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Posted On Wednesday, 04.23.2014 / 9:20 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues-Blackhawks series blog

Blues' Backes out for Game 4 vs. Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- St. Louis Blues center David Backes was not in the lineup for Game 4 of the Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.

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Posted On Saturday, 04.05.2014 / 1:06 PM

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

Blues' Jackman returns, Steen doubtful for weekend

ST. LOUIS -- Two days appears to be enough down time for St. Louis Blues defenseman Barret Jackman.

After sitting out a 2-1 victory Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres with a lower-body injury, Jackman will come back into the lineup Saturday for the Blues (52-17-7) against the Colorado Avalanche (49-21-6).

Jackman was among those to skate Friday in an optional practice and deemed himself fit.

"Other guys got in the lineup and we're rested and ready to go [Saturday]," Jackman said. "Two days off. It felt good so we're ready to go [Saturday]. … Every game's a grind from here on out. I got two days' rest, which is only going to be beneficial down the stretch."

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Posted On Saturday, 03.29.2014 / 2:10 PM

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

Stars' Seguin a game-time decision against Blues

ST. LOUIS -- The Dallas Stars are in a furious fight to the finish as far as a Western Conference wild-card spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In that mad dash, there will be a couple of players who are questionable for Saturday night against the conference-leading St. Louis Blues.

The Stars (35-27-11) held an optional skate Saturday and could be without one of their most important players in their clash with the Central Division-rival Blues (50-16-7).

Center Tyler Seguin, who leads the Stars in goals (32), assists (44) and points (76) in 71 games, is dealing with what coach Lindy Ruff termed soreness. The Stars recalled left wing Chris Mueller from the American Hockey League's Texas Stars on Saturday morning because a couple of players are dealing with bumps and bruises as well as sickness.

"We've got a couple of question marks," Ruff said. "[Seguin's] one of them. We'll wait and see tonight."

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Posted On Thursday, 02.06.2014 / 2:44 PM

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

Bruins' Warsofsky not worried about replacing Chara

ST. LOUIS -- When David Warsofsky takes the ice Thursday for the Boston Bruins, he only can hope to help alleviate the void left by Zdeno Chara's absence.

Warsofsky will play in his fifth NHL game when the Bruins (36-16-3) face the St. Louis Blues (37-12-6) at Scottrade Center.

The Bruins will be without Chara for the final two games leading up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics because the Bruins captain and 2009 Norris Trophy winner has left for Russia and will be the flag bearer for Slovakia at the opening ceremony Friday.

"I don't think I can play that high, how many minutes he usually plays," Warsofsky said of Chara, who averages 24:57 of ice time per game. "I just want to play my game. The whole [defense] corps will have to step up. I'm looking forward to it."

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 8:08 PM

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

Blues' Sobotka out vs. Coyotes due to flu

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues center Vladimir Sobotka was scratched from the lineup Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes with the flu.

Sobotka was not part of the morning skate earlier in the day, but coach Ken Hitchcock was hopeful Sobotka, who has nine points in the past seven games, could play.

Dmitrij Jaskin, recalled earlier Tuesday from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League, suited up in Sobotka's place.

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Posted On Saturday, 12.28.2013 / 1:38 PM

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

Blues place Steen on injured reserve with concussion

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues have been hit by the injury bug in recent weeks, but none bigger than the recent news regarding forward Alexander Steen, their leading scorer.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong made it official Saturday that Steen was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 21 with a concussion, the second of his career with the Blues.

Steen, who leads the Blues with 24 goals and 38 points, missed the game against the Calgary Flames on Monday and is out indefinitely.

"I say indefinitely because it could be day-to-day or week-to-week with a concussion," Armstrong said during the Blues' morning skate Saturday prior to facing the Chicago Blackhawks. "There's no set timetable.

"He's not going to be going on this road trip coming up [Sunday against the Dallas Stars and Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild], but he is exercising and we hope he has a speedy recovery. (With) concussions, I don't feel comfortable putting a timetable on (them)."

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.17.2013 / 6:29 PM

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

Blues dealing with key injuries as they host Sharks

ST. LOUIS -- The San Jose Sharks won't have any sympathy for the banged up, battered St. Louis Blues when the two Western Conference titans meet for the third time Tuesday night.

The Blues, coming off a 3-2 overtime defeat against the Ottawa Senators on Monday, arrived in St. Louis in the early hours of Tuesday morning and did so without three top forwards at their disposal.

Second-line forwards Vladimir Sobotka and Jaden Schwartz did not play Monday because of upper-body injuries, and the Blues (22-6-4) lost captain David Backes in the third period with an upper-body injury after a head-on-head collision with the Senators' Colin Greening.

The Sharks (20-7-6) are in the middle of one of their toughest stretches of the season at 1-4-1, but they have given the Blues two of their six regulation losses, outscoring St. Louis 12-5.


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Posted On Friday, 10.25.2013 / 1:46 PM

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

Blues hope team-bonding trip pays off

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues have gone a full week without playing a game while the rest of the NHL is flying past them in games played.

Other than the New York Rangers (eight games), everyone else in the League has played at least two more games than the seven by the Blues, who got an unusual early quirk in the schedule.

So instead of practicing and lounging around St. Louis and having some training camp-type practices, the team was able to get away for a few days for some rest, relaxation and a few workouts on the eastern coast of Charleston, S.C.

A little bit of everything was involved, from golfing to fishing, guys getting away to see a movie, shopping at some of Charleston's finest stores and good old-fashioned team bonding.

As the Blues (5-1-1) get set to play in back-to-back games this weekend (Friday against the Vancouver Canucks and Saturday at the Nashville Predators), players said the time spent together was beneficial.


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Posted On Wednesday, 10.09.2013 / 2:15 PM

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

Blackhawks' Sharp remains ready to face Blues

ST. LOUIS -- The availability of Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp is status quo: The veteran left wing is still in a holding pattern.

Sharp, whose wife Abby is due to give birth of the couple's second daughter soon, was awaiting word from the Blackhawks' public-relations staff. But as of early Wednesday afternoon, there was no indication whether Sharp would have to fly back to Chicago or not.

Sharp has indicated that if he had to miss a game, he would. Skipping the game Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) was a possibility, but Sharp is with the team and skated in the morning.

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Posted On Friday, 05.10.2013 / 4:36 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues-Kings series blog

Hitchcock understands road Blues must travel

LOS ANGELES -- As coach of the Dallas Stars in 1999, when he led his team to the Stanley Cup, Ken Hitchcock was in this familiar position: down 3-2 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and facing elimination on the road.

Not only did Hitchcock's Stars go into Denver and defeat the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 in the Western Conference Finals, they won Game 7 at home, and that run was culminated with a victory over the Buffalo Sabres in six games to win the Stanley Cup.

Fast forward 14 years, when Hitchcock's St. Louis Blues are down 3-2 against the defending champion Los Angeles Kings, on the road, in a tough building, needing a win to keep their season alive.

So what can these Blues draw from their veteran coach that they must apply against a Kings team that has won three straight in the series?

"You have to outplay the team," Hitchcock said after Friday's morning skate. "You can't expect to play at the same level and win the hockey game. It doesn't happen. I've been in this situation a number of times and come through, and it's been the same similar landscape. We have to outplay them today. If we play at the same level, it's not going to be good enough"

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Posted On Saturday, 04.27.2013 / 1:52 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Blues can't afford to overlook depleted Blackhawks

ST. LOUIS -- For the St. Louis Blues, with the Stanley Cup Playoffs scenario in their own hands and not having to rely on outside help, two words fit the description heading into the season finale Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks: no excuses.

If the Blues (28-17-2) win, they will finish as the fourth seed in the Western Conference and have home ice in the first round of the playoffs. A regulation loss eliminates them from a possible fourth seed because the teams they're jockeying for position with (San Jose and Los Angeles, each one point back), play each other. One point Saturday gives the Blues a chance.

"It's win and move on," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "To me, regardless what happens, 90 minutes after the game we've moved onto the next event. If it ends up in a win, great, we're the four seed and we watch TV. If we don't win, we adjust accordingly. To me, you can't carry any baggage postgame."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.16.2013 / 1:30 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Stuck in goal drought, Blues give Jaskin a shot

ST. LOUIS -- In the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, the St. Louis Blues will turn to a 20-year-old who is making the jump from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League straight to the NHL.

Dmitrij Jaskin, the 41st pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, will make his NHL debut Tuesday night when the Blues face the Vancouver Canucks at Scottrade Center.

Jaskin, who joined the Blues in Nashville a week ago, has taken part in every practice and every drill thus far. And with the Blues mired in a drought of five goals in five games, going 3-2-0, coach Ken Hitchcock will insert the 6-foot-2, 196-pound right wing into the lineup and give him his opportunity.

"He looked a little off-balance taking nine days off when he first came here, and then I thought the last two days ... what convinced me to give him a chance, and I'm kind of excited to look at him, was we did a really hard down-low offensive drill yesterday," Hitchcock said of Jaskin. "It was a very difficult drill, and he scored against NHL players and it was a hard drill and he found the back of the net, he put it through the back of the net. I was really impressed. He got whacked around really good yesterday down low, and he stood his ground and was determined to put the puck in the net."

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Posted On Thursday, 03.28.2013 / 1:44 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Kings, Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Probable lineups for Thursday night's Western Conference matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) from Scottrade Center.

KINGS

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams

Mike Richards - Tyler Toffoli - Jeff Carter

Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis

Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan


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Posted On Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 1:47 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Blues, Coyotes getting healthy before matchup

ST. LOUIS -- Both the Phoenix Coyotes and St. Louis Blues are expected to get injured players back into their lineups when they meet Thursday at Scottrade Center.

For the Coyotes, defenseman David Schlemko returns after missing 16 games with an upper-body injury suffered early in a Feb. 4 game against the Minnesota Wild.

"It's been a long five-and-a-half weeks, I think," Schlemko said after the Coyotes' morning skate. "I'm definitely excited to get back in there. I think you bag-skate for three weeks straight ... reminds you how much you love the game. It'll be exciting. Probably a little bit of nerves the first couple shifts. It'll be fun to be back in there."

The Coyotes, who have won back-to-back games since losing 6-3 to the Blues one week ago, also could get center Matthew Lombardi (upper-body) back Thursday.

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.12.2013 / 2:11 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sharks, Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Projected lineups for Tuesday's matchup between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues from Scottrade Center.

SHARKS

Logan Couture - Joe Thornton - Tommy Wingels

Ryane Clowe - Patrick Marleau - Joe Pavelski

James Sheppard - Scott Gomez - Brent Burns

Andrew Desjardins - Michal Handzus - Adam Burish

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Brad Stuart- Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Douglas Murray - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock


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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 1:04 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Redden set to make NHL return for Blues

ST. LOUIS -- The last time Wade Redden suited up in a National Hockey League uniform, it was difficult to imagine at the time it would take that roughly three years to put on a jersey again.

The 35-year-old, who signed a pro-rated one-year, $800,000 contract with the Blues last week, will make his return to the NHL when the Blues host the Nashville Predators on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET).

Redden, whose last game was in a New York Rangers uniform on April 11, 2010, is likely to skate with Alex Pietrangelo on the Blues' top pairing tonight.

The wait is finally over, and Redden is glad to put the ordeal with the Rangers behind him after spending the last two seasons in the American Hockey League with the Connecticut Whale.

"It's been a while, but I've obviously been playing still," said Redden, whose last NHL points ironically came against the Blues when he scored a goal and added an assist on March 18, 2010. "The AHL is not the same level, but it's still a pretty good league. It's obviously a lot different atmosphere and I'm looking forward to being a part of it tonight again."

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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 2:58 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Greene's shorthanded goal a hit in Kings' room

ST. LOUIS -- There was a buzz around the Los Angeles Kings' locker room Saturday and the last couple days in the aftermath of defenseman Matt Greene's shorthanded goal in Game 1.

"It's a little rare that he ever crosses the blue line," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty joked about Greene. "But that's what playoffs [are] about. Getting a little from every single guy on your team and to see a guy like him score in the playoffs, all of us were so happy for him and it just gave us a boost."

The Kings have three shorthanded goals [Dustin Brown with two goals and an assist has been a part of all three of them], which matches their power play output in the postseason.

"We don't want to give them any time and space," Doughty said of the PK. "If good players have that space, they're going to find the seams and the open guy backdoor for an easy tap-in. We're definitely very aggressive on the penalty kill. We're blocking shots and that's kind of the motto of our team.

"It's been working out great for us. That aggressive style makes guys on the back-end panic when guys go 100 miles an hour at them. You're going to panic with the puck a little bit and with ice conditions and stuff like that, pucks are going to bounce over your stick or whatever it may be. Brownie's been doing a great job of reading those opportunities and it's been a big part to our playoff season so far."

Greene's goal broke a 1-1 tie late in the second period and propelled the Kings to a 3-1 victory.
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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 1:42 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Projected Game 2 lineups

ST. LOUIS -- Here are the probable lineups for Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues from Scottrade Center:

KINGS
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

Forwards Kyle Clifford (concussion) and Scott Parse (hip) once again sit out. Healthy scratches include forwards Andrei Loktionov and Kevin Westgarth as well as defenseman Davis Drewiske, all of whom sat out Game 1.

BLUES
Andy McDonald - David Backes - Alex Steen
David Perron - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Matt D'Agostini
Jamie Langenbrunner - Scott Nichol - B.J. Crombeen

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

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen

Goalie Jaroslav Halak (lower body) is still out for Game 2 and Pietrangelo (undisclosed injury) will be a gametime decision. Healthy scratches include forwards Chris Stewart, Ryan Reaves, Chris Porter and Jaden Schwartz along with defensemen Kent Huskins and Cole will be a healthy scratch if Pietrangelo plays.
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 3:28 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Healthy, productive Havlat adds to Sharks' weapons

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock certainly knows a thing or two about San Jose Sharks winger Martin Havlat.

Hitchcock saw plenty of Havlat when the Czech Republic native was breaking into the NHL with the Ottawa Senators. Hitchcock was coaching the Philadelphia Flyers at the time and saw a high-flying skater with big-time scoring punch.

He retouched on those points earlier in the week leading up to the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Blues and Sharks.

"I've coached against Havlat where he was the best player in every game ... it wasn't even close," Hitchcock said. "He was better than [Marian] Hossa. So I know what he can do."

Those points came to fruition Thursday night. Havlat became a thorn in Hitchcock and the Blues' side with two goals, including the game-winner in the second overtime of a 3-2 victory by San Jose, giving the seventh-seeded Sharks a 1-0 series lead.

Havlat came into the game with 28 points [12 goals, 16 assists] in his last 26 playoff games. After a tumultuous time in Minnesota, he was acquired by the Sharks before the season for this very purpose.

"Marty's a goal scorer," teammate Ryane Clowe said. "Goal scorers find ways."

Havlat found a way to open the scoring for San Jose, then ended it by taking a Clowe backhand feed and one-timing a shot from the high slot past Jaroslav Halak for the third playoff overtime goal of his career.

"I'm just trying to enjoy the time in the playoffs," said the 30-year-old Havlat, who has 21 goals and 51 points in 68 career playoff games. "I'm just trying to do my best and help my team. I think everybody else is trying to do the same thing."

Said Sharks coach Todd McLellan: "He has that reputation [of a clutch performer]. That's one of the reasons why he was acquired.

"We're very lucky that he had the type of game that he had."

It's been a tough year for Havlat, who is playing for his fourth NHL team. He missed four games at the start of the season because of offseason shoulder surgery, then missed 39 more games in the middle of the season after suffering a freak hamstring injury. He finished with a career-low seven goals and had 27 points in 39 games.

The Sharks were certainly a better team with Havlat in the lineup, going 25-11-3 with him in the lineup, 18-18-7 without him.

Havlat dressed for the final 13 games and was productive leading into the postseason, finishing with five goals and 12 points.

"It had to be taxing on him," McLellan said of Havlat. "You have to remember that he's only played 13-14 games returning from his injury. To go 4 1/2 periods -- give him credit. He managed himself well."

Sharks captain Joe Thornton called Thursday's game by Havlat "a big performance from a big-time player."

Now, with Havlat in the top-six mix for a deep and talented Sharks forward crop, San Jose becomes even more dangerous. For a team that reached the conference finals the last two seasons, that only bodes well moving forward.

"I'm just happy that I could be back before the end of the regular season and help the boys in the hunt for the playoffs," Havlat said. "Now I've played a few games before [the playoffs] and I'm happy for that.

"I got to know the boys a little more on the ice. I was ready for the first game. Now that we've made the playoffs, I'm excited to be in the playoffs."

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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:50 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Blues sticking with Halak as Game 2 starter

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock announced after Friday's optional skate for the team that they will stay with Jaroslav Halak in goal for Saturday's Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the San Jose Sharks.

The Blues dropped the opener 3-2 in double overtime on Martin Havlat's goal.

Halak stopped 31 shots and could not be faulted for any of the three San Jose goals.

"He was like our team," Hitchcock said of Halak. "He had some real good moments and then some time, we'd like him better. He was just like our team."
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Posted On Friday, 04.06.2012 / 12:48 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Coyotes

ST. LOUIS -- The probable lineups for tonight's crucial Western Conference matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes from Scottrade Center.

BLUES
Alex Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Jamie Langenbrunner - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
Ryan Reaves - Vladimir Sobotka - Matt D'Agostini

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

Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

The Blues' scratches include forwards Scott Nichol, B.J. Crombeen, Chris Porter and Jaden Schwartz as well as defensemen Kent Huskins and Ian Cole.

COYOTES

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Gilbert Brule
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Adrian Aucoin - Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Rostislav Klesla - Michal Rozsival

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

Smith carries a streak of 155 consecutive saves, which is an NHL high since saves were first kept in 1976-77, per the Elias Sports Bureau. He also has a shutout streak of 219:59, which is a personal best.

The Coyotes' scratches include D David Schlemko, LW Paul Bissonnette, D Chris Summers, C Kyle Chipchura, D Michael Stone and RW Scott Arnold.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.04.2012 / 1:46 PM

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

Red Wings trying to get back into pre-injury rhythm

ST. LOUIS -- The Detroit Red Wings, who are 0-5-2 in their last seven road games, will play away from the confines of Joe Louis Arena in the regular season for the final time tonight.

And much like their counterparts tonight in the St. Louis Blues, the Red Wings are getting healthy and looking to gear their game towards an NHL-best 21st straight playoff run.

"Going through that injury stretch messed with the rhythm and timing of things, but now that we've got our full lineup back minus (Darren Helm) and (Patrick Eaves), it should give us a good chance the last three games getting our game just right heading into the playoffs," said goalie Jimmy Howard, who has had three stretches this season out with injuries.

The Wings have missed at one time or another guys like Helm, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Nicklas Lidstrom, Danny Cleary, Ian White, Todd Bertuzzi and Jonathan Ericsson. They have managed to stay up to speed, just like the Blues. Depth has been key.

"I think it's good for us in the long run," center Justin Abdelkader said of the team's depth. "Guys have played more expanded roles and gotten more minutes. When everyone's healthy, hopefully it's helped taken us in the right direction and our depth has come through. Hopefully we're ready to make a run here in the playoffs."

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

The Wings, with 99 points and a record of 47-27-5, can reach the 100-point mark tonight for an NHL-record 12th consecutive season with at least an overtime/shootout loss.

It's quite a feat, especially since there is so much parity in the NHL these days and the man-power teams deal with, particularly with so many injuries.

"That is pretty impressive since the last month and a half here hasn't been too kind to us with the injury bug," Howard said. "The guys stepped up and we got ourselves a chance to do it again.

"It just shows you do a lot of winning throughout the years. ... It's difficult. It's not easy by any means, especially with the parity throughout the League. Anyone can beat anyone now on any given night. To be able to hit 100 points here again tonight if we get the opportunity, it would be pretty sweet."

Abdelkader, a part of two of those 100-point seasons and looking for his third, said there were difficult times for the team when it went through a 1-6-2 stretch before winning three of five.

"We tried to sustain what we had going, but it was tough," Abdelkader said. "Our play kind of declined there for a while. When you have so many injuries like that, it's tough to maintain it, but now's the time to get everyone healthy and everyone's been coming around. That's good for us.

"It is an accomplishment (reaching 100 points) and it's a tribute to the owners, the management, the scouts that do all the work. Bringing the teams together each year, I think they've done a tremendous job."
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.04.2012 / 12:45 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Red Wings

ST. LOUIS -- Probable lineups for Wednesday night's Central Division battle between the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings from Scottrade Center.

BLUES
David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald - Patrik Berglund - Matt D'Agostini
Alex Steen - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
Jamie Langenbrunner - Vladimir Sobotka - Ryan Reaves

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

Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

It will be Elliott's first action since the third of three straight shutouts recorded. Elliott comes in with a franchise- and personal-best streak of shutout minutes at 186 minutes 33 seconds; Halak, who started the last two games, is the backup.

The Blues' scratches include forwards Scott Nichol, B.J. Crombeen and Chris Porter as well as defensemen Kent Huskins and Ian Cole.

RED WINGS

Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Gustav Nyquist - Pavel Datsyuk - Johan Franzen
Danny Cleary - Justin Abdelkader - Todd Bertuzzi
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Jonathan Ericsson
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jakub Kindl - Ian White

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin

Red Wings D Kyle Quincey will serve his one-game suspension tonight after being disciplined following an elbow to Florida's Tomas Kopecky Sunday in Detroit. LW Jan Mursak is a healthy scratch. C Patrick Eaves (fractured jaw) is on injured reserve, as is RW Darren Helm (MCL sprain) and G Joey MacDonald (bulging disk).
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Posted On Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 2:26 PM

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

Ducks still riding wave of positive momentum

ST. LOUIS -- With a plethora of in-season coaching changes around the NHL this season, the St. Louis Blues (42-18-7) have certainly reaped the benefits of bringing in the veteran Ken Hitchcock after a rough 6-7-0 start this season.

The Anaheim Ducks (29-28-10) were in a similar position when they made the change on Jan. 30 to Bruce Boudreau, who replaced Randy Carlyle (who's since taken over the resigns in Toronto).

The Ducks were 7-13-4 when the coaching change was made following a home win over Montreal. Things didn't start as well under Boudreau, who was 3-9-2 in his first 14 games.

"The new coaching staff came in and we were still losing games and we were pretty down on ourselves," Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa said. "I wouldn't say we stopped believing in ourselves, but we got pretty close to that. (The coaching staff) kept telling us to stay positive and it's going to turn around eventually and that's what we did. Games got closer and closer and we started winning games and just started building. It added up. It gives us confidence."

That confidence boost has turned into a 19-6-4 run since Jan. 6 and has the Ducks, who were laboring near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, just six points behind eighth-place San Jose going into tonight's clash with the Blues.

"They really are playing good," Hitchcock said of the Ducks. "They're playing about as well as anybody in the West right now. You can see what Bruce has done systems-wise. There's a change from when Randy was there. There's a different style, but I think it's like anything else ... when your best players are your best players, you're going to win a lot of hockey games. (Jonas) Hiller's been great in goal, they got (Ryan) Getzlaf and (Corey) Perry engaged, they're obviously good players.

"I just think sometimes as a team, you kick yourself for not starting the engine a little quicker. ... They look like they could win every game the way they're playing right now."

Boudreau, who was fired earlier this season in Washington and within a week hired in Anaheim, has taken a positive approach and turned it into a winning formula in Orange County.

"He approaches things positive," Sbisa said of Boudreau. "I was thinking he was more of an offensive-minded guy when he came in. In Washington, they were scoring a bunch of goals and stuff, but the defensive side of our game got way better since he came in. We used to be a team that got outshot every night. Now we keep teams to around 20 shots, which is great and we have to do that if you want a chance to win. If Hiller plays every night, you can't give up 40 shots a night."

With 15 games remaining on the schedule, the Ducks, even at the tough grind they've been on just to get themselves back in contention, believe they have their fate in their own hands.

"It's been a grind, but it's way more fun when you win," Sbisa said. "When we were on that losing streak early in the season on that long road trip, guys just got tired early, especially mentally just couldn't stay up. But on the one we had just this past month, the trip was even longer, but I felt I had more energy and most of the guys felt the same way because of the fact that we were winning. It makes everything better going to the rink, going to practice, wanting to practice and all that stuff. It's been a change in attitude."
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 2:32 PM

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

Chicago's Bollig has St. Louis homecoming

ST. LOUIS -- It will be a homecoming Tuesday night for Chicago Blackhawks enforcer Brandon Bollig, whose recall last week came just in time.

Bollig, who was called up from the American Hockey League's Rockford IceHogs last week, was born and raised in nearby St. Charles and is a product of Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles. This is the first time as an NHL he will play in his home state.

"Not only am I living a dream playing with the Hawks right now and getting my first crack in the NHL, but I'm lucky enough to come here to St. Louis and playing in front of my hometown crowd," said Bollig, who has seven penalty minutes in three games. "I'm pretty excited. I've got a lot of people coming and I can't wait to get going."

Growing up, Bollig began skating in nearby Creve Coeur (Mo.) before the St. Peters Rec Plex got a program of its own. He tried out for the Triple-A Junior Blues, then went on to play Junior-A and onto Rockford before getting his chance with the Blackhawks after they dealt away popular John Scott at the NHL Trade Deadline.

"I think I was more nervous when I thought about playing in front of my home crowd, but now that it's actually time to do it, I'm sure once game time comes around, I'll be a little bit nervous," Bollig said. "Hopefully I just look at it as another game and kind of take it as that."

Bollig said there will be 50-plus people in attendance Tuesday night, but he didn't have to purchase the entire ticket count.

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The streaky Blackhawks, who have won three, lost nine, won four, lost three and now won three since Jan. 15, have made the necessary adjustments without captain Jonathan Toews (upper-body) in the lineup.

Toews will miss his eighth consecutive game Tuesday, but Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville likes how his team has come together, particularly Patrick Kane, who has four goals and four assists in the past 10 games.

"You miss a lot without Johnny in the lineup," Quenneville said. "We talk about Kaner, he's absorbed a lot of that responsibility here recently. We're coming off two of our better games in sequence all year being on the road. Playing that solid team game gives us a good chance without Johnny around. It's the way we have to play to be successful.

"There's some positive things in our game recently that we like. We keep rooting for Johnny to get back here, but in his absence, Kaner has really stepped up."

Chicago is on the last of a three-game trip that has seen them win a pair of 2-1 games.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 2:25 PM

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

Probable lineups for Blackhawks vs. Blues

ST. LOUIS -- The projected lineups for Tuesday night's Central Division battle between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks from Scottrade Center.

BLUES
Vladimir Sobotka - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Chris Porter - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
B.J. Crombeen - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

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

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

Halak, who went 5-0-0 on the Blues' recent six-game trip with a 1.55 goals-against average and .939 save percentage, will get the nod for the sixth time in seven games.

Alex Steen (concussion), Matt D'Agostini (concussion), Jamie Langenbrunner (broken foot), and Kris Russell (concussion symptoms) are all on injured reserve. Defenseman Kent Huskins has a bruised left hand and is day-to-day. Center T.J. Hensick is a healthy scratch.

BLACKHAWKS
Andrew Brunette - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw
Jimmy Hayes - Jamal Mayers - Brandon Bollig

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Johnny Oduya
Dylan Olsen - Sami Lepisto

Ray Emery
Corey Crawford

Center Jonathan Toews (upper body), defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) and defenseman Steve Montador (upper body) are out with injuries. Winger Daniel Carcillo (lower body) is on long-term injured reserve. Healthy scratches include defenseman Sean O'Donnell, center Brendan Morrison and winger Michael Frolik.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 2:25 PM

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

Back home, Blues expect to be sharp for Blackhawks

ST. LOUIS -- The old adage for teams coming off extended trips away from home is that first game back, teams tend to be flat.

In the case of the Blues, a 5-1 trip is something to be proud of since the road hadn't been all too kind to them this season.

So when the Blues (41-18-7) host the rival Chicago Blackhawks (36-24-7) tonight at Scottrade Center, the Blues will have to guard against that flat start.

Or do they?

"I think playing Chicago gets our attention," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They've had our number the last couple games. It's kind of our turn to respond. They've outplayed us, they've outplayed us for more minutes than we've outplayed them. So it's our chance to respond.

"They beat us in this building (5-2 on Dec. 3), and then they took it to us in the second half in that game in Chicago (Feb. 19, a 3-1 result) and nipped us at the end. They got our attention off of that. We'll see where we're at."

The Blues don't feel like there will be an issue, considering they haven't played since Saturday night.

"We had a tough trip and we were away for a while, but I think guys are excited to be here back at home," forward Andy McDonald said. "Travel's tough on the way back, but we've had a few days of rest. There shouldn't be any excuses. We should be ready to go. ... The extra day really helps so we should be ready."

Winger T.J. Oshie agreed.

"Coming out flat isn't really going to be an issue for us," Oshie said. "We've been playing good at home this year, so we want to protect that."

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Since coming back from a concussion that forced McDonald to miss 53 games, the veteran center/winger hasn't missed a beat being out of the lineup.

McDonald, 34, has 9 points (6 goals) in 12 games, including 5 points in five games. But there's always more adjusting to do.

"I'm still adjusting. There's some areas that I'd like to clean up in my own game," McDonald said. "I thought that I'd be in top shape by now, but there's some of the timing things that I'd still like to improve on. That's what I'm trying to do. Hopefully our line can (continue) to produce and generate offense every time we're out there but also be strong defensively."

Playing with Patrik Berglund and David Perron in recent games seems to have elevated the production from the line in general.

"He's a veteran player and he's been through it before," Hitchcock said of McDonald. "He knows how to pace himself. He knows what to work on. I don't think he pays much attention to it. I think he went through the initial phases where he was enthusiastic and careful, and now he's playing hockey. He's a big part of our team right now. He's a very effective player. We don't have a lot of those rush attack chances, but when he's on the ice, we do. I think that's a threat that makes other teams nervous."

If McDonald has another gear, there will be plenty more points on the table.

"I just remember him and (Brad) Boyes playing catch on the power play," Hitchcock said of McDonald, remembering when he used to coach against the Blues with Columbus. "That's all I remember was bing-bing-bing and in the net. Our sticks were turned over half the time when they had it on the power play. That's what I remember about him from here.

"I think he's a lot stronger than people think he is. I think he surprises people because he can strip you of pucks, he's strong on the puck and he's got great courage to score. He's a great help for us right now."
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Posted On Thursday, 02.23.2012 / 3:38 PM

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

Hitchcock has Nashville bugaboo to erase

NASHVILLE -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock needs to remind himself that he's won in this building before, but it's been a long time coming.

Heading into tonight's matchup with the Predators, Hitchcock, owner of 563 wins in his NHL career, doesn't have many of them here at Bridgestone Arena. In fact, the Blues' coach last won here four teams ago -- as coach of the Dallas Stars.

Hitchcock comes into tonight's game 0-11-6-1 in his last 18 visits to Nashville, spanning games coached with Dallas, Philadelphia, Columbus and now the Blues.

His last win here was on Feb. 13, 2001. So what's the key to winning here tonight and hurling that gorilla off Hitchcock's back?

"We've got to understand that the best player on their team is their goalie," Hitchcock said of Pekka Rinne, who is 12-5-2 lifetime against the Blues, including 4-0-0 this season. "It starts with outworking him. And you've got to plow through adversity.

"You're going to get adversity because they've got players who know how to win, they've got players who know how to play, they've got good structure, a good system. You're just plowing through a lot adversity and you've just got to stay determined like that. Nashville wins a lot of games by frustrating the opposition. ... They wear you down mentally and I think you've just got to be able to stay with it."

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Whether they like it or not, the Blues (36-17-7) will get acclimated with one another, and they'll do it away from home where the road record is not as good as they'd like it to be.

Of the next 16 games, 13 of them will be spent away from Scottrade Center, and after losing two in a row for the first time in regulation for the first time since Oct. 28-30, they'll get the opportunity to deal with some adversity for the start of a six-game trip.

"Good or not, it's coming," captain David Backes said. "We're going to play some tough teams on the road. We need to find a way to get points. We haven't had this streak of losses very often this year. The quicker we turn around, the better off we're going to be."

Added defenseman Barret Jackman: "It's definitely a big test for us coming up heading on the road for 10 days. It's going to test our team, but we're definitely ready for the challenge."

The Blues have not lost three in a row in regulation all season long. A loss here tonight would make that all come to fruition, but it's something they'd like to avoid heading down the home stretch.

"The year that I won the Cup (in New Jersey), we went on an eight-game losing streak before the end of the year and fired our coach," Arnott said. "We thought all heck was going to break loose and we ended up going out, coming together and winning.

"You just never know, but you don't want to go through those things. You want to go through the last stretch on a high and playing well together. Obviously things aren't going to go your way the whole time, but if you can narrow the gap down and play more of a solid game than just half, you're going to be better off."

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The Blues have suddenly gone south with their play in the third period, an area that has been rock-solid for this team in winning 36 games.

They've given up three goals to Chicago and one to Boston in third periods over the last two games. Prior to that, the Blues allowed a total of four third-period goals in 22 games, including a stretch in which they had 10 in a row without allowing anything.

"The last couple games for us, we've really liked our first 40 minutes. We've not liked our third period," Hitchcock said. "In order to beat a team like Nashville, it's a lot like beating us. You've got to trust your work. I think that knowing Nashville, both teams have been able to come back in games. It's because the other team's maybe let up a little bit. For me, tonight's a game about trusting our work, trusting our work for 60 minutes."

What's happened in the last couple third periods? Hitchcock said it's all about the team believing in what they do.

"We've got to trust our work a little bit more," Hitchcock said. "We're kind of pulling back a little bit and kind of allowing the other team to maybe even out the dictating part of the game. That's not how we're built, that's not how we're structured, that's not how we play.

"We're a very good team when we're in attack mode and staying in attack mode. You saw that in the last 10 minutes of the first period yesterday and the whole second period, we're a really good team when we play that way. That's the way we have to play is stay in attack mode. I thought we came off it again in the third. It's been two games in a row we've done that. We don't want to see that."
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Posted On Thursday, 02.16.2012 / 3:31 PM

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

Blues need to get more out of Stewart

ST. LOUIS -- What seems like an ever-lasting time zone in which St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is trying to light a candle under underachieving power forward Chris Stewart was on full display Wednesday at practice.

Stewart, a top-six forward by nature, was skating on the Blues' fourth line with Scott Nichol, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves, in an effort to find that spark plug that has mysteriously been hidden from a player coming off back-to-back 28-goal seasons.

"It's a working foundation," Hitchcock said. "You couldn't get a better worker than Scott Nichol. Before you can think about scoring goals, you've got to start to work. So we need a working foundation so we can get to the next end. Whether it's for one period, one shift, one game, 10 games ... who knows. We need the working foundation here.

"We need a working foundation. When the work is there, the reward will be there.

Is this something Hitchcock has considered for a while?

"Yes," he quickly replied.

Stewart, who has 11 goals and 22 points in 53 games this season, was one of the Blues' best skaters and performers in a full-scale practice Wednesday following a bad 2-1 loss at NHL-worst Columbus on Tuesday night.

"It's obviously a message ... message loud and clear," Stewart said. "I've been in this position before ... just got to get back to work. Obviously not contributing offensively and something had to be done. They feel like that's the right approach and I'll just go from there.

"It is what it is. I can't really do anything about it now. Come out tomorrow and put together a good first period and hopefully get back up there. Just take it one game at a time."

There have been rumblings as to whether Hitchcock would consider sitting Stewart a game or two to get the message across.

"No, but we need to see more," Hitchcock said. "We need to see more work, more second and third effort so his skill can take over.

"He's got elite skill. We just need to see more. Your skill can't come out until the work foundation's in place."

Stewart said it's not from a lack of trying.

"Yeah. I mean, I'm obviously out there trying, giving it my all every night," he said. "But at the end of the day, if they don't feel that's good enough, then I've got to show more. It's up to them to give me the job description and up to me to do it. The good thing about this game is we've got another game tomorrow, come out and give it my best."
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Posted On Thursday, 02.16.2012 / 3:26 PM

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

Mutual respect between Tavares, Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS -- Count Blues coach Ken Hitchcock as a fan of Islanders sensation John Tavares, the No. 1 pick of the 2009 Entry Draft.

Tavares, who has 22 goals and 55 points in 56 games this season, played for Hitchcock last summer for Team Canada at the World Championship in Slovakia. He led Canada with 5 goals, 4 assists and 9 points in seven games.

"I think Tavares is an elite player in the League right now. I really liked him as a player in the World Championships," Hitchcock said. "He was arguably our best player by the end of the tournament. I think as good a player he is, I think he's still an underrated player.

"Everybody said, 'Not sure if he can help you here, blah, blah, blah.' They were worried about his speed on the big surface, which was not relevant at all. They were worried about his quickness ... he pulled away on guys. And he is really strong on the puck. To me, he's Jonathan Toews-strong on the puck. He's a heck of a player and he has puck patience like not very many players do. He's got strength and puck patience where he's able to protect the puck ... I don't think there's maybe five guys in the League that can play like that."

Tavares said he learned a lot under Hitchcock.

"He was very thorough," Tavares said. "For young players, that can be really helpful understanding parts of the game. He understood managing the game. Coaching the game, you could tell what he expected from you and how we wanted to approach every game and what he expected out of us. He pushed the right buttons at the right times and did the right things in giving us a chance to win. It's good to see him doing well now.

"When I go to a tournament like that representing my country, it's a chance for me to learn from not only my teammates, but a guy like him that's got so much knowledge and experience in the game. I definitely tried to learn from him and find some things that can make me a great player."

Tavares' play in Slovakia certainly has carried over to his third season in the NHL.

"I just think it's the overall mindset of the player, a player that wants to be an All-Star, that wants to put the team on his back," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "How do you do that? It starts in the summer, starts with his training, his preparation, how he prepares for the season. He's finding his way through this League now.

"He is an elite player. He's going to continue to get better. He's a lot stronger on the puck now, playing with more confidence and the ability to make some plays."

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Posted On Thursday, 02.16.2012 / 3:12 PM

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

Reasoner, Weight looking forward to facing Blues

ST. LOUIS -- When No. 16 of the Islanders steps out onto the ice tonight, there may not be many Blues fans that remember, but Marty Reasoner was the franchise's No. 1 pick (No. 14) way back in the 1996 Entry Draft.

Reasoner, who played parts of three seasons with the Blues totaling 95 games (17 goals, 30 assists), is on his sixth franchise after signing a one-year deal to play on Long Island this past summer.

"It's a story of survival, trying to hang on," Reasoner said. "When I came in coming out of college, I was scoring a lot of points. I was an offensive guy. Even here, I was put in that role a little bit on and off. I had short spurts of success. It was definitely a big learning experience, learning to become a pro and how to play. It's that evolution of a player: you start out one way and you get chewed up and spit out totally different. I look at myself now and that was like I was a different person."

Reasoner credited current Blues director of hockey operations Al MacInnis and team color analyst Kelly Chase as being most influential on his career, and mentioned players like current assistant coach Scott Mellanby, Pierre Turgeon and Scott Young as players he enjoyed here.

"Starting as a young guy, it was an exciting time," Reasoner said. "We had some pretty good teams and some pretty good memories. I learned a lot as a player. At times it seems like a long time, but other times it seems like it was yesterday. It was definitely a fun time, and it's good to see this organization come full circle and back to its winning ways. It's definitely a great sports town.

"There's a lot of range of emotions as far as it being your first team, good memories. It's definitely a special place. It's always fun to come back and play and relive old times. There's not much of that team left. There's been a lot of turnover. I don't know if that's just me being around too long, or there's been that much turnover. It was definitely a great time, played with some great players and learned a lot from some very good players in this League."

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Sticking with the Blues reunion theme, current Islanders senior advisor to the general manager and assistant coach Doug Weight is back in St. Louis as well.

Weight, who spent parts of six seasons and two stints with the Blues, playing in 364 of his 1,238 games (75 goals, 220 assists), retired after the 2010-11 season, his 19th in the game.

"It's been fun, it's been educational, and I've learned a lot in helping (general manager) Garth (Snow) on the managerial side and certainly being on the bench. These coaches have been good to me, and it's been very educational," Weight said. "To be around the game, and what we're trying to build here, it's exhilarating. It's never going to feel like when you're walking out of the tunnel, going on the ice and competing, but certainly the next best thing."

Weight was traded twice by the Blues, once to Carolina near the trade deadline in 2006 before resigning here in the offseason, and again in 2007 to Anaheim, netting the Blues Andy McDonald.

"They seemed to have found their ground and the way they have to play," Weight said of the Blues. "Of course they've had some great goaltending and that's been a key for them. But they're battling and they're committed ... it's going to be great to see the fans and it's going to be a great atmosphere tonight."

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The Islanders, eight points in back of Toronto in the Eastern Conference, know their challenge is great tonight despite a 4-0-1 run in their last five on the road.

The Blues are tied with Detroit for most home wins (24) and are 16-0-3 in their last 19 games at Scottrade Center. Their last regulation home loss was Dec. 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"We're up against a real good hockey team tonight," coach Jack Capuano said. "We're going to have to be at our best.

"It's a challenge and it's a good challenge. It gives us a chance for our team to see where we're at to play against a big, physical team. A team that's got good size, good goaltending, special teams. They've really done well on home ice. They're a stingy team, there's no question. They play solid defensively. The territorial edge will be key in tonight's game for sure."
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Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 2:40 PM

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

Blues eager to finally get going post All-Star break

ST. LOUIS -- Of the 30 teams in the NHL, 29 have already began their post all-star schedule. Only the St. Louis Blues have yet to unlatch the starting gate.

The Blues (29-13-7) will finally get their schedule back on track tonight, when they play host to the Los Angeles Kings (25-16-10) at Scottrade Center.

The Blues haven't played since Jan. 24, a span of 10 days. They have spent three of the last four days practicing on the ice, but are eager to get back to playing games.

"We're pretty well-prepared now though," winger T.J. Oshie said. "With the success we've had in the first half, especially towards the middle and end of the first half, we're excited to get back out there.

"Obviously the first period we've got to keep it simple, but other than that, I think we're ready."

Keeping it simple will be the point of emphasis for the Blues, who understand a lengthy in-season layoff can throw off certain nuances to the game.

"What takes your energy away is getting bogged down," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "For us, we're going to just try and play as straight lines as we can. Basically, not try to do anything cute or fancy, just try to play as fast as we can towards their net and see where it takes us.

"I think sometimes you come into this thing, when you're practicing, you're trying to make plays and when you've got time off, you get into that summer hockey mode a little bit. But I like the way we practiced the three times we did it. We went really hard. We shortened it up. We started with an 80-minute practice and worked it down to a 50-minute practice in the third session. We went with almost the same drills all the time and went really hard and in a game-like situation. Mentally, we're there. Whether we're there physically or not, it's going to take some time to get going. We just need to hang in there for the first half of the game."

Now that the Blues are back in full gear, they'll compress their final 33 games into 64 days, which doesn't allow much down time.

"It's totally hockey here from now on. It's 110 percent," power forward Chris Stewart said. "Not to say it wasn't before, but we're going to be playing every other day, we're going to be on the road for a long time (20 games). It's going to be a good time for the boys to go on the road and we'll get close with each other. It's a good thing you're playing every other day because you're not dwelling on any bad losses. You've got another chance to redeem yourself the night after."

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The St. Louis Blues continue to wait for the returns of forwards Andy McDonald (concussion) and Alex Steen (concussion symptoms) to the active roster, but will have to wait a little longer.

Hitchcock said after Friday's morning skate that neither will play tonight and they will not accompany the team on a three-game trip that takes them to Nashville on Saturday, Ottawa on Tuesday and New Jersey on Thursday.

"They're fifth-line guys and fifth-line doesn't play," Hitchcock said. "Maybe in the NFL it does, but not here. They're not ready and they're not making the trip so we'll see next week.

"They're getting closer every day, but they're not part of the team right now, so we're not going to take pre-game skates with them and stuff like that. They've got their own agendas and own schedules."

McDonald has missed all but three games this season. Steen has not played since Dec. 27.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 3:14 PM

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

Projected lineups for Penguins, Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Here's how tonight's lineups could look for the game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center:

PENGUINS

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Pascal Dupuis - Dustin Jeffrey - Tyler Kennedy
Matt Cooke - Richard Park - Steve Sullivan
Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Eric Tangradi

Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Deryk Engelland

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson

The Penguins' inactives include center Sidney Crosby (concussion symptoms), winger Arron Asham (concussion), center Jordan Staal (knee) and defenseman Simon Despres (knee). Defenseman Ben Lovejoy and winger Steve MacIntyre are expected to be healthy scratches.

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

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

Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

It will mark Elliott's first start since Jan. 12. Halak played the previous five games.

The Blues' inactives include forward Andy McDonald (concussion), winger Alex Steen (concussion symptoms) and defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle). Winger Chris Porter is a healthy scratch, while defenseman Ian Cole has been assigned to AHL Peoria.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 8:26 PM

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

Blues give goalie Elliott two-year extension

ST. LOUIS -- By locking up Brian Elliott for two more years, St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong believes he has the best -- if not one of the best -- goalie tandems in the NHL.

Elliott's resurrection continued Wednesday, when the Blues announced they signed the All-Star goaltender to a two-year contract extension worth $3.6 million.

It's quite a story for a guy who entered last summer without a job, searching for work and now getting job security in mid-season.

Brian Elliott
Goalie - STL
RECORD: 15-5-1
GAA: 1.68 | SVP: 0.937
"I wasn't really expecting it because I haven't been approached like that before ... it's always been in the off-season," Elliott said. "I was happy that they wanted me to stay. Whenever you get that, you know that they're impressed with you and your work ethic. I was happy that they did and we came to an agreement that we both felt was a good deal."

Elliott, who is 15-5-1 with a 1.68 goals-against average (second in the NHL), .937 save percentage and five shutouts, signed a one-year, two-way contract on July 1 worth $600,000. He will make $1.7 million next season and $1.9 million in 2013-14, with a $1.8 million cap hit.

With Elliott and Jaroslav Halak in the fold for at least the next two seasons, the Blues feel good about what they have on their team but also at the AHL level with Ben Bishop and Jake Allen.

"We're excited to have the tandem of Jaro and Brian together for the next two seasons," Armstrong said. "Goaltending's such a big part of our game. To know now that we have two goalies that we think are entering the prime of their careers together, to have that partnership together is very important for us.

"For Brian especially, the situation he was in last summer wondering where he was going to play and finding a good home here in St. Louis and doing his job on the ice, I think it's a great story. Now he can settle in and take his career to the next level with our group."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has a problem on his hands -- a good problem. When he has to go game by game to pick a goalie, it's nice to know there are two reliable guys to choose from.

"He's the perfect example of perseverance, but he's a great model for stay with it," Hitchcock said. "... I think the biggest thing Brian did was look in the mirror. It wasn't his work ethic, it wasn't his determination, it wasn't his conditioning. There were some things that had to change in his game. He had to just become more compact in his game and he's done that, he's done it beautifully. He's resurrected a career based on being able to look in the mirror and not feel sorry for himself, and make adjustments."

Elliott did not make the final roster until after the final preseason game on Oct. 1. He was battling with Bishop to be the backup to Halak.

But the 6-foot-3, 204-pound Elliott, who is in his fifth NHL season, has surpassed all expectations. He's allowed the fewest goals (36) and suffered the fewest losses among goalies with 20 starts or more. He's got a 9-1-1 mark at home.

"I'm not only excited for Brian, but I'm also excited about Jaro knowing he's going to have a healthy partner knowing that they can tandem up and try and keep us in the top tandem of the goaltending in the NHL for the next two plus years," Armstrong said.

With the season he's having and with impending unrestricted free agency looming this summer, the 26-year-old Elliott chose to remain in St. Louis knowing it will be a tandem and not a chance to go somewhere else and try to become a clear-cut No. 1.

"Things can go the other way, too," Elliott said. "You're basically playing the odds.

"You can say what if you get injured, or the other way, what if you lead the team to a couple playoff wins, you can be even more attractive. But I've learned from experience that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. I really like it here and I like the guys and I think it sets up well for my career. After this contract is done, I'll still be probably one of the younger goalies in the League, so it just builds on to the rest of my career."

A native of Newmarket, Ontario, Elliott is 76-58-17 in his career with the Blues, Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche.
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Posted On Monday, 01.16.2012 / 1:56 PM

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

Appendectomy sidelines Benn indefinitely

ST. LOUIS -- The Dallas Stars, who enter tonight's game against the St. Louis Blues having dropped two of their previous three games, will have their mettle tested now that they will be playing without two of their three top scorers and top two centermen.

Mike Ribeiro (knee) will miss his fourth consecutive game and the Stars will now be without leading scorer Jamie Benn, who had an appendectomy on Sunday and is sidelined indefinitely.

Benn has 42 points (13 goals, 29 assists) in 43 games, while Ribeiro is third on the team with 10 goals and 31 points in 40 games.

"You don't wish it, but it's like anything, it's life. You can't control it," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "You just hope that Benny's OK and he is this morning. ... When you take your top two centermen out of your lineup, it forces you to play a certain way. Maybe this is a little bit of a blessing in disguise, because our team needed to play a certain way more consistently and now they're going to have to. If we come out of this stronger, that's what you always hope when you have injuries and these guys acclimate themselves back.

"It wasn't a kick in the gut or anything. You just deal with it one day at a time."

What it does is give other players an opportunity to step into the lineup and fill those roles. The Stars have recalled winger Francis Wathier from AHL Texas and he will be in the lineup tonight.

"They are really huge for our team," Stars winger Loui Eriksson said of Benn and Ribeiro, who has an MCL tear. "There's not much we can do about it. We've just got to keep working harder and some other guys are going to get some opportunities and get some chances. We still have a good team. We know where we are in the standings."

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Posted On Saturday, 01.14.2012 / 2:42 PM

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

Jackman returns as Blues work way to good health

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues hope that one by one, they start to get some missing pieces back into their lineup.

The first step to that goal came to fruition as defenseman Barret Jackman took part in the morning skate after missing his first game of the season with a hip injury suffered Tuesday at Montreal and will play tonight when the Blues (25-12-6) host the Minnesota Wild (22-16-6).

Jackman, who has 6 assists in 42 games this season, was injured following a hit by Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban in the second period of a 3-0 Blues win.

"I saw him coming, but I didn't realize he was going to step up as hard as he did," Jackman said of the Subban hit. "I was just trying to get a shot on net to maybe get a rebound out front. I just put myself in a bad position and fell awkwardly.

"I'm feeling good. The body's getting there, but it's the middle of the season so you've got your wear and tear. We'll see what happens."

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

The St. Louis Blues' defensive corps was crowded on the ice Saturday morning, giving it a training camp flavor with nine guys out there.

Along with Jackman (hip) returni, Kent Huskins (ankle) and Kris Russell (groin) were also out taking part in the morning skate. Neither will play but continue to work on getting back into the lineup.

"We're not there yet, but it was nice to see Russ and Huskins join us," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Obviously Husky's a little bit away from playing, but nice to make him part of the team for a few minutes anyway. ... You're talking weeks (with Huskins), yeah. But it's nice that at least he gets to come out and skate. and be part of the team. He's excited by that."

And Russell? Maybe next week?

"Close. I don't know yet. We'll see," Hitchcock said. "We'll participate in a full practice tomorrow hopefully. We'll see, but he's close. That's a good sign there, too. Lots of guys on the rebound here, so we'll see where we get the next three or four days."

The Blues can only hope to play with a full deck soon.

"It'll be nice obviously ... the sooner the better," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "It's good to see everyone kind of coming around. There's still a little time for some but at least we got them out there skating, which is obviously good.

"Once we get everyone back, it's going to be a pretty tough blue line to beat. Throw Andy (McDonald) and Steener (Alex Steen) up there in front, it's endless. The combinations you can get ... seems like it's going to be a problem for Hitch unfortunately, but it's a good one."

McDonald and Steen continue to skate and make progress. Steen is likely to get reinserted into the lineup sometime next week. McDonald is still wearing a red no-contact jersey and is weeks away.

------------
Blues captain David Backes spent last season as the Blues' lone All-Star representative. This season, it will be goalie Brian Elliott, who has to re-alter his plans of going to Wisconsin.

Backes, who could make a case to be going to Ottawa with 31 points and good numbers in other areas through 43 games, will instead be taking up a new hobby.

"I'm going to take my pilot's license test," Backes said. "I've passed the written test and now I've got the oral (test) and the actual flying test and then I'll have my license. The oral is a couple of hours and then the flying is a couple of hours, so I finally get a full day off and I'll hope to sneak that in."

Backes is glad for Elliott, who did not even know he'd make the Blues out of camp this season.

"'Ells' is very deserving and he'll have a great time in a place that he's played before," Backes said. "Would I love to be going with him, yeah, but there's only so many spots on there and there's a lot of great players in this League.

"It's an honor to go to that game, and if I can go to more in the future, that's great. If not, we get to rest up (like this year) for a great second half of the season into a playoff push."


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Posted On Thursday, 01.05.2012 / 6:16 PM

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

Blues' penalty-killers doing the job

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues began the season at the bottom of the NHL in specialty teams, as both the power play and penalty killing units got off to inauspicious starts.

But while the power play unit continues to labor near the bottom, the penalty-killing group continues to excel.

Going into tonight's home game against Edmonton, the Blues (22-12-5) have killed off 27 of their last 30 PK opportunities (90 percent) have vaulted themselves to 17th in the league after being 30th at one time.

"Penalty-killing has been huge," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We've been very diligent in not giving up seem plays and not giving up bang-bang opportunities at the net.

"Our 5-on-5 play has kind of been consistent without giving up odd-man rushes, but I think our PK has really improved. Our PK has done a really good job limiting teams zone time and limiting teams' scoring chances. Even against some of the best teams in the league power play-wise, we've done a really good job in negating that. I think the goalies have been recipient of being good because of it, too."

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Jaroslav Halak gets another start in goal after stopping 34 shots in Tuesday's 4-1 win over Phoenix. Halak, who is 5-0-3 in his last eight starts with a 1.45 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in that period, hasn't lost a regulation game since a 3-2 setback on Nov. 22 against Los Angeles.

It's all about the mental game that Hitchcock said Halak has changed.

"He parks it now," Hitchcock said. "He doesn't bring it with him the next day. He's learned that it's over.

"There was a period of time where it wasn't successful, he'd carry it with him the next day at practice, and it wasn't healthy for him or healthy for us."

Hitchcock, who now looks at past success when determining his goalie, doesn't mind continuing the goalie rotation with Halak and Brian Elliott and feels like it's been a benefit.

"The team has (benefited). That's all I care about," Hitchcock said. "Like most goalies, I think they want to play all the time. Both guys probably in different situations, they deserve to play all the time, but what's best for our team is that I keep both guys going in my opinion. I guess my opinion counts because I'm the guy putting them on the ice.

"To me, if one guy's great, then we'll go with him. But both guys have been good, and I'm comfortable putting both guys in the net. ... As long as both guys keep playing at this level, they're both going to play."

------=

The two combatants in tonight's game play contrasting styles. The Blues forecheck and like to grind teams out while the Oilers use their youthful forwards and attack with speed.

Hitchcock said if the Blues try and play the Oilers' game, they have no chance of winning.

"We can't win playing the way Edmonton plays," Hitchcock insisted. "We can't win in that game. But we can win a different way. And if we get them to play the way we want them to play, then we think we can be successful, so this will be a battle to see who gets to control what aspect."

Oilers coach Tom Renney feels the best plan of attack tonight is quick puck movement.

"We've got to, as best as we can, deliver the puck to our forwards quickly and allow our attack game from that point on to really go at the blue paint at the other end of the rink," Renney said. "That being said, I think our (defensemen) really have to support quickly from behind. In other words, gap up offensively so we show sort of a numerical advantage because Hitch's teams are going to try to come after us. They're going to try and forecheck hard, and if we can move the puck past the forecheck quickly and attack, maybe we've got that team that likes to play in the offensive zone play in their own end instead."

------=

Count Hitchcock as a fan of Oilers' center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was the first player taken in the NHL Draft last June.

Nugent-Hopkins, who has 13 goals and 35 points in 38 games, will not play tonight after injuring his shoulder Monday in Chicago. He was sent back to Edmonton for further evaluation and is out indefinitely.

Hitchcock, who's seen many players develop and come through junior hockey, feels there's a select few that can make the jump from junior to pro. Nugent-Hopkins is one of them.

"I just knew if there was a player ready to play pro, that was the player because his hockey intelligence and his smarts and his tenacity on the puck was just way ahead of everybody," Hitchcock said. "I watched him play against good teams and he was dominant.

"For me, when you watch a junior player play and he's dominant offensively and he's dominant defensively, that's a player for me that's ready to play."

------=

The Blues and Oilers are going through a rash of injuries, with each team missing key pieces from their lineup.

Edmonton has been hit recently with the losses of Nugent-Hopkins as well as defenseman Tom Gilbert, who injured his left knee after the violent collision with the end boards Monday that resulted in a seven-game suspension for Chicago's Dan Carcillo.

Gilbert did skate lightly here during the morning skate but will not play.

"It didn't go as well as we were hoping this morning," Renney said. "... I have limited information, but I'm telling you, it didn't go as well as I was hoping it would go."

Defenseman Theo Peckham said it's a chance for some more of the younger players and call-ups to put their stamp on the Oilers' team.

"With (Ryan Whitney) and (Gilbert) going down, gives a chance to (Colten Teubert) and (Jeff Petry) to come in and show what they can do," Peckham said.

"You play a game like this, you play 82 games, there's a reason why (injuries) occur. You're playing so many games a year, injuries are going to happen. A good way to look at it is you don't look at the guys out of the lineup, you look at the guys putting on the jersey every night."

------=

Tonight's probable lineups between the St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers at Scottrade Center:

Edmonton:

Taylor Hall - Sam Gagner - Ales Hemsky

Ryan Smyth - Shawn Horcoff - Jordan Eberle

Anton Lander - Josh Green - Teemu Hartikainen

Ryan Jones - Eric Belanger - Ben Eager

Ladislav Smid - Corey Potter

Andy Sutton - Jeff Petry

Theo Peckham - Colten Teubert

Devan Dubnyk

Nikolai Khabibulin

Out: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder), Ryan Whitney (ankle), Cam Barker (ankle), Tom Gilbert (knee) and Alex Plante (concussion). Forward Darcy Hordichuk is a healthy scratch.

St. Louis

David Perron - David Backes - Chris Stewart

Matt D'Agostini - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie

Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner

Chris Porter - Scott Nichol - B.J. Crombeen

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk

Cade Fairchild - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak

Brian Elliott

Out: Andy McDonald (concussion), Alex Steen (concussion-like symptoms), Kris Russell (groin), Kent Huskins (ankle), Ryan Reaves (hip) and Ian Cole, who is serving the second game of a three-game suspension. Winger Evgeny Grachev is tonight's healthy scratch.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 2:36 PM

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

Tippett talks to Torres following suspension

ST. LOUIS -- Not only are the St. Louis Blues dealing with the suspension of defenseman Ian Cole, but the Phoenix Coyotes are dealing with a suspension of their own.

Winger Raffi Torres, considered a repeat offender, was suspended by the NHL for an illegal hit on Minnesota Wild defenseman Nate Prosser in Saturday's 4-2 victory by the Coyotes. Torres received a two-game ban, which begins tonight in St. Louis.

"It's a fine line," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "Raffi has to play the game kind of with an edge. There's two or three games in a row or two or three hits (the NHL) thought were getting close to borderline.

"I talked to Raffi this morning. We need him to play hard, we need him to play determined like that. I guess there's a fine line that he has to walk. He knows when he goes into a game to do the best he can for the group. He's got to be a physical player. ... You have to try not to hit anybody in the head."

As Torres was being suspended for the hit on Saturday, he also received the maximum $2,500 fine for a hit to Colorado's Jan Hejda from a game on Dec. 29.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 2:12 PM

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

Hitchcock holds seniority in St. Louis sports

ST. LOUIS -- When he was suddenly brought in to become the next coach of the St. Louis Blues, Ken Hitchcock was on the bottom of the depth chart as far as seniority goes in St. Louis pro sports coaches.

Little did he know that 57 days later, Hitchcock would suddenly become the dean.

But after St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa retired days after Hitchcock was hired and the St. Louis Rams firing head coach Steve Spagnuolo on Monday, Hitchcock was suddenly vaulted to the top.

He laughed about it at Tuesday's morning skate prior to the Blues (21-12-5) facing the Phoenix Coyotes (19-16-4).

"I've always said they should change the award to coach for the year rather than of the year," Hitchcock said. "To me, it's the nature of our business. You can't change out all the players. There's different directions going on. There's part of you that understands you're in that business now, but I think the business since I've got here in 1996, it's become even more volatile. It's nothing to see us change out a third of the coaches. We just have to live in that business."

Joked captain David Backes: "I wonder if he's got any of his boxes unpacked yet. Quite the carousel here, but I think all the changes seem to be welcomed and obviously ours has been successful. We wish those other sports teams here nothing but the best."

The Blues are 15-5-5 since Hitchcock's arrival, and it seems that Blues general manager Doug Armstrong's call to replace Davis Payne with Hitchcock at the time has moved the Blues into the right direction, particularly in the standings.

"I'm lucky," Hitchcock said. "I've got a strong relationship with Doug. I've got a strong relationship with J.D. (Blues President John Davidson). That to me is the most important part. When you have a good relationship with people, they'll love you. When the storm hits, they'll help you weather it."

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 2:06 PM

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

Coyotes realize 'crunch time' has arrived

ST. LOUIS -- The Phoenix Coyotes currently sit in 11th place in the Western Conference and unlike their opponent tonight, the St. Louis Blues, have ground to make up.

Phoenix will split its 12-game schedule for the month of January, with six games at home and six on the road, but those road games will be front-loaded. The team is currently in a stretch of games where eight of 10 are away from Jobing.com Arena.

"January's where everybody realizes this is crunch time," veteran defenseman Derek Morris said. "You've got to crank it up a notch. Games are going to get quicker, they're going to get more important. ... You don't want to get behind and start chasing. Where we're at, we've got to find a way to win games now so when crunch times rolls around, you don't want to have to scrape out the last couple points because they're harder to get."

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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 7:21 PM

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

Blues to face Stars without Langenbrunner

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues, already without winger T.J. Oshie for two games with a left wrist injury, also were without winger Jamie Langenbrunner on Monday against the Dallas Stars because of the flu.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock indicated at the team's morning skate that Langenbrunner, a former Star, had the flu but that he would be probable for the game. He's the third player (defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk) in recent weeks to miss a game because of the flu.

Langenbrunner had played in the team's first 34 games, recording 2 goals and 12 points.

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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 1:10 PM

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

Wrist injury to sideline Oshie for two games

ST. LOUIS -- Just when the St. Louis Blues were on the cusp of getting close to a full roster, they take another injury hit.

Winger T.J. Oshie will miss tonight's game against Dallas and Tuesday night's game at Detroit with a left wrist injury.

Oshie, who is tied for the team lead in points (23) with Alex Steen, came onto the ice late for today's morning skate but did minor stickwork and not much else.

The injury is the opposite to the wrist Oshie jammed in a game at Minnesota on Nov. 19.

"Osh has a sore wrist and we've opted to get him to as close as to 100 percent as we can," Hitchcock said. "We've opted to keep him out for these two games and put him in against Nashville (Friday). Rather than just keep monitoring it and getting it halfway decent. This way, we get it close to 100 percent."

The injury will not require surgery, according to Hitchcock, and the team is hopeful rest will do the trick.

"It's a ligament issue, but it's significant enough where we're getting to where it's just 80 percent," Hitchcock said. "We have a chance now with days off before and then the days off now, we have a chance to get it close to 95 or 100 (percent) and that will allow him to stay in the lineup long-term. We've opted to do that and take the bullet right now.

"It's on the other wrist now, but it's the exact same injury. It's hard to play when you don't have two hands. The other one's fine and this one's aggravated. Rather than go through what we did on the other one, we've opted to take these two games and sit him."

The Blues have recalled forward Adam Cracknell from the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL and he will be in the lineup tonight against the Stars.
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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 12:42 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Stars

ST. LOUIS -- Here are the probable lines for tonight's game between the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars at Scottrade Center:

BLUES
Alex Steen - David Backes - Chris Stewart
Evgeny Grachev - Patrik Berglund - David Perron
Chris Porter - Jason Arnott - Matt D'Agostini
Adam Cracknell- Scott Nichol - Jamie Langenbrunner

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

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

RW T.J. Oshie (wrist) will miss the next two games. Coach Ken Hitchcock said it's nothing that will require surgery and he expects Oshie to return Friday vs. Nashville. The team has recalled LW Adam Cracknell from AHL Peoria and he will play. Scratches include D Ian Cole and RW Ryan Reaves, the latter of whom has a bit of an issue with his ribs. Players on injured reserve include LW Andy McDonald (concussion), D Kent Huskins (ankle), RW B.J. Crombeen (shoulder) and C Vladimir Sobotka (ankle).

STARS
Loui Eriksson - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder
Brenden Morrow - Mike Ribeiro - Steve Ott
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Philip Larsen - Tom Wandell - Adam Burish

Sheldon Souray - Adam Pardy
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley
Alex Goligoski - Mark Fistric

Richard Bachman
Andrew Raycroft

Scratches based on the Stars' last game would include C Toby Petersen and C Jake Dowell. Injured players include D Stephane Robidas (foot), G Kari Lehtonen (groin) and RW Tomas Vincour (MCL). Lehtonen, who's been out since late November, is expected to return to the lineup Thursday. The Stars did not travel to St. Louis until today.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 1:46 PM

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

Blues tightening up at even strength

ST. LOUIS -- After the month of October, where they surrendered 20 goals in 11 games playing 5-on-5 hockey, the Blues have really buckled down in the month of November.

Through eight games, the Blues have surrendered only four goals playing 5-on-5, including three in six games with Hitchcock as coach.

"I think they bought into the checking part of hockey," Hitchcock said of his players. "They were already partly bought-in, and we just kind of continued the program.

"If they buy into it, the harder they check, the more they score and then they see results. I think what happened was we came out checking hard and scored because of it. The buy-in was a little bit easier."

Playing with a sense of urgency each and every shift seems to have paid dividends.

"I think we keep our shifts short," center Scott Nichol said. "I don't think we really over-extend ourselves. When you over-extend yourself and get tired, your game starts slowing down and you don't react quite as quick.

"All year long, we've done a good job of staying fresh and rolling our lines."

Added captain David Backes: "When you're playing at that high rate changing lines over quick, it's tough to play against when the guy against you is going 100 miles an hour. Even when we're making mistakes, we're making them at full speed so we can recover and get back above the puck. Other guys are bailing guys out when mistakes are made. It's a good recipe."

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Blues winger David Perron was cleared for full contact drills and has participated in five days now without the no-contact red jersey. Perron, out since Nov. 4, 2010 (concussion), has been involved in two days of hard practices where contact has been evident with no ill effects.

"It's hard when your player comes to full contact that he's not ready to play, but then you see endurance stuff," Hitchcock said. "He's getting closer from an endurance standpoint, and that's encouraging.

"I think for us, for him to be able to go through every day and then not have any repercussions the next day ... our focus is all on the next day. How does he feel the next day? He's had all the hockey soreness stuff and all the areas that you like with no repercussions at all. For us, that's good news.

"The next step is when does it slow down in his head? The tempo we practiced with the last two days, he had to keep up with it. I think the first day was a struggle for him, and yesterday was a lot better. We're getting closer. Now is just a matter of taking the next step. Taking the leap of faith and say it's time to go. He's the only guy that's going to know that. He's going to have to tell us when he thinks he's ready to go."

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Blues winger T.J. Oshie, who sat out the last two practices with a sore wrist, has been deemed good to go by Hitchcock. But there is still no news as far as winger Andy McDonald (concussion) is concerned.

"I haven't seen Mac at all," Hitchcock said. "I don't really have a comment on it because I haven't even seen him here in person here. ... He's not able to participate yet."

Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (hamstring) will miss his third straight game but Hitchcock said there is progress.

"He feels better," Hitchcock said. "We're hopeful that towards the end of the week he can get back on the ice. We'll go from there, but he feels better.

"We need him back in the lineup. That's an injury where you don't know until you get on the ice. It's a hamstring injury. It might be good in 24 hours and you just go from there or it might take a few days. He's made improvement and that's a good sign."

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 1:42 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Kings

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the St. Louis Blues host the Los Angeles Kings at Scottrade Center:

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

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole - Alex Pietrangelo
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

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

The Blues continue to play without Perron and Andy McDonald (concussion), winger B.J. Crombeen (shoulder) and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (hamstring). Brett Sterling, recalled from Peoria Sunday, is a healthy scratch.

KINGS
Simon Gagne - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Andrei Loktionov - Mike Richards - Dustin Brown
Kyle Clifford - Jarret Stoll - Trent Hunter
Ethan Moreau - Colin Fraser - Kevin Westgarth

Jack Johnson - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Rob Scuderi - Matt Greene

Jonathan Bernier will be in goal, making only his fourth start this season; Jonathan Quick will be the backup, as the Kings play in Dallas on Wednesday.

For the Kings, wingers Dustin Penner (hand) and Scott Parse (lower-body) along with defenseman Alec Martinez (upper-body) are on injured reserve. Centers Brad Richardson and Trevor Lewis along with defenseman Davis Drewiske are healthy scratches.
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Posted On Thursday, 11.17.2011 / 2:30 PM

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

Panthers getting great production from top line

ST. LOUIS -- The Florida Panthers (9-5-3), who enter tonight's game against the St. Louis Blues with the most wins on the road this season (they're 7-3-0), are getting tremendous amounts of respect from around the League. And their top line of Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg and Stephen Weiss is lighting the scoreboard up in droves.

The three have combined for 52 points in 17 games this season, including 8 in Wednesday night's 6-0 thumping of Dallas.

"We all want to play the best for this team and win hockey games," said Fleischmann, who has 7 goals and 17 points. "We're working hard out there and that's what we're trying to do. It's been working so far.

"Everybody's just contributing to winning hockey games. We don't have all those superstars out there. Everybody's doing their job."

Versteeg leads the team with 20 points while Weiss has 15. The line of David Backes along with T.J. Oshie and Alex Steen will get the task of shutting the trio down.

"I played against Stephen Weiss maybe three or four times in my career," Backes said. "It's not guys like in Chicago or Vancouver where you pretty much know the style of play, how they're going to play every single night.

"Fleischmann's the same way. He was in Colorado for a little while, hurt for a lot of it. Versteeg was in (Chicago). He's a little bit more of a known name, but they've been playing really well together. They've thrown up a ton of points. They've done a good job of gelling and having a lot of success so far early in the season."

Added Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk: "They're obviously fast. I know Fleischmann pretty well from Colorado. I've always had the highest things to say about him. He's a smart player, and when you put him with a guy like Weiss, who can obviously play and Versteeg who's been a good player here. It's going to be tough for us. I think we expect the challenge. Hopefully we can shut them down and go from there."

Speaking of Fleischmann, it's a great story considering the winger missed half of last season with a disorder known as pulmonary embolism, which is a blockage of the main artery of the lung or one of its branches by a substance that has travelled from elsewhere in the body through the bloodstream, likely a blood clot.

There was talk of whether Fleischmann, who was in Colorado last season, would ever play the game again but the Panthers took a chance and inked him to a four-year, $18-million contract. So far, so good.

"The health is the most important and I had to take care of that," Fleischmann said. "Everything seems good right now. I feel normal. Everything feels really good."

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 2:14 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Red Wings

Here's how the lineups project for tonight's game between the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings at Scottrade Center:

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

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

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

The Blues are without winger Andy McDonald (concussion), winger David Perron (post-concussion syndrome), defenseman Kent Huskins (ankle) and winger B.J. Crombeen (shoulder). Defenseman Ian Cole and winger Ryan Reaves are healthy scratches.

RED WINGS
Danny Cleary - Pavel Datsyuk - Tomas Holmstrom
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Johan Franzen
Jiri Hudler - Darren Helm - Justin Abdelkader
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Patrick Eaves

Nicklas Lidstrom - Jonathan Ericsson
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jakub Kindl - Mike Commodore

Jimmy Howard gets the nod in goal; Ty Conklin, who played for the Blues the last two seasons, will be the backup in his return to St. Louis.

The Red Wings are without injured defenseman Ian White (cheekbone), Todd Bertuzzi (sinus infection) and Jan Mursak (ankle). Healthy scratches include winger Fabian Brunnstrom. Defenseman Brendan Smith, recalled from Grand Rapids after White's injury, will serve the last of a five-game suspension tonight after receiving the suspension in the preseason for a hit to the head on Chicago's Ben Smith.
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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 2:18 PM

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

Cole's season debut met with rave reviews

ST. LOUIS -- When Ken Hitchcock stepped behind the Blues' bench for the first time Tuesday night, not much changed as far as the lineup was concerned.

However, one change turned into a very bright spot, where recently recalled defenseman Ian Cole stepped in.

Cole, who played 26 games and recorded 1 goal and 3 assists in his first stop of NHL duty last season, played in his first game this season after being called up from the American Hockey League's Peoria Rivermen.

It may have arguably been his best game as a pro.

"Really good," Hitchcock said of Cole's game. "I don't even know anything about him and he just looked like an NHL player yesterday.

"He was strong, he won a lot of 1-on-1s, very competitive. ... I liked the part that he was comfortable moving the puck in the middle of the ice instead, rather than just banging it off the boards getting it out. He made plays in the middle of the ice and really got us out of trouble."

Cole didn't register a point in Tuesday's 3-0 win over Chicago but played solid with partner Roman Polak. Cole played 18 minutes, 59 seconds, and blocked two shots in the game, but as Hitchcock said, made smart decisions.

"I really liked it," Cole said of his game. "I thought as a whole it was good, but as far as dissecting it, there were definitely things I could have done better."

Such as?

"I can think of four or five things I wish I could have done differently," Cole said. "As soon as they happened, I was like, 'Why did I do that?'

"I'm probably my hardest critic."

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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 2:16 PM

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

Hitchcock still a stickler for teaching

ST. LOUIS -- It's non-game days that makes Ken Hitchcock a load to deal with from a player's perspective, simply because he's a stickler for teaching on practice days.

Hitchcock, who said he likes to practice in smaller rinks, was going full bore Wednesday. Thursday was an optional gameday skate for the players.

"Days like (Wednesday), I'm a bear," he said. "Between the video and the teaching and the preparation for practice, I'm really selfish. The day of the game, I find it very peaceful and relaxing. Competition is what it is, but I find that practice days for me are, 'Get out of my way. It's my time.'"

Hitchcock said the style of game he likes his players to play is hard, not only mentally but physically as well.

"The whole game is about back-pressure, tempo and (a) 200-foot (game)," Hitchcock said. "It's not easy playing that way."

He believes the Blues are physically there but mentally, it will take some getting used to.

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 3:15 PM

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

Hitch has high praise for Patrick Kane

ST. LOUIS -- New Blues coach Ken Hitchcock paid the ultimate compliment to Hawks star Patrick Kane, who has been playing center for Chicago after previously playing exclusively on the wing.

"That's the worst nightmare for all of us," Hitchcock said, referring to coaches around the NHL. "That's not good because a player that's that strong and that competitive and that patient with the puck, we've all kind of dreaded that day when he was going to move into the middle of the ice. It's not fun. When you come with a 1-2 punch like that, it's not a lot of fun."

When hearing those comments, Kane responded, "It's fun to hear that, especially from a coach like that who's so well-respected like that and who has so many wins under his belt.

"I feel like I can a little more consistent. I can probably do some better things all around, but I guess it comes with the territory of learning the position. So far, I think it's been a pretty good thing for the team. It gives us an option, if now, maybe down the road a little bit."

Hitchcock said Kane's transformation will be fine and the rest of the league will just have to deal with it.

"We were hoping it didn't come. It's there," Hitchcock said. "You've got to deal with it, but there were a lot of 'Oh, no's,' because the game isn't played in the middle of the ice much anymore, but he's got enough trust and confidence in his own ability. He knows how to play in there. It's a nervous defending time when you have a player with that type of skill level and patience with the puck that can make plays with people. It's a little bit scary.

"Joel (Quenneville, Blackhawks coach) could have made it a lot easier if he would have put Kane and (Jonathan) Toews together. That kind of screws up our plan. We'll have to adjust."

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Posted On Friday, 11.04.2011 / 2:02 PM

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

Blues pull one over on Polak

ST. LOUIS -- Apparently, Blues defenseman Roman Polak has to polish up on his baseball knowledge.

When St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter came into the locker room Thursday and introduced himself, Polak didn't know who he was and thought the Blues were working in a new player.

Fellow defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo made it known, and Polak was given a chance for a rebuttal.

"I told him not to tell anybody," Polak joked. "I thought we got a new player. He said, 'Hey I'm Chris.' And I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm Roman what's up.' ... I didn't know. I probably should, but I'm not into baseball."

Tonight's game will feature honors for the World Series champions. Manager Tony La Russa, along with Carpenter and third baseman David Freese, will be on hand. La Russa will drop the ceremonial first puck.

There will be highlights of the World Series as well as other Cardinals-themed items throughout the night.
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Posted On Friday, 10.21.2011 / 2:18 PM

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

Hurricanes stuck with game plan despite slow start

ST. LOUIS -- The Carolina Hurricanes, after starting the season 0-2-1, have reeled off three straight wins and are going for four in a row tonight against the St. Louis Blues.

Captain Eric Staal said it was just a matter of sticking with the game plan despite the winless start.

"We've come with energy and aggressiveness every game," said Staal, who has 3 goals and 1 assist in six games. "I think we're pretty comfortable with the way we need to play to win. We were doing that for parts of games the first couple of the year but weren't getting results. We didn't alleviate from that and stayed with it and have gotten the results the last three. We want to keep it going."

The Hurricanes, who won 1-0 here in the only matchup between the teams a season ago, realize this is a desperate team they will face tonight.

"For us, it's we want to make sure we're matching or bettering that aggressiveness and intensity every single game," Staal said. "It's a good test for us. It's a team we don't see a lot, but it's a team that plays hard every time we've been in this building. It's been a close game and we need to expect that and look forward to bringing our work ethic and worrying about our game.

Carolina coach Paul Maurice expects the Blues to be flying.

"It's a similar situation to Boston," Maurice said regarding their 4-1 win over the Bruins Tuesday. "Desperation does kick in very early for teams. We all know what that means. It's difficult to have a rough start and then you're fighting for it the rest of the year. Confidence is very important to develop and we expect them to come hard, chip a lot of pucks, try to get their forecheck established early."

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Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp