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Posted On Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 6:19 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Laviolette looks for some privacy

PHILADELPHIA -- For the last few seasons, the Flyers have held their morning skates here at the Wells Fargo Center, rather than their practice rink in nearby Voorhees, N.J. But with the Florida Panthers in town, coach Peter Laviolette opted to move the practice to Voorhees.

With a first-round playoff matchup against the Panthers a possibility, Laviolette wasn't interested in giving the opposition a free viewing.

"I think teams are watching," he said. "It's a chance to get over there, little more private."

If anyone from the Panthers made the trek across the Walt Whitman Bridge to New Jersey on Thursday, he wouldn't have seen much. Laviolette called the morning skate "casual," and said it was a chance to look at some new lines created due to injuries to forwards James van Riemsdyk, Jakub Voracek and Jaromir Jagr. Van Riemsdyk and Voracek won't play Thursday against the Panthers, while Jagr is a game-time decision due to a hip injury.

"We have new lines, new power play, new combinations," said Laviolette. "Everything is new based on injuries. I want to make sure we get a chance to touch on things because of injuries."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 6:15 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Manning has an edge on and off the ice

PHILADELPHIA -- Brandon Manning isn't shy in admitting he's got a chip on his shoulder.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound defenseman went undrafted by NHL teams, and finally earned a contract with the Flyers in November 2010.

Now in his first professional season, he's played well enough that he could make his NHL debut Thursday when the Flyers host the Florida Panthers.

"I think it's been the underdog story for me my entire career," Manning said. "It's something I've run with and I kind of rub it in people's faces, people who didn't think I could do it, or the teams that passed over me."

Manning spent four seasons with the Chilliwack Bruins of the Western Hockey League, and last season had 21 goals and 32 assists in just 53 games. He was tied for third among all WHL blueliners in goals, and tied for ninth with 53 points.

He had surgery in September to repair a labrum tear in his hip, which sidelined him until December, but he's done well since returning with 4 goals and 5 assists in 32 AHL games.

"It took me a while," Manning said of when he felt 100-percent healthy. "I missed a few games again in December. In mid-February I had a streak of about 10 games where I felt really good. I just have to make sure I'm taking care of myself and doing what I have to do every day. It's definitely come along the last month, month and a half, for sure."

If Manning plays, he'll be the 12th rookie to get into a game for the Flyers this season, and the sixth to make his NHL debut. Who comes out of the lineup, however, is a question. All six defenseman who played Tuesday against Detroit were on the ice for Wednesday's practice.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette makes a rule of not discussing his lineup, but he might have tipped his hand when asked about Manning prior to Thursday's game.

"I'm excited to see him play because there's been a lot of real positive comments coming from the minor-league team that he's done a really nice job," said Laviolette. "He's a good two-way defenseman, he plays with an edge, he hits, he fights. It'll be interesting to watch him play. Apparently he's done a nice job down there, coming off the injury, worked hard in the summer to get to a point that now he's back playing. It's a good reward for him to get a game in and show what he can do."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 4:48 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Voracek a no-go, Jagr game-time decision for Flyers

The story on Wednesday was Jaromir Jagr likely would not play Thursday against the Florida Panthers but there was a chance Jakub Voracek could.

A day later, however, the story has changed 180 degrees, with Voracek ruled out while Jagr remains a game-time decision.

Voracek was leveled by a hard hit from Detroit's Niklas Kronwall in the second period of Tuesday's game. According to CSNPhilly.com, Voracek was under a concussion watch and still had to pass a baseline test in order to be cleared to play.

Jagr, who suffered a hip injury late in the second period of Tuesday's game, skated during Thursday's morning skate, and said his decision would come prior to game-time.

"I don't know anything right now," Jagr told reporters following practice. "I'll let you know later. I felt good. Better than I thought."

Jagr has missed games four times this season due to lower-body issues.

"When you are talking about players who have been dealing with minor bumps or bruises, there are always conversations to make good decisions," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said of Jagr. "We'll make those decisions and put the lineup that is best."

That lineup could include forward Harry Zolnierczyk, who was recalled from AHL Adirondack. Zolnierczyk has 3 goals and 2 assists in 36 games this season. He last played in the NHL on Feb. 5.

The team also recalled defenseman Brandon Manning. If Manning plays Thursday, it would be his first NHL game. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder has 4 goals and 5 assists in 32 AHL games. He missed the first three months of the season recovering from hip surgery prior to training camp.

An undrafted free agent, Manning was signed by the Flyers in November 2010. He was an offensive-minded defenseman in four seasons with the Chilliwack Bruins of the Western Hockey League. He tied for third among WHL defensemen last season with 21 goals.

"I haven't seen a lot of him," Laviolette said. "He missed training camp. I haven't seen him up here yet and I don't get to see the guys in the minors that much. (He's) a good two-way defenseman who plays with some grit, plays with an edge."

The Flyers will be without defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros for a fourth straight game due to lower-body injuries, but all six defensemen who played Tuesday against Detroit appear to be healthy, so it's unclear where -- or if -- Manning fits into the lineup.

"It's kind of undecided right now," Manning said when asked if he was playing Thursday. "I'm just kind of waiting to hear how the other guys are doing and we'll go from there."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK




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Posted On Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 4:22 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

'Yotes hope struggling Wild the tonic for March slump

One week ago, the Phoenix Coyotes were two games away from the longest unbeaten streak in franchise history, completing an 11-0-1 February with a leap from 12th place in the Western Conference to the Pacific Division lead with 23 points in a month.

Just seven days later, everything is upside down. The Coyotes are in the midst of the longest pointless streak in coach Dave Tippett's coaching tenure in Phoenix -- four games -- and face the prospect of their first five-game losing streak since February of 2009 when they host the Minnesota Wild.

The Coyotes will start goalie Jason LaBarbera tonight after Mike Smith allowed two goals in the first four minutes of a 3-2 loss in Columbus on Tuesday. The Coyotes have five players still on the injured list and none will play tonight, with enforcer Paul Bissonnette expected to replace Gilbert Brule.

The Coyotes are still seventh in the West and just two points behind Dallas for the Pacific Division lead, but are just one point ahead of San Jose, Los Angeles and Colorado, and need a win to stop the bleeding.

Minnesota knows all about losing streaks. The Wild are 0-4-1 in the last five -- scoring just one goal in the last three games, on a penalty shot by Devin Setoguchi on Tuesday with Minnesota already hoplessly out of a 7-1 loss at Colorado. They have only three wins in the last 16 games (3-10-3) and are now 13th in the Western Conference.

Minnesota was 20-7-3 and had the NHL's best record the last time it was in Phoenix (Dec. 10). Since then, the Wild are 8-22-7.

Only seven players who dressed for that Dec. 10 game will play tonight: Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cullen, Dany Heatley, Nick Johnson, Darroll Powe, Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon.

The rest are either injured, in the minors or no longer part of the organization. How bad has the turnover been?  If defenseman Tyler Cuma, who was called up on Thursday, makes his NHL debut tonight he would become 45th player to wear a Minnesota jersey this season.

Josh Harding will be in goal after Matt Hackett was bombed in Colorado. Cuma will replace Jared Spurgeon (flu). Cal Clutterbuck (upper body) is still out, along with a list too long to mention here.

Here's how the lineups could look tonight:

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

Keith Yandle - Adrian Aucoin
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
David Rundblad - Chris Summers

Jason LaBarbera
Mike Smith

WILD

Dany Heatley - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Darroll Powe - Matt Cullen - Devin Setoguchi
Stephane Veilleux - Erik Christensen - Nick Palmieri
Matt Kassian - Warren Peters - Jed Ortmeyer

Marco Scandella - Tyler Cuma
Steven Kampfer - Tom Gilbert
Nate Prosser - Kurtis Foster

Josh Harding
Matt Hackett

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Posted On Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 3:58 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Canucks reunite 'American Express' line

The Canucks continue to tinker with their forward units and defense, re-uniting the American Express line of U.S.-born forwards Chris Higgins, Ryan Kesler and David Booth as they attempt to bump their worst slump in four months.

That it’s a two-game losing streak in regulation -- four of five (1-2-2) if you throw in overtime and shootout losses that sandwiched a win over St. Louis -- says a lot about expectations surrounding a Vancouver team that ran away with the Western Conference last season, but comes into this game second.

Still, there are improvements needed, so the changes continue against the Jets on Thursday night, with newcomer Marc-Andre Gragnani now on a third pairing with youngster Christopher Tanev while the more established Aaron Rome joins fellow veteran Andrew Alberts in the press box as healthy scratches on defense.

Here are the rest of the expected lineups for Thursday night. The Canucks are 41-18-8, while the Jets are 32-27-8 come to Rogers Arena on a 6-1-2 roll, but will have to reverse the trend of being much better at home (21-10-4) than on the road (11-17-4) to hold onto the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

CANUCKS

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Mason Raymond - Samuel Pahlsson - Jannik Hansen
Manny Malhotra - Maxim Lapierre - Zack Kassian
 
Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Marc-Andre Gragnani - Christopher Tanev
 
Cory Schneider, who cut his professional teeth in Winnipeg with the Canucks' AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, is back in goal after watching Roberto Luongo start the last three.
 
In addition to the goaltending change, the re-unification of the American Express second line that showed so much promise earlier in the season also changes up the third and fourth units, with the struggling speedster Raymond now on a checking unit, and big trade addition Kassian moving back to more of a crash-and-bang fourth line after a game-plus experiment on that second line.
 
Gragnani, who came to Vancouver with Kassian in the trade with Buffalo, will continue to get a look on a first power-play unit that still ranks third in the League but has just one goal in the last eight games amid a two-month slump.

JETS

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Tim Stapleton - Nik Antropov - Antti Miettinen
 
Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Grant Clitsome
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart
 
Ondrej Pavelec starts in goal, with Chris Mason backing up.

No lineup changes for a Jets team that built most of its recent 6-1-2 run during a long homestand, but showed some improvement with a 4-3-0 record the last seven road games. That's a notable number considering they have lost 21 of 32 road contests this season.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 3:44 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Report: Tyutin (broken hand) likely out for season

The return of Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter certainly wasn't the only big story coming out of Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Thursday morning.

According to Blue Jackets TV play-by-play voice Jeff Rimer, the team has not only lost third-line center Derek MacKenzie with concussion-like symptoms, but defenseman Fedor Tyutin might be lost for the remainder of the season.

Rimer told NHL Home Ice on Thursday that Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards informed the media of the injuries following the team's afternoon practice.

"Tyutin wasn't on the ice for practice," Rimer said. "He had blocked a shot in third period [of a 3-2 win over Phoenix on Tuesday] from the point and continued to play, but broke his right hand and is likely out for the balance of the season."

Additionally, MacKenzie is out indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms. No timetable has been given on his return and, according to Rimer, the team's medical staff will be monitoring him closely.

MacKenzie and Tyutin, along with captain Rick Nash and Vinny Prospal, were the only four to play in every game for Columbus this season. Tyutin has 5 goals and 26 points in 66 games, and MacKenzie has 7 goals and 14 points in as many games.

The absence of MacKenzie opens the door for rookie Ryan Johansen, who had been a healthy scratch the last two games. Johansen will draw back into the lineup and play center. Additionally, Maksim Mayorov has been recalled from the team's AHL affiliate in Springfield.

Johansen has 9 goals and 17 points in 51 games for Columbus this season. Mayorov has 1 goal in eight appearances in 2011-12.

On Feb. 23, the Blue Jackets dealt Carter to the Kings in exchange for defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional first-round pick. Carter has 2 goals in five games for Los Angeles after scoring 15 goals in 29 contests for Columbus. This will be Carter's first visit to Columbus since the trade.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 3:02 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ankle injury to sideline Duchene 3-4 weeks

NASHVILLE -- Colorado center Matt Duchene's ankle injury will keep him out 3-4 weeks, coach Joe Sacco said on Thursday, costing the team one of its top players in the midst of a playoff drive.

Duchene, who has 13 goals and 13 assists in 48 games, hurt himself in Tuesday's 7-1 win over Minnesota after playing 11:36. It's the second time this season the Avs will be without the two-time 20-goal scorer, as a knee injury cost Duchene 20 games between Dec. 31 and Feb. 17. Colorado entered the day 10th in the Western Conference, but tied with 74 points with both San Jose and Los Angeles, which are in the eighth and ninth spots, respectively.

Sacco said the injury will not require surgery.

"We've done a good job of dealing with injuries and throughout this season we haven't had that many -- knock on wood -- not as many as we've had the last couple of years," Sacco said. "But he missed a significant amount of time before that with a knee injury and we were OK. It's just an opportunity, maybe, for other people to step into maybe more of a role than they previously had."

Sacco said for Thursday's game with Nashville, Mark Olver would move to Duchene's spot at center. Olver, 24, who was called up from Lake Erie (AHL) on Feb. 16, has 3 goals and 2 assists and is plus-3 in 10 games.

In hindsight, two moves that Colorado made before the NHL trading deadline passed that brought more scoring look prescient. The Avalanche sent defenseman Kyle Quincey to Tampa Bay and received forward Steve Downie, who has 14 goals, in return. Downie has 2 goals and 8 assists in seven games since coming over.

They also acquired left wing Jamie McGinn from the Sharks with Mike Connolly and Michael Sgarbossa for TJ Galiardi, Daniel Winnik and a seventh-round pick in 2013. McGinn, who has 15 goals on the season, has 3 goals and 1 assist in four games since joining Colorado.

"We feel we have good depth at all our positions right now," Sacco said. "We have good depth up front, we have good depth on defense, our goaltending's been pretty solid for us throughout the whole course of the season, so it is nice obviously when you lose a body here or there that you know you can rely on a couple guys for at the deadline, Downie, both him and Jamie McGinn, both players have been real good for us since the trade.

"Both are starting to find their way around the locker room, their way around the players, but more importantly they've been very productive and have had an impact on our team in a positive way, so they've been good."

Downie missed Sunday's game with Minnesota because of an injury, but returned on Tuesday and had 3 assists in 18:27 of time on ice. Sacco said he was fine to play on Thursday.

Thursday will be the first time that Avs defenseman Shane O'Brien, a member of the Predators last season, will play against his former team this season. O'Brien was an important penalty killer for the Predators, as they won the first playoff round in franchise history last season in the first round against Anaheim.

O'Brien ended up departing as a free agent and signing with Colorado in the offseason. O'Brien, who is now with his fifth team in six NHL seasons, had something of a reputation as perhaps a malcontent -- Nashville coach Barry Trotz affectionately referred to him as a "chirper" on Thursday.

O'Brien thanked Nashville for helping to rehab that image.

"I was probably a little surprised," O'Brien said. "I wasn't disappointed. I mean, they gave me a great opportunity to come in and kind of just change my, maybe persona, the way people thought about me around the League. Trotzy was unbelievable with me all year. (General manager David) Poile was great, everybody was great.

"I was a little surprised maybe when they didn't re-sign me, but that's the business side of it. Obviously, no hard feelings. It was a great year and that's the way the business works."
 
Projected lineup:
 
Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Steve Downie - Ryan O'Reilly - Gabriel Landeskog
Mike Connolly - Mark Olver - Peter Mueller
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Milan Hejduk
 
Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan Wilson
Matt Hunwick - Stefan Elliott
 
Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere
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Posted On Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 2:27 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Stamkos leading Lightning charge, nearing 50 goals


WASHINGTON -- Nearly three years after Alex Ovechkin celebrated his 50th goal of the 2008-09 season at then-called St. Pete Times Forum, Steven Stamkos has the chance to return the favor Thursday night at Verizon Center as the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Washington Capitals.

Stamkos leads the NHL with 48 goals and is tied with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin with 81 points. The 22-year-old Stamkos has been on a tear of late with 11 goals and 19 points in his last 10 games.

The Lightning have won four of five games and seven of 10 overall to climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff race and Stamkos may be the biggest reason. The 11th-place Lightning have pulled within four points of eighth-place Winnipeg and they sit two points behind ninth-place Washington.

"I think he's upped his game to not just that superstar status, but to that elite [status], like when [Ovechkin] had 65 goals," said Caps defenseman Karl Alzner, teammates with Stamkos at the 2008 World Junior Championship.

"I remember we played them at home last time and he had half a second in front of the net to score a goal and shoot the puck and he shoots it post and in like it's so easy, like he's sleeping doing it. He's just one of those guys, there's a reason why he's there. He's hard to stop."

Alzner referenced Stamkos scoring from in front of the net, and those around Stamkos acknowledge that with more teams taking away his patented one-timer from the left faceoff circle, more of his goals are coming from around the blue paint.

"He'll score some goals on the power play, but it's not his one-timer from the side anymore on the power play, it's his entire game," Lightning coach Guy Boucher explained.

"He's taken this quest of becoming a complete player and a winner very, very seriously and that's why he's benefitting from scoring from all angles, all kinds of situations -- whether it's a breakaway, two-on-one, wraparound, screen, tip, jam. He does it all."

For Stamkos, becoming a complete player also involved improving his play at even-strength. With more teams taking away his one-timer on the power play, Stamkos has adjusted accordingly. His 38 even-strength goals this season are already second most since the 2005 work stoppage, behind only Ovechkin's 43 in 2007-08.

"There are a lot of good players in this League and when you've played in the League for a while, people pick up on things," Stamkos said.

"They pick up on where you score from, what you like to do when you're in the offensive zone, so you have to make adjustments and be able to adapt to your surroundings. It's about finding ways to score more goals five-on-five, or scoring more goals around the net, whether it's a rebound or a tip. So for me it was something that I wanted to adjust. As you mature throughout your career, you'll always keep finding new ways to get opportunities."

With Vincent Lecavalier missing his ninth straight game tonight because of an upper-body injury, and the February trades of Steve Downie, Dominic Moore and Pavel Kubina, even more weight has been placed on Stamkos' broad shoulders.

But along with Teddy Purcell, who enters play on a 10-game point streak, and Martin St. Louis (6 goals, 5 assists in his last 10 games), Tampa Bay's No. 1 line has responded.

"I put that pressure on myself regardless of who is in the lineup," Stamkos said. "Obviously it's magnified now with the trades that we made and with Vinny out and Heddy out for a while -- it was nice to get him back last game -- but for right now for Teddy, Marty and I, we realize that we need to score goals to help our team win and we like that pressure."
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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 Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 2:20 PM

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

Simplifying game got Shattenkirk out of rut

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk has by his own admission been a streaky player. So when the 23-year-old recently went through a stretch without a point in 14 of 15 games, the tendencies were to try and press the issue, force something that may not be there.

"When things kind of take a downward spiral for me, I start thinking too much," Shattenkirk said. "You can see it out there just in some stagnant play. That's something that we talk about day in and day out, is just go out there and play, skate and let everything kind of come naturally to you. (The coaches) know as well as anyone that I like to play off my instincts and I react to plays more to kind of set (the teammates) up ahead of time. It's nice to have coaches who understand how I play and who understand how to get players out of those ruts."

Shattenkirk is out of that "rut." With 8 points in five games and 12 in the last 11, he is setting a standard along with fellow defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (29 points in 29 games) that the Blues have some special blueliners.

"He was forcing it," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Shattenkirk. "He was looking at stats, he was looking at points and he wasn't doing enough, so then he started forcing it and then it just snowballed and got worse and worse. Now he's just back simplifying it. He's not forcing it.

"To me, when he stopped forcing it defensively, then he started getting better offensively. I think he went through a stretch where he was gambling too much defensively and we were giving up odd-man rushes and pucks were in our net. I think he's just calmed down a lot and letting the game come to him. He's been way more effective."

Having a defensive partner like Barret Jackman seems to be a calming influence on the younger Shattenkirk, a go-getter who likes to join in the rush and attack the offensive zone as opposed to the more stay-at-home Jackman.

"He's getting some points on our power play and that's where he gets a lot of his points," Jackman said of his d-partner. "But it's simple hockey, he hasn't changed all year. He's been playing solid all year, moving the puck well and just moving his feet. He's such a great skater, sees the ice so well ... they're going to come. Speaking from a guy that went 150 games, eventually they come.

"He's got the skills, he's got all the tools. Sometimes the simpler you make it, the easier things come. You're not over-thinking the game. You just go out there and play and things fall into place. Once in a while, it just takes a bounce that goes your way. All of the sudden, you go into a stretch that both him and Petro are on right now. They're picking up points every night. We don't need them to do that every other night, but it definitely helps out our offense and gets our defense involved."

Shattenkirk, who is tied for fourth in the NHL at plus-26, is feeling it right now. And the feeling is pretty good.

"I always seem to have spurts when things kind of start falling into place," Shattenkirk said. "For a while there, it seemed like I was pressing and things weren't going my way or bounces weren't going my way. Now things are kind of just happening for me. When I feel these times coming along, you feel confident and you just stick with it because you have a feeling that maybe something might fall for you."
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Quote of the Day

He seemed to thrive on his own and didn't really need any push from me. I certainly don't want to get in the way of the coaches. You see how that goes sometimes. I never really worried about it and just enjoyed the ride.

— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers