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Posted On Saturday, 11.12.2011 / 2:27 PM

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

Russell set for St. Louis debut

Newly acquired defenseman Kris Russell was on the ice Saturday morning and will make his Blues debut tonight.

Russell, acquired from Columbus on Friday for defenseman Nikita Nikitin, will wear No. 4 tonight -- ironically Tampa Bay defenseman Eric Brewer's number  when he was the captain in St. Louis -- and will be paired with Roman Polak.

"I heard rumors that I was coming to St. Louis," Russell said. "It was a stressful night for me (Thursday) wondering what was happening."

Russell, who has two goals and an assist in 12 games with the Jackets this season, will be reunited with Ken Hitchcock, who coached Russell in Columbus.

"He's actually the only guy I know here. I don't know one guy here," Russell joked. "... You just be yourself. There are a lot of good players in this league. (Jackets) assistant coach Danny Hinote had great things to say about St. Louis. I trained with Chris Mason and he's been here. He had nothing but the best to say about the city and franchise. I'm excited. It's a getting-to-know period.

"(Hitchcock is) a guy that gave me the opportunity to play. I was really fortunate for that. I think he really helped me with my defensive side of the game. Coming out of juniors, I was strictly offense, always up ice and a little lackluster in my own end. But Hitch said you have to be a good two-way player. I feel like I've come a long way."

The Blues will sit Ian Cole, who's played well in his two games since his recall. Hitchcock said it's nothing personal.

"Whether this was Kris Russell or Billy Smith, it wouldn't have mattered," Hitchcock said. "To me, I just know what it is to be a new player. You want to make him a part of it. ... The one thing that Kris Russell brings to us is transition on that left side. I think that we have the transition on the right side. If we can help ourselves on the left side and be better, that's really going to help us.

"That's not to say Ian Cole becomes a seventh guy either. That's not it for sure. To me, it's all about winning the next hockey game and whoever gives you the best chance goes. ... I want to make Kris a part of it. Whoever's the seventh, probably will be sitting out, and to me, that depends strictly on performance."
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Posted On Saturday, 11.12.2011 / 2:25 PM

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

Hitchcock shakes up Blues lineup

The Blues will make a switch with their forward lines, moving Alex Steen up to the top line and dropping Vladimir Sobotka down to the third line.

It's a move coach Ken Hitchcock says is more about execution and not a promotion/demotion.

"That's a coach's swap because I have this phobia about three lines making one line for power play and two lines making one PK pair," Hitchcock said. "It's not based on, 'Oh, this guy's going to help there.' They're both going to help either line, but it's more just continuity. It ends up for me when you're coming out of special teams, it ends up in massive confusion because you're using three lines on two sets of power play, using two and sometimes three lines on PK and then you're coming out trying to put a line together where all three guys don't even play together. This is about continuity that I want to see."

Hitchcock got Sobotka out on a line with Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner in Thursday's 3-2 shoot out loss against Toronto and liked it.

"They were really good and created the pressure," Hitchcock said.

Here is what the Blues' lineup tonight should be against the Lightning:

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

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

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

Hitchcock has an interesting take on getting Elliott in goal tonight. Elliott is 5-1 with a 1.72 goals-against average and .941 save percentage.

"As Chief Taylor (Philadelphia Flyers coach Fred Shero) once said, 'After Bernie (Parent) played 60 in a row, it's his turn,'" said Hitchcock, referring to Parent's 37 consecutive starts as he got a rousing laugh from the media gathering. "It's (Elliott's) turn. ... I gotta tell you, I haven't seen Brian play this year. I want to make him part of the team.

"He's part of the team. He's played well."

The Blues are without defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle) and forwards David Perron (post-concussion syndrome), Andy McDonald (concussion) and B.J. Crombeen (shoulder). Along with Cole, winger Chris Porter is a healthy scratch.

Here’s the projected lineup for the Lightning as well:

Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Martin St. Louis - Vincent Lecavalier - Brett Connolly
Nate Thompson - Dominic Moore - Tom Pyatt
Ryan Shannon - Blair Jones - Adam Hall

Eric Brewer - Matt Gilroy
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Pavel Kubina
Brett Clark - Bruno Gervais

Mathieu Garon gets the start in goal; Dwayne Roloson is the backup.

The Lightning will be without Mattias Ohlund (knee, is on injured reserve), Victor Hedman (upper-body, is day-to-day) and Ryan Malone (upper-body, is also day-to-day). Hedman was on the ice for the skate this morning but now a likely target for a return is Monday.
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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 2:12 PM

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

Berglund, Stewart find new role on penalty-kill

ST. LOUIS -- If the sellout crowd Tuesday night didn't notice who was killing penalties against the Blackhawks, that's understandable.

It's not often Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart are playing against the man advantage. As a matter of fact, they never play there at all. They are typically playing on the Blues' power play. But new coach Ken Hitchcock has changed that as well. Only he hadn't realized the two members of the Blues' second line never played in those situations before.

"I didn't know that they weren't on the PK," Hitchcock said. "They just looked like they could check so out they went.

"I just felt like that anybody that's got a good stick and anybody that's got a smart stick needs to kill penalties. I trusted Stewy before. He was a good player. I had him for a month (for Team Canada at the World Championship this summer), but he was a darn good player for me. He's got a really good stick, Berglund's got a great stick. For me, you've got to have those guys kill penalties."

Why?

"To me, good players have to play 20-plus (minutes)," Hitchcock said. "Your top forwards have got to play 20-plus because you've got all these stoppages and time outs. You've got three or four periods where you've got 90 seconds. There's all kinds of time to rest. I don't know why these guys can't play those types of minutes.

"When you play top players in critical situations, there's ownership that takes over. They know that they can't get scored on, they know that the coach trusts them and plus, there's only one way to kill penalties: You have to stop and you have to start. There's no easy ice. You've got to make sacrifices, you've got to block shots, you've got to get pucks out, playing against other teams' best players, you've got to compete like hell ... it forces you to compete.

"You have no choice, because everybody's counting on you. I've always done that. I've always played top players killing penalties. I haven't worried about a shot off an ankle or whatever. That's the chance you take. (Mike) Modano killed penalties, (Rick) Nash was an unbelievable penalty killer. I just feel like the top players have to be out there in every situation. Nothing more unnerves a power play when the top players are going out there because they're one bobbled puck away from giving up a 2-on-1 or a goal against. They anticipate the play."

Both players have taken the added responsibility accordingly.

"It's a really tough mission to go out there and kill penalties, a big responsibility," Berglund said. "You've really got to work hard for your teammates. I just tried to stay aggressive and move my feet."

Added Stewart, "A game like yesterday, if you weren't on the PK, you were going to be sitting on the bench a long time. It shows that (Hitchcock) trusts me to put me in a situation like that, so it's obviously a big confidence booster.

"I'll invite all the ice time I can get. I want to be a guy who can play in those key situations."

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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 2:10 PM

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

Stewart gets 'three gorillas' off back with PP goal

ST. LOUIS -- After scoring a power-play goal Tuesday night, Blues forward Chris Stewart said it felt like getting "three gorillas" off his back, since he hadn't scored the previous 10 games.

New coach Ken Hitchcock's take on Stewart:

"We need Stewy to use his skills in confrontational areas," he said. "For me, running around and banging bodies is not what I want. Winning races to pucks, winning loose puck batttles, second and third whacks in front of the net, traffic at the front of the net ... that's his game. That's where he needs to play because there aren't many players in the league that have that size and those hands."

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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 2:06 PM

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

Wilson preaches Leafs must keep shooting puck

ST. LOUIS -- The Toronto Maple Leafs have been one of the surprise teams in the NHL this season, jumping out to an impressive 9-5-1 start.

But the Leafs, who are without starting goalie James Reimer (head injury), have dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season to Boston and Florida, getting outscored 12-1.

However, Wilson said that the Leafs just need to keep shooting the puck and eventually they'll start to go in.

"Just keep shooting the puck," Wilson said. "It's carpet bombing. Eventually, one of your bombs is going to land where it's supposed to.

"The simple philosophy is Phil Kessel: get as many shots as I can; the more shots increases the more opportunities to score. What we've got to do a better job of is stopping in front of the other team's net and be willing to get our noses bloodied in order to score a goal."

Hitchcock's not buying into the downfall talk regarding the Leafs.

"I've watched that team play," he said. "I've watched that team play twice and they're dynamic. They're on the wrong side of things now but only for two games. They only need a crack about this big and then they score. They're the top rush attack team in the league. They've got speed and skill on those first two lines ... it's pretty scary. You're going to have to really play smart against them."

The Leafs will come to town with Kessel, who leads the NHL in goals (11) and points (22).

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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 2:04 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Maple Leafs

Here are the projected lineups for tonight's game at the Scottrade Center between the St. Louis Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs:

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

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

Jaroslav Halak will start for the third straight time; Brian Elliott is the backup.

No changes from Tuesday's win over Chicago, as Nichol, who left early in the first period Tuesday with an upper-body injury, skated Thursday morning and deemed himself fit to play.

The Blues' healthy scratches include winger Chris Porter and defenseman Nikita Nikitin. Defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle) will miss his fifth consecutive game. Wingers Andy McDonald (concussion), David Perron (post-concussion syndrome) and B.J. Crombeen (shoulder) remain on injured reserve.

Defenseman Taylor Chorney was placed on waivers Wednesday and to nobody's surprise, he was reclaimed by the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers originally placed Chorney on waivers and the Blues claimed him on Oct. 11. Chorney played in two games with the Blues, recording no points.

MAPLE LEAFS

Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Matthew Lombardi - David Steckel - Matt Frattin
Joey Crabb - Philippe Dupuis - Mike Brown

Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
John-Michael Liles - Mike Komisarek
Jake Gardiner - Luke Schenn

Ben Scrivens gets the start in goal; Jonas Gustavsson will be the backup.

Since James Reimer (concussion-like symptoms) has been out of the Toronto lineup, the Leafs have been trying to figure out who will grab the bull by the horns and run with the goalie situation.

Scrivens, recalled on Oct. 27 from the Toronto Marlies, made his NHL debut Nov. 3 in Columbus, stopping 38 shots in a 4-1 win.

"He played really well in Columbus," coach Ron Wilson said. "We believe in both our goalies. Every once in a while, you're going to struggle. Sometimes a goal scorer doesn't score. ... The goalie's responsibility is to work hard in practice and come prepared to play, so tonight, I've decided to go with Ben."

Defenseman Cody Franson is a healthy scratch. The Leafs are without winger Colby Armstrong (ankle), center Tim Connolly (upper-body) and Reimer, all on injured reserve.

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 3:29 PM

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

Ian Cole recalled, will make season debut for Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Defenseman Ian Cole, recalled from Peoria on Monday, will make his season debut tonight for the St. Louis Blues against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blues are carrying nine defensemen on their roster, including Kent Huskins (bruised ankle), but want to give Cole, a 2007 first-round draft pick (No. 18), another look after a strong stretch of games with the Rivermen.

"I started in the same pattern as the team, kind of slow," Cole said, referring to the Rivermen. "Everyone just wasn't clicking. After those first couple weekends, everyone started figuring out and playing well. The past couple weeks, I've been playing well."

Cole, who played in 26 games and tallied 1 goal and 3 assists last season, will play with Roman Polak tonight. He was among the last cuts during the preseason.

"Of course you're disappointed but at the same time, I didn't see it as something that was debilitating," Cole said.

"There's a real trust within the organization for Ian," new Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They want to see what he can do. He's had a very good AHL campaign so far this year. He's played very well, he's been really solid. He's a left shot, which can really help the group here and I think we're excited to give him a go here and see what it looks like.

"You want to reward him. He's been knocking on the door for a couple years now, and you want to reward a guy when he's been playing well down there. They wanted to give him the extra time, a ton of ice time down there. Now it's time to see if he can play."

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 3:26 PM

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

New coach, but no major changes yet for St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues have had two practices, a full one Monday and Tuesday's morning skate, with new coach ken Hitchcock and haven't noticed too much of a change -- at the outset, at least.

The 59-year-old Hitchcock, who said Monday he doesn't want to change too much until he gets a better grasp of his players, will do some in-game tweaking if necessary.

"Not so much from a systems standpoint," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "He's really kind of hammering in his fundamentals and what he likes to see in his team and the game they play.

"I think he's coaching that within our systems we have now and how we're playing. He's going to make some tweaks, but we're not going to be seeing a completely different team here tonight."

Said Hitchcock, who will go with the same lineup tonight aside from Ian Cole going in for Taylor Chorney on defense, "For me, the game is the easy part. The 24-48 hours for me, it's changed. It's not changed on the ice. That's the simple part for me."

Cole said Hitchcock won't take long to implement his style.

"I feel he's just observing right now, and in the next couple days, he's going to start ramping it up pretty good ... get back to being the man, the myth, the legend that you hear about," Cole said.

One part of the team's game Hitchcock definitely plans on changing is the dump and chase style.

"I don't like the chip and check game and I think we're doing that a little too much here," he said.

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 3:24 PM

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

Humor from Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS -- One thing Ken Hitchcock has acquired with his days in the NHL is a sense of humor.

When he came in for his gathering with the media after Tuesday's pregame skate, he offered up the following:

"I got good advice today in the lobby: Be sure you sign Pujols," Hitchcock said, referencing St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, a free agent-to-be, and getting a good laugh from the media throng. "That lady informed me of that at 6:05 (this morning). ... I better get it done."

Somehow, Hitchcock said he somehow found himself at the Peabody Opera House next to Scottrade Center -- "It's a nice place ... pretty dark though."

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 3:20 PM

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

Hawks' Sharp endorses new Blues coach

ST. LOUIS -- Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp is among those that endorses Ken Hitchcock's move to St. Louis. Sharp, who played for Hitchcock with the Philadelphia Flyers, said the Blues are getting a good man, someone who helped elevate his game.

"He transformed my game a little bit. I think him along with John Stevens, the coach in the minors at the time, really taught me to play the right way," Sharp said. "He's probably mentioned that over there ... playing the right way. I learned that from him and I was thankful I got to play under him for two years.

"He'll have St. Louis playing great. I know that. It's not a good thing he's coaching in out division, but we need to play better and beat these guys. ... He has a proven record of building teams and building winners. ... They're going to get used to having team meetings and they're going to get used to the details and the finer points of the game. Those are all things Hitch is the best at."

Hitchcock said Sharp was one of those players that adjusted to his style.

"Patrick and I, we're pretty close," Hitchcock said. "I think the tight ship is skill level is not relevant. Everybody has to be a worker. That's kind of what I'm very determined at. I don't do a lot of yelling and screaming and embarrassing people. I'm relentless in that. To me, like any good coach in any sport is to have everyone play on the same page when the other team has the puck."

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Quote of the Day

We've got a team filled with captains, that's what I think. With these first two games we got in, we're really dominating and moving the puck really fast, and it's worked out really good.

— U.S. goalie Brandon Halverson after a 6-0 win against Germany in the World Junior Championship on Sunday