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At the Rink blog

Shutout earns Elliott second straight start

Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 2:24 PM

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

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At the Rink blog
Shutout earns Elliott second straight start
ST. LOUIS -- The philosophy for St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is simple: earn a shutout one game, start the next.

So there's no debating who's in goal when the Blues host the Detroit Red Wings tonight: Brian Elliott.

After a 19-save performance, including some acrobatic ones in the waning seconds of Saturday's 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, Elliott earns another game in a big Central Division showdown instead of No. 1 Jaroslav Halak, who's also played solid.

"For me, a shutout ... you've got to reward. That's just the way I feel," Hitchcock said. "I think for us, the goaltending is also a product that we're not giving up odd-man rushes, we're not giving up easy scoring opportunities, we're not giving up breakaways. If you play in the zone, I think both guys are good. But no goalie looks good when you're giving up a ton of odd-man rushes. We've got to eliminate them and if we do that, then we give ourselves a chance every night."

Elliott, who leads the NHL with a 1.49 goals-against average and is second in save percentage (.946) behind Minnesota's Josh Harding (.948), is 6-1 on the season and gives the Blues (8-7-1) a nice 1-2 punch these days.

"We kind of push each other in practice," Elliott said of himself and Halak. "I try to stop every puck that comes my way. Having two guys is great for the team."

Halak is only 2-6-1 on the season and his current numbers (2.78 GAA and .882 save percentage) don't crack the League leaders. But considering he once sported a season-low 3.53 GAA and .835 save percentage, the players are noticing the confidence both netminders have.

"Let's talk about our goalies. A 1-2 punch ... they've been playing great," winger Alex Steen said. "The way our goalies have been playing the last little while has just calmed everything down in the D-zone. I think we've played some pretty good hockey."

Added Hitchcock, "It looks like we've got two guys that can play. It's a good feeling."

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In an effort to get their second line going a bit, Hitchcock won't move anyone onto it, just switch a couple wingers.

Patrik Berglund will stay in the middle, but the Blues will move Chris Stewart to the left side and Matt D'Agostini to the right against Detroit.

The move is in hopes of getting the line scoring on a consistent basis, despite the trio getting scoring chances.

"We practiced with it two days ago and really liked it," Hitchcock said. "For whatever reason in the game against Tampa, Dags ended up on the right side a lot. He showed great speed and the ability to bring the puck to the net.

"For me, it doesn't matter whether Stewy plays right or not. When you've got a quick stick like he does, which you need to play on the off-wing, he's effective either way. For me, it's more for Dags."

The two players have no preference on moving.

"It's no different," said Stewart, who played left wing in Colorado. "It's a little easier to attack when you're on your off-wing there as opposed to cutting to your back end there. It's a little easier to protect the puck. It shouldn't be any difference.

"We're playing with poise, getting opportunities off the rush too. That's always a good thing. It's just a matter of time before we start capitalizing."

D'Agostini and Stewart would up playing opposite sides in Saturday's 3-0 win over Tampa Bay.

"It's not that much of a change," D'Agostini said. "We're reading off of each other during the game. ... I've moved from left to right, right to left before during the season, so it's not a big change.

"We've played well the last couple games. We've been playing in the offensive zone most of the time, but we just haven't been able to bang that many in yet. The law of averages, they'll go in sooner or later."

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The Blues will insert winger Chris Porter into the lineup tonight in place of enforcer Ryan Reaves. It will be Porter's first game under Hitchcock and first since Oct. 30 at Edmonton.

"I've watched him in practice. He's got great speed. He gets after it," Hitchcock said of Porter. "We're looking at this being a really quick game. Detroit just drops the puck and plays. There's no stuff after the whistle. They play as hard whistle to whistle as anybody in the National Hockey League.

"We just feel like we're going to need to play with tempo tonight to match theirs and we think Porter has a chance here. But this is, for me, a look. I don't really know much about him as a player. I'd like to look at him because he's looked very good the past two practices. He's looked like he's dug in and bit and wants to play some hockey. So I want to give him that opportunity to see what he does."

Porter's been a healthy scratch the last five games and has no points in seven games played.

"I've been working hard," Porter said. "When your name's called, you have to go out and perform. That's what I plan on doing tonight. ... My game is based around speed and physicality. Hopefully, I can bring that tonight. Obviously Detroit carries the puck. They don't like to dump the puck too much. I'll have to be good defensively. Hopefully, we can minimize their chances offensively and play in their zone all night."

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Upon further review, Blues defenseman Kent Huskins does in fact have a fracture in the left ankle that he injured in a game Oct. 28 in Calgary, and will be out the next eight weeks.

Huskins, who was initially diagnosed with the fracture by doctors in Calgary, then was looked at by doctors here who determined it was a deep bone bruise. Huskins skated Monday and had no problems with straight line skating. But when came down to turns, there were problems.

Blues trainers immediately sent Huskins to the hospital, where X-rays determined a fracture. Huskins will have a screw inserted Wednesday.

"They skated him hard yesterday in straight lines ... no issue," Hitchcock said of Huskins. "Then they started to do turns with him and there were issues. They did another test on him, and they found the fracture. They never found it skating the first time. They never found it skating ahead the second time, but on the turn part of the practice, it started giving him pain."

It means Ian Cole, recalled from the American Hockey League affiliate in Peoria, will be here for the near future.

"This obviously gives a guy like Cole a long-term opportunity here," Hitchcock said. "Hopefully, Ian takes advantage of it. We've got our seven (defensemen) here and this is what we're going to be going with."
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