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POSTED ON Saturday, 10.26.2013 / 2:19 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Hutton enjoying time as Predators starter

NASHVILLE -- When Carter Hutton signed with the Nashville Predators as an unrestricted free agent over the summer, all he wanted was a guaranteed chance to stay in the NHL.

Hutton spent last season with the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that solidified its goaltending this summer by signing Corey Crawford to a multi-year contract and bringing in veteran Nikolai Khabibulin to be the backup. Unfortunately for him, the Thunder Bay, Ontario native was the odd man out.

But Hutton, 27, never envisioned himself being the guy in Nashville these days. Not with Pekka Rinne firmly entrenched in the Predators' crease. But with Rinne's recent hip infection and consequential surgery that has sidelined Nashville's No. 1 goaltender for a minimum of four weeks, Hutton has been thrust into the starting role.

"You never want it to happen like this, especially to a guy like Pekka," said Hutton, who will make his third start and fourth appearance for Nashville on Saturday when the Predators host the St. Louis Blues. "He's been a really good friend to me since I've been here. Kind of took me under his wing. You don't wish that on anybody, but opportunities come in weird ways. That's why they brought me here. They thought they had faith in me and I believe in myself. When you get the chance, no matter how it comes, whether it was one start every 10 games or now playing a bunch, you've got to be ready for it and just take advantage of it."

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POSTED ON Thursday, 10.17.2013 / 3:16 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blues' Morrow good to go, Paajarvi set to debut

CHICAGO -- After taking a hit from behind and getting a scare Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues left wing Brenden Morrow is well enough to play Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Morrow, 34, took a shot from the Sharks' Brent Burns that sent him crashing into the boards and he left for a stretch in the first period but returned to finish the game. Morrow sat out practice Wednesday in St. Louis but was on the ice Thursday morning and gave the thumbs-up after testing his neck area.

"Yeah, I was just out, moved around a little bit and made sure everything was working properly and where it should be," Morrow said. "I've had some neck problems and I've put in a lot of time [rehabilitating]. I'm trying to keep it healthy and it freaked me out a little bit and got a burner going. It's just letting it settle down. That nerve gets a little irritated at times and it was just about letting it settle down and I think it's run its course."

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.15.2013 / 1:45 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Hertl will be in Sharks' lineup

ST. LOUIS -- San Jose Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl, who has been banged up in the last two games, will play Tuesday when the Sharks play against the St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, RDS2).

Hertl was hit in the head by the Vancouver Canucks' Alexander Edler in the Sharks' 4-1 victory at Vancouver on Thursday. Edler was suspended three games by the NHL Department of Player Safety for the hit.

Hertl finished the game, but then got hit hard again by the Ottawa Senators' Clarke MacArthur in the Sharks' 3-2 victory Saturday.

But Hertl, the 17th pick in the 2012 NHL Draft who leads the team with seven goals and eight points, was in his regular spot Tuesday, skating on the top line with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns.

"I feel very good and I am ready tonight," Hertl said. "Two days [off] for my body and today now, I am ready to go for the game."

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POSTED ON Saturday, 10.12.2013 / 1:15 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blues bracing for angry, motivated Rangers

ST. LOUIS -- First, it was a 9-2 thumping against the San Jose Sharks, followed by a 6-0 drubbing against the Anaheim Ducks. Outscored 15-2 in their last two games, the New York Rangers come into St. Louis a wounded animal to face a blazing Blues team in search of their first 4-0-0 start in franchise history.

So with two teams in different ends of the spectrum, is there a clear-cut advantage?

Hardly.

The Blues play host to the Rangers Saturday night, but the home side is not taking a proud franchise for granted.

"It doesn't matter if it's the Rangers or Blackhawks or whoever it is, they've been humbled like that for a couple games, you know coming in they're going to be hungry," Blues left wing Brenden Morrow said of the Rangers. "[Rangers coach Alain] Vigneault has probably been putting them through the paces and they're probably going to be an angry bear or wounded animal and sometimes those are the worst types to find."

So instead of focusing on what the Rangers haven't done well in the previous two games, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has stressed the point of focusing on New York's lone victory: a 3-1 triumph Monday against the Los Angeles Kings.

"When we talked about New York, we watched them beat L.A., and that's the game we're focusing on," Hitchcock said. "To me, you've got an eastern team learning what it's like to play out west, not fun.

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.09.2013 / 4:10 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blackhawks, Blues looking to heat up rivalry

ST. LOUIS -- Maxim Lapierre has seen the rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks from a different perspective as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.

Blackhawks fans might consider the Detroit Red Wings their main rival. But from a players' perspective, it was the Canucks. And the hatred was clear from both sides.

Now playing for the Blues after signing a two-year contract over the summer, Lapierre feels like he could be witnessing the rebirth of the St. Louis-Chicago rivalry.

The two Central Division foes will renew acquaintances tonight when the Blues host the Blackhawks at 8 p.m. ET as NBCSN's featured "Wednesday Night Rivalry" matchup.

Lapierre knows all about rivalries with Chicago.

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POSTED ON Saturday, 10.05.2013 / 2:06 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Whitney returns to St. Louis after being cut by Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Ryan Whitney's unfortunate exit from the St. Louis Blues turned into another opportunity with the Florida Panthers.

The 30-year-old defenseman, who came to the Blues in a professional tryout, was the victim of a numbers game and the obvious lowering of the NHL salary cap this season. It's something that hit many veteran players trying to find a job this year. But Whitney's strong camp in St. Louis helped him parlay that showing into a job with the Panthers, who signed him to a one-year contract on Sept. 29.

Whitney, who was in the Blues' locker room just last week, returns to face the group he barely got to know when the Panthers and Blues square off today at Scottrade Center.

"It's a business," Whitney said. "I had a real good time in camp here, a lot of good guys over there. But I was lucky enough to get signed by Florida after camp ended. I thought I had a good camp, so it's good to be here and getting to know these guys quick on the go because we're playing. It's a good group of guys and it's a fun room to be a part of."

Whitney is still adapting to the Panthers' system, but he's still grateful for the experience he earned in St. Louis' training camp.

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POSTED ON Thursday, 10.03.2013 / 6:39 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Morrow, with visa, will play in Blues opener

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues will have veteran left wing Brenden Morrow in the lineup when they face the Nashville Predators on thursday in the season opener for each team.

Morrow's status for the game was in question because he was having issues completing the proper paperwork for his working visa. The Carlyle, Saskatechewan native signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Blues on Sept. 23 but could not gain access to a working visa until he had a signed contract.

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POSTED ON Thursday, 10.03.2013 / 2:20 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Projected lineups for Predators, Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Thursday at Scottrade Center will see the St. Louis Blues open the season against the visiting Nashville Predators.

Predators defenseman Seth Jones will celebrate his 19th birthday by making his NHL debut. The fourth pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, it's expected he'll be on the second defense pair, alongside Mattias Ekholm.

The Blues lineup is a bit of a question, as immigration issues could keep Brenden Morrow from making his debut with the team. If Morrow receives his work visa in time, he could start at left wing on the second line. If he can't go, Magnus Paajarvi could be in that spot.

Here are the lineups each team could use Thursday:

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POSTED ON Thursday, 10.03.2013 / 2:14 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Jones' birthday present is NHL debut for Predators

ST. LOUIS -- For Nashville Predators defenseman Seth Jones, the best birthday present will come Thursday, when he steps onto the ice in an NHL game for the first time.

Jones, who turned 19 Thursday, will be in the lineup for the Predators, who open the season against the St. Louis Blues.

The No. 4 pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, who will skate alongside Mattias Ekholm, said he has envisioned this day since walking up to the podium on draft day.

"Yeah, a little bit," Jones said Thursday. "I feel really good though. It's obviously a great thing that I'm here. I'm looking to move forward every day, and it starts today.

"I know [the NHL] is going to be very intense. I got a taste in preseason and I know it's coming a little bit. You don't really know until you get out there."


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POSTED ON Wednesday, 09.11.2013 / 3:57 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Training Camp 2013 blog

Blues' Pietrangelo to miss start of training camp

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- There was no common ground to be found between the St. Louis Blues and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, despite the fact the two sides met well into the night Tuesday.

So when the Blues open training camp on Thursday, Pietrangelo will be a noticeable absentee from camp.

That's the news general manager Doug Armstrong gave Wednesday on the fourth pick of the 2008 NHL Draft, who is represented by Don Meehan of Newport Sports.

"He's not in training camp," Armstrong said of the 23-year-old Pietrangelo. "We've worked in earnest with his representatives trying to get him into training camp. We've talked about a lot of different options as far as a number of years.

"[Tuesday] night, we gave it a last-ditch kick at the can around eight or nine o'clock at night and it didn't hold. So from this point forward, he's not in camp and we treat him like an injured player. ... If he misses a week, a month, a year, we're not really sure, but he's not here now and we have to move forward."

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Once again, it shows character in this dressing room. Once again, there's no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home-ice advantage and we weren't going to let this one slide.

— Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on his team's OT Game 1 win vs. Minnesota Wild