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Central: Boyes proving he's no fluke

Saturday, 11.01.2008 / 1:00 AM / Division Notebooks

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Brad Boyes knew people outside the St. Louis Blues locker room were asking, "Can he do it again?" He also understood it to be a fair question.
   
Boyes scored 43 goals last season, 17 better than his previous career high, a mark he set in 2005-06, and 26 more than he totaled in 2006-07.
   
"I didn't want to think about it," Boyes told NHL.com.
   
Instead, the Blues right wing spent the summer asking himself a different question.

"It was what do I have to do to make sure I do it again?" Boyes said. "What did I do last year? What was my mindset? It was play your game, feel good, earn every shift and, when you get a chance, to shoot the puck on net."

Following the same blueprint, Boyes is off to a similarly hot start and is on pace to set another career high in goals. Asking for 50 might be a stretch, but Boyes is on his way to proving 40 was no fluke.

He already has 7 through 9 games this season and the Blues are 5-4 heading into Saturday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who may or may not have Sidney Crosby in the lineup.

"Now we've got a standard for him and it's our job to hold him to that," Blues coach Andy Murray told the Belleville News-Democrat. "It may not be 43 goals on a yearly basis, but he needs to be an offensive producer for us. His shot is so good, and he gets rid of that puck so quick."

More than shooting, Boyes said his positioning was the key to his success last season. A lot of his goals came off passes from Paul Kariya, whose ability to play with the puck allowed Boyes to find his way to the net, where he got a lot of his goals.
   
"Paul is a great passer, so for me it was just rooting off of him and getting open; he would find me," Boyes said. "If I was in the right spot, it gave me a chance to put the puck on net. A lot of times, the puck had eyes. I just had to get to the net."
   
Ironically, Boyes hasn't spent too much of his 5-on-5 ice time this season with Kariya. He's been playing with Andy McDonald and Lee Stempniak, but Boyes' production hasn't waned largely because of McDonald (team-high 11 assists), as well as the Blues superb power play.
   
Entering Friday night's action, the Blues had the top-ranked power play in the League, and they're doing it with 5 forwards on the first unit. Kariya and Stempniak are at the points. Boyes, Keith Tkachuk and McDonald operate down low.

The Blues have scored 31.7-percent of the time on the power play. Thirteen of their 29 goals this season have come with the advantage. Boyes has 3 power-play tallies, but the big surprise is Tkachuk's 8 goals, including 6 on the power play.

"It comes down to shooting," Boyes said. "Both (Kariya and Stempniak) have great shots. They can get the puck through and that's key. Getting the puck and shooting early. Montreal is one of the best teams that does that and so is Detroit. As skilled as (the Red Wings) are, the amount they shoot on the power play is relative to how good they are."
   
Boyes, though, admitted the Blues are concerned about their lack of 5-on-5 production. Even though they're outscoring the opposition by 5 goals, 15 players currently sport a minus rating, including everyone on the first power-play unit.
   
Carolina blanked the Blues power play Thursday, and, in turn, won the game, 1-0.
   
"The biggest thing is we have to score goals, period," Boyes said. "There is always something you want to look at and improve, and for us right now it's 5-on-5. We have to be better at that, but if we win every game by scoring 6 power-play goals and no even strength goals, we'll take that."
   
 
 
Get out while you can -- The Detroit Red Wings have another game out west before taking 5 days off to recuperate from a long road trip. Even though they still lead the division by 5 points, thanks to their 7-2-2 record, the Wings are going to need every one of those days.
   
Detroit started off its road trip with a 6-5 shootout win in Chicago and followed that with a 4-3 shootout win in Los Angeles. If back-to-back shootouts weren't enough to give coach Mike Babcock a few gray hairs, the last 2 games likely did the job.
   
The Wings were beaten Wednesday in overtime, 5-4, by the Anaheim Ducks and 24 hours later lost in regulation, 4-2, to San Jose and former Babcock aide Todd McLellan. They face Roberto Luongo and the Canucks in Vancouver on Sunday.
   
Surprisingly, discipline has been the Wings problem on this road trip. They have committed 29 penalties and have surrendered 7 power-play goals, including a pair of 5-on-3 goals to the Ducks. The Wings are killing penalties at a 77.4-percent success rate this season and have allowed a League-worst 5 5-on-3 goals against.
   
They allowed 7 5-on-3 goals against all of last season, when their penalty kill was successful 84 percent of the time.
   
"Obviously discipline is an issue," Babcock told reporters after the Anaheim game. "No one intended to put us down 5-on-3, but the bottom line is it's hard to kill penalties 5-on-3 in this League."
   
Rookie Report -- Kris Versteeg is looking more and more like he belongs on the Chicago Blackhawks' top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
   
Versteeg entered Friday's game against Dallas second among rookies with 8 points on 2 goals and 6 assists. Versteeg, who had 4 points in 9 games last season, has been on the left wing with Toews in the middle and Kane in his customary spot on the right wing.
   
Columbus center Derick Brassard leads the League's rookies with 9 points on 4 goals and 5 assists. His 57 faceoffs won is also the most by any rookie this season. Brassard has taken the most draws most of any rookie, but he's winning close to 50 percent of them.
   
Nikita Filatov got a quick taste of the NHL and even scored his first goal on his first shot. However, after failing to record a shot in 2 straight games and having his ice time squashed to a mere 2:54 on Oct. 24 against the New York Rangers, the Blue Jackets sent the young Russian back to the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.
   
Filatov answered by scoring in his first game back with the Crunch, a 2-1 shootout win Wednesday against the Grand Rapids Griffins. Filatov has scored a goal in all 3 games he's played with the Crunch this season.
   
Columbus' top goalie prospect, Steve Mason, also made his pro debut against the Griffins. Mason, who is recovering from knee surgery, made 32 saves and didn't allow a goal in the shootout.

Predators' fans shouldn't miss forward Ryan Jones' blog entries on NashvillePredators.com. Jones takes you inside the team and his mind as he works his way through his first NHL season. Definitely check it out.
   
Meanwhile, Jones and Patric Hornqvist have begun to get a hang of this NHL thing. Hornqvist is on a 3-game point streak with a goal and 3 assists after scoring only a goal in his first 6 games. Jones has a goal and an assist in the last 3 games.
   
St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo still hasn't played since getting hurt when Toronto forward Ryan Hollweg hit him into the boards on Oct. 13. Pietrangelo is on the injured reserve, but is eligible to come off at any time. He is practicing.   
   

"I have nothing but gratitude for the New York Rangers and the Hartford Wolf Pack. They molded me into a player I never thought I'd be. They gave me every opportunity."
-- Hugh Jessiman

This and that - Rick Nash tried his hand at center Thursday in Colorado, but Columbus Dispatch reporter Aaron Portzline said he counted 5 shifts with Nash on the pivot before the captain moved back to the left wing with Jiri Novotny at center and Kristian Huselius on the right side.
   
The Jackets have again struggled to find the right mixture up top to unleash Nash. Coach Ken Hitchcock has so far been resistant to putting Brassard between the two dynamic forwards, but the time may be coming.

No surprise here, but according to the Forbes Magazine report ranking the value of 30 NHL franchises, the Detroit Red Wings came in third behind the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers. The Red Wings are reportedly worth $258 million.
   
Former New York Rangers first-round pick Hugh Jessiman is hoping to get his big NHL break with Nashville. The Predators acquired Jessiman, the No. 12 pick in the impressive 2003 Entry Draft, on Thursday for future considerations.
   
Jessiman is the only first-round draft pick from 2003 that has yet to play an NHL game this season. He had 42 points in 71 games for the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League last season. He was without a point in 6 games this season.
   
Jessiman reported to the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL on Thursday night.

"I have nothing but gratitude for the New York Rangers and the Hartford Wolf Pack," Jessiman told Rangers beat writer Sam Weinman of the Journal News. "They molded me into a player I never thought I'd be. They gave me every opportunity."

He said it: "I definitely think (Keith Tkachuk) has an extra jump this year. Whether it's playing with guys that are young enough to be his son (David Backes and David Perron), he has this youthful jump this year. People don't realize the way he's playing, the big hits he's throwing by coming back hard and defensively he's been great. He's doing the little things so well this year that it has just molded his overall game. The goal scoring is there, but he's doing so many things well this year." - Brad Boyes as told to NHL.com.

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com


Quote of the Day

I didn't even know how to celebrate. I threw my hands up, they gave me a hug, so I guess that's all I needed.

— Sabres forward Tim Schaller on scoring his first NHL goal Sunday against the Bruins