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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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Great players need great players to play with. That's why we'll have a training camp and we'll find who the best two guys are suited to play with Stamkos.

— Tampa Bay Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness on Steven Stamkos' potential linemates for the 2014-15 season