitchcock said. "Hopefully, Ian takes advantage of it. We've got our seven (defensemen) here and this is what we're going to be going with."
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 2:20 PM

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

Past relationship for Babcock, Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS -- New Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and his Red Wings counterpart, Mike Babcock, are friends -- good friends, as a matter of fact.

The two go back a long way with Team Canada. Babcock was the head coach and Hitchcock was an assistant for Canada's gold medal winning squad at the Winter Olympics of 2010.

The two have also coached against one another plenty in the Western Conference, with Hitchcock having stints in Dallas and Columbus.

"I worked with Hitch at the Olympics," Babcock said. "I got to know him good then. When he was let go in Columbus, he's a hockey junkie and so I talked to him a lot. When you talk to a guy a lot, he ends up knowing how you're thinking and how your team's playing. He's a smart hockey guy and he's going to do a good job here. They've got themselves a real good coach."

There was some discussion this past summer about Hitchcock joining Babcock's staff in Detroit as an assistant but that never materialized.

"We talked about it, but I think both of us felt that I still wanted to be a head guy," Hitchcock said. "I think he wanted to get young energy in there. I was probably too old for his staff. We talked about it, though.

"We're good friends. We went through the toughest experience you can go through in life, and that is to represent your country. We came out OK. We did it together. There was a good feeling amongst the staff and especially with Mike and I because we had a major responsibility game planning, scheming and stuff like that."

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The Red Wings will be without Ian White indefinitely after the defenseman suffered a broken cheekbone during Saturday's 5-2 win over Dallas, the Wings' fourth straight win.

It means Mike Commodore, who's only played two games because of a knee sprain, will be slotted into the lineup and play on the third pairing with Jakub Kindl and Jonathan Ericsson moves to the top pairing with Nicklas Lidstrom.

"I'm thinking he'd be a good matchup guy," Babcock said of Ericsson. "Move the puck six feet at a time, and do what you do well: be physical, play hard."

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In talking to Babcock in previous years, he's always been a big fan of the Blues.

"I just think they've been a good team here for a long time," Babcock said. "Probably a playoff team, but they've run into some injuries. It hasn't gone as good as they wanted.

"I thought Andy Murray did a good job with them, I thought Davis Payne did a good job and now 'Hitch' has got a more finished product here. It looks like they're deep in all positions. They're playing hard and they're playing what I think is right and well."
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Posted On Saturday, 11.12.2011 / 2:31 PM

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

Blues downplay facing Tampa Bay's 1-3-1

ST. LOUIS – Philadelphia’s response to Tampa Bay’s defensive formation created plenty of reaction around the NHL, and now it's up to the St. Louis Blues to dissect the Lightning's 1-3-1.

The Blues and Lightning will play here Saturday night, and the game also marks the return of former Blues captain Eric Brewer.

According to the Blues, there's no big storylines when it comes to their matchup.

"I think you make too much of that," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They play with structures, so how do you counteract the structures? It's like any team. If you allow a team to set up in their structure, they're going to beat you. It doesn't matter if it's 1-3-1, 1-2-2, 2-1-2 ... doesn't matter, they're going to beat you. So you have to attack the structure before they set up.

"It's like any fore-checking system. It's the same thing as an offensive zone fore-check system. You've got to find a way to get by it before it sets its course. So for us, it's about not allowing them to control the tempo of the game. I think the other thing is it's easy to set up in a defensive structure when you've got the lead all the time. So for us, it's get the lead and force the other team to have to open things up a little bit more."

Blues players saw portions of the game or on highlights from Wednesday night and don't think it's that big of a deal.

"It was just a matter of Philly being stubborn," wing Matt D'Agostini said. "I think they were just trying to fluster Tampa, try to get them to come after them a little more than they obviously do. … They play with a D-man back there, so as long as we get good dumps, we can go in and hit their D and like last night, play in their end as much as we can."
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Posted On Saturday, 11.12.2011 / 2:29 PM

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

Ex-captain Brewer returns to St. Louis for first time

Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer will make his first trip back to St. Louis since the trade last season that sent the veteran to Tampa Bay for a third-round pick and prospect Brock Beukeboom.

Brewer spent nearly six seasons in St. Louis, but was dealt in February and helped the Lightning reach the Eastern Conference Final last season.

"It worked out pretty well," Brewer said. "It could have worked out better, but I can't complain. ... It's been good. They have a very good hockey program. It was something that wasn't tough to say no to. I've liked it."

Brewer, who was the Blues' captain, enjoyed his time in St. Louis.

"It was good," Brewer said. "I really enjoyed it here. It's comfortable here. I can walk here and know people. I was treated very well. It was nice to see some of the guys that were real good to me."

Brewer also talked about the firing of former coach Davis Payne, who he played for here.

"I'm surprised, yeah," Brewer said. "He was very good when I was there. ... He's going to do well. He's a good coach."
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