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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 3:10 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Blackhawks

Here are the projected lineups as Ken Hitchcock gets set to coach his first game for the St. Louis Blues, tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Scottrade Center:

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 make his third straight start, with Brian Elliott as the backup.

BLACKHAWKS
Michael Frolik - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Sharp
Daniel Carcillo - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Andrew Brunette - Dave Bolland - Rostislav Olesz
Viktor Stalberg - Marcus Kruger - Jamal Mayers

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Nick Leddy
Steve Montador - John Scott

Corey Crawford gets the start; Ray Emery is the backup.

Chicago, coming off a 6-2 loss at home against Vancouver on Sunday, has tweaked its lineup and knows the Blues will come hard playing their first game with a new coach.

"When you look at a team and they make a coaching change, you want to make sure you are ready against that team because they're going to show they want to play for the new coach," Hossa said. "They want to bring out all the emotions, all the energy. They'll be ready. We're going to have to play smart against this team. It's never easy to play in this building.

Said coach Joel Quenneville, "We expect them to be excited. On our side of it, we want a response to our game from Sunday night. There's a lot of motovation on both sides. We expect both sides to be hungry and ready to play. It should make for a good game."

The Hawks' lineup against the Blues includes the return of Keith, who missed the last four games with a hand injury.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 2:45 PM

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

Boxing legend Frazier touched Emery's life

ST. LOUIS -- When the news of the passing of boxing great Joe Frazier came down, it touched many lives, including that of Chicago Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery.

Frazier, who died Monday from liver cancer, had many fans all over the globe, but Emery is one that carried Frazier with him to the rink every day.

Emery, who has played for the Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Anaheim Ducks and now the Blackhawks, had a depiction of Frazier and fellow boxing great Bernard Hopkins on his goalie mask. They were caricatures that stayed with him all through his career that Emery was proud to display.

"Those guys for the most part kind of had a tough, tough go of it as far as the sport goes," Emery said. "I think it's a good thing how the sport's progressed now as far as head injuries and things like that. They kind of take better care of their athletes now."

Emery, who took an interest in boxing when he was young, met the 67-year-old Frazier while he was playing with the Flyers.
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Posted On Friday, 11.04.2011 / 2:12 PM

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

St. Louis seeking answers on special teams

ST. LOUIS -- The continued struggles for the St. Louis Blues' special teams -- particularly the power play -- has the team searching for answers and trying to find ways to break through.

The Blues are currently last in the league on the power play (3-for-36) at 8.3 percent. Only the Blues and fellow Central Division competitors Chicago (4-for-46, 8.7 percent) and Columbus (6-for-63, 9.5 percent) are below the 10-percent threshold.

But nobody's panicking in the locker room, since the Blues feel like the chances are there.

"We hadn't been (getting good opportunities), but I think the last couple games, they have been better," winger Matt D'Agostini said. "We're getting a lot better zone time, shots on net and chances. ... We've got talent on this team to put in goals. I don't think we're too worried about being snake-bitten or anything like that."

The Blues are ninth in the league in 5-on-5 situations, scoring 1.17 goals per game more than the opposition, and once they get the speciality teams straightened out, their 5-6 record should vastly improve.

"I think early on, there was some execution that didn't get in the net and then all of the sudden, we kind of got ourselves spun into a number of different situations where the unit's changing and Andy (McDonald's) out," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "Now all of the sudden, we have trouble getting the puck in the zone. I don't think that's as much of an issue now. Now you see teams really coming at us because they know we haven't scored a bunch of power-play goals.

"I think the guys are gaining an understanding of how we're going to counteract that and how we're going to stick with it. ... These guys are too good to be held off for too long."

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Posted On Friday, 11.04.2011 / 2:08 PM

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

Blues' offensive production slightly up from 'D'

ST. LOUIS -- On paper, it doesn't look like the Blues are getting quite enough offensive support from their defensemen. But in actuality, the numbers are higher than they were over an 82-game period last season.

Last season, the Blues got 38 goals, 123 assists and 161 points from their defensive unit. That averages out to 1.96 points and .46 goals per game.

Through 11 games, the Blues have 6 goals, 17 assists and 23 points from their blueliners, which averages out to 45 goals, 127 assists and 172 points over the course of 82 games. That translates to 2.09 points and .55 goals per game.

Still, the defensemen feel they can give more than they've produced thus far.

"It's something we chatted about over the weekend," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "How can we improve in the offensive zone? Whether it's moving around a little more and jumping down into the play. That's something that I haven't really brought to the table as much as I did last year. I need to start going more. I used to be in and out and having a little more movement in there. That's something that we're focusing on as a d-core as well."

Shattenkirk leads the way with 1 goal and 6 points, Alex Pietrangelo has 2 goals and 5 points, Kent Huskins has 2 goals and 2 assists, Carlo Colaiacovo has 1 goal and 2 assists, Roman Polak has 3 assists and Barret Jackman has 2 assists.
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Posted On Friday, 11.04.2011 / 2:06 PM

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

Canucks turn back to Luongo in net

ST. LOUIS -- The Vancouver Canucks, on the heels of a 5-1 loss at Minnesota Thursday night, will go back to Roberto Luongo tonight against the Blues.

The Canucks (6-6-1) had an optional skate at Scottrade Center, with Luongo (4-3-1 with a 3.20 goals-against average and .883 save percentage) and defensemen Andrew Alberts and Aaron Rome (hand injury) as the only skaters.

"I think we're all disappointed with the performance last night," said Luongo, who did not play as backup Cory Schneider stopped 40 shots. "It's a good thing we get to play the next day and make sure that we come out with a good performance and redeem ourselves here."

Luongo, after backstopping the Canucks to a 5-1 win Tuesday in Calgary with a 28-save performance, had arguably his best performance of the season and hopes to continue that tonight.

"I just wanted to make sure I got a good sweat this morning and feel good about seeing the puck and feeling the puck and have a good feeling for tonight's game," Luongo said.

The Canucks and Blues have had a tight series in recent past, with the winning team scoring three goals in each of the last six games. The Canucks saw a two-game winning streak snapped with Thursday's loss and hope to build another one.

"We weren't really happy with the way we executed and the effort level last night," defenseman Dan Hamhuis said. "We've got to put that behind us ... maybe use it as motivation, too, and play a lot better tonight."

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Posted On Friday, 11.04.2011 / 2:00 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Canucks

Tonight's probable lineups for the Blues and Canucks, who will meet for the second time this season after St. Louis won 3-0 on Oct. 26 in Vancouver:

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
Taylor Chorney - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott will start in goal after blanking the Canucks last week with a 34-save effort. Jaroslav Halak, 1-5 with a 3.58 goals-against average and .843 save percentage, will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include defenseman Nikita Nikitin and winger Chris Porter. Defenseman Kent Huskins has a bone bruise on his left ankle and will not play. David Perron (post-concussion syndrome), Andy McDonald (concussion) and B.J. Crombeen (fractured shoulder) are on injured reserve.

CANUCKS
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
David Booth - Ryan Kesler - Cody Hodgson
Christopher Higgins - Manny Malhotra - Jannik Hansen
Aaron Volpatti - Maxim Lapierre - Dale Weise

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Keith Ballard - Alexander Sulzer

Roberto Luongo gets the start. Cory Schneider will be the backup.

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.01.2011 / 2:38 PM

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

Huskins: Ankle not broken

The St. Louis Blues got good news today on defenseman Kent Huskins.

Huskins, who some feared had a broken bone in his left ankle suffered in Saturday's loss in Calgary, instead only has a deep bone bruise, and is listed as day to day.

He sat out Sunday's loss to Edmonton, since the Blues don't play again until Friday, that could be the extent of his absence.

Huskins has 2 goals and 2 assists in nine games, and his plus-6 rating is tied for second on the team. He's also tied for the team lead with 19 blocked shots.

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Posted On Friday, 10.21.2011 / 2:16 PM

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

Blues weren't counting on early-season struggles

ST. LOUIS -- Struggling out of the gates wasn't what the Blues expected. In fact, there was so much hype coming out of camp that a 2-4-0 start was the furthest thing from their minds.

"We'd love to be 6-0 right now," veteran winger Jamie Langenbrunner said, "but it's all part of the process and we'll continue to work through it."

The Blues, who entertain the Carolina Hurricanes (3-2-1) tonight, have work to do in all areas of their game. Special teams is an obvious area, where the Blues are 30th in the league in both power play and penalty killing.

"I think we just need to simplify it," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "Once we don't have the success we want initially, I think we kind of want to look for some alternate options rather than sticking with who we have and getting back to the basics.

"With what we had going last game in L.A., we had some good scoring chances, some good opportunities. Right now, I think it's just a matter of coming out tonight and doing the same thing. When we get that one chance to score, we have to really bear down and put it in the back of the net."

It seems teams are relegating the Blues to the outside and not allowing any interior play, which was pretty evident in their recent road swing where the team went 0-for-16 with the man advantage.

"Penalty killing, it seems like it's even better this year than it was last year," Shattenkirk said. "It comes as a result of us not being successful getting the puck in and setting up. When you're scrambling and looking for pucks, it's kind of easy for teams to set their pressure and not allow us to get that time and space to work."

Said Blues coach Davis Payne, "We're concerned about every aspect of our game. Our game isn't up to snuff. Goaltending's one of them, power play's one of them, penalty kill's one of them. ... There's a number of areas that's concerning. We've got to get them corrected."

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Posted On Friday, 10.21.2011 / 2:10 PM

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

With Halak struggling, Blues turn to Elliott vs. Canes

ST. LOUIS -- Getting the ship righted in goal is an area that's a must for the Blues, and Brian Elliott will spell the struggling Jaroslav Halak against the Canes tonight.

Halak, who began last season with an 8-1-1 record, a 1.46 goals-against average and .944 save percentage, is only 1-4-0 with a 3.47 GAA and .835 save percentage.

"You've got a proud athlete," coach Davis Payne said of Halak. "He knows he's got to get better. He's accountable to it. He's not hiding from that fact. His assessment is no different from ours. We know where we are and we know where we've got to go. He's a good goaltender. He's going to put the work in and he's going to be a good goaltender."

Elliott is 1-0-0 with a 2.26 GAA and .929 save percentage in two games. In his only start against San Jose, Elliott stopped 34 shots, including a highlight-reel save on the Sharks' Dan Boyle in a 3-2 game late in the third period.

Payne said the decision to go with Elliott tonight is simple.

"The way he played in San Jose, the way he played in the third period against L.A. and Jaro's play," Payne said. "Quite simply put, (Elliott) has given us a chance. He needs to give us another."

Here's how the lineups for tonight's game should look:

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

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kent Huskins - Alex Pietrangelo
Carlo Colaiacovo - Roman Polak

Elliott gets the start in goal; Halak will be the backup. No decision has been made yet who starts Saturday night in Philadelphia.

Colaiacovo (concussion) has been taken off of injured reserve and will be back in the lineup tonight. He missed the previous five games after being injured in the season-opener Oct. 8.

"Three good practices under his belt, but a solid practice yesterday, handled the pace and the competitive aspect of it," Payne said of Colaiacovo. "He should be ready to go, give us a boost."

HURRICANES
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Eric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Jiri Tlusty - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Jussi Jokinen - Jeff Skinner - Chad LaRose
Brett Sutter - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart

Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Joni Pitkanen - Jamie McBain
Jay Harrison - Tomas Kaberle

Cam Ward gets the start in goal; Brian Boucher is the backup.
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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