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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 Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 2:12 PM

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

Berglund, Stewart find new role on penalty-kill

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

Both players have taken the added responsibility accordingly.

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

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

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

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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 2:10 PM

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

Stewart gets 'three gorillas' off back with PP goal

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

New coach Ken Hitchcock's take on Stewart:

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

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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 2:06 PM

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

Wilson preaches Leafs must keep shooting puck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 2:04 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Maple Leafs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAPLE LEAFS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 1:50 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Barry's Best: Favorite Movember mustaches

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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 1:22 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Nights off for Thomas, Khabibulin

BOSTON -- Those hoping for a goaltending matchup of last season's Vezina Trophy winner and this season's early front-runner for the award will be disappointed when the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers hit the ice tonight at TD Garden.

Neither Boston's Tim Thomas, who won his second Vezina in three seasons back in June, nor Edmonton's Nikolai Khabibulin, who leads the NHL with an 0.98 goals-against average and sits second with a .964 save percentage, is scheduled to get the nod for his respective team.

Instead, there will be a showdown of two of the better young goaltenders in the League.

Tuukka Rask was first off the ice for the Bruins after their morning skate, as was Devan Dubnyk for the Oilers. Edmonton coach Tom Renney later confirmed Dubnyk's starting role.

"Well, it's not difficult to be honest with you," Renney said about the decision. "We have to play back-to-back here, and it's one of those situations where 'Dube' has to play too. This is a big, strong team. I think this is tailor-made, quite honestly, for Devan to see this team and see their attack. His size and strength, it sort of lines up well for those circumstances. But this is the part of the schedule that we looked at in September and suggested to ourselves that at least we would have to make sure that they at least split."

Rask has not started consecutive games this season. He comes into the Oilers game fresh off his first win and carries a 2.00 GAA and .931 save percentage. Despite a 2-3-0 record, Dubnyk has been solid with a .930 save percentage and 2.19 GAA.

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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 1:18 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Bruins, Oilers

Here are how the lineups could look tonight when the Boston Bruins host the Edmonton Oilers at TD Garden:

BRUINS
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Jordan Caron - Chris Kelly - Rich Peverley
Benoit Pouliot - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

Tuukka Rask
Tim Thomas

Steven Kampfer is scheduled to be a healthy scratch. Daniel Paille is recovering from surgery to repair his broken nose. Zach Hamill has been called up from Providence on an emergency basis because of an injury to Peverley, who took the morning skate but will be a game-time decision.

OILERS

Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Ryan Smyth - Shawn Horcoff - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Jones - Eric Belanger - Sam Gagner
Ben Eager - Anton Lander - Lennart Petrell

Ladislav Smid - Tom Gilbert
Cam Barker - Theo Peckham
Corey Potter - Jeff Petry

Devan Dubnyk
Nikolai Khabibulin
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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 11:14 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Weekes: Praise for the backup goaltenders

Let's talk about life as a backup goalie. We've seen a lot who have been outstanding this year, yet fans and even some GMs don't want to give them the proper respect.

Before we get started talking about the guys like Josh Harding, Brian Elliot and Johan Hedberg, let's look at this in a different way.

Would anyone feel comfortable getting on a plane if there was no co-pilot? Does the co-pilot not matter? When you go out to a nice restaurant, do you think there's just a chef? Do you think there isn't a sous chef back there helping the head chef? Since Joe Biden is a just a vice president, that means he's not important?
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Quote of the Day

There's no discouragement in that room. There's no issues there at all to be honest with you. It's more about, 'Hey, it's opportunities for players.' And if we become that bad of a team because of one player, it's not a real good sign for our hockey club. So this is part of sports. It's part of hockey.

— Bruins coach Claude Julien on the loss of Zdeno Chara to injury
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