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Blues coach pulling no punches

Saturday, 12.27.2008 / 1:00 AM / Division Notebooks

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Andy Murray appears to have reached his boiling point, which is rare for the normally composed and protective St. Louis Blues coach.

The shorthanded Blues, who have six players on injured reserve, entered the holiday break with seven losses in their last eight games and a 4-10-1 mark since they won three straight just before Thanksgiving.

The results are unacceptable to Murray, who named names on the record last Sunday, following a 6-3 loss to the Boston Bruins.

Murray blasted everyone from veteran leaders such as Keith Tkachuk, Brad Boyes and Manny Legace to rookie center Patrik Berglund, second-year left wing David Perron and fourth-year defenseman Jeff Woywitka. He barely spared third-year right wing David Backes, telling the newspaper he was just "all right."

"I expect Jeff Woywitka to be a lot better than he was today," Murray was quoted as saying in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "David Perron ... where's he? Berglund, I expect him to be better. Am I being a little hard on them here? That's just the way that it is."

While it may seem strange that Murray chose to blast his team after it played the Bruins, the top team in the Eastern Conference, the coach didn't see it that way.

Murray told the Post-Dispatch the following day that he had thought hard about what he was saying, and that it wasn't just his emotions speaking.

"It wasn't a spontaneous reaction at a press conference," he said. "I thought we should have beaten the Boston Bruins. I thought it was an appropriate time (to make the comments) because they were the best team in the League coming in. I thought against that team, if we had everybody on board, we would have beaten them. I think we got the horses to get the job done, and I was disappointed that we didn't."

Murray was slightly easier on his team after its 4-1 loss to Detroit on Tuesday, but he was still trying to deliver a message to them.

"Guys have to keep believing, first of all in their own abilities, and they have to prep to make plays and make good decisions," he told the Post-Dispatch. "Some guys are reverting back and they need to step their game forwards."

It should be noted that the Blues are playing without Paul Kariya, Andy McDonald, Jay McKee, Eric Brewer, D.J. King, T.J. Oshie and Erik Johnson. Manny Legace returned from a concussion to play against the Bruins.

Filatov a center?
-- The Columbus Blue Jackets' executive brass, including General Manager Scott Howson and Director of Hockey Operations Don Boyd, is watching the 2009 World Junior Championship closely, with a keen eye on Russia's No. 1 center, Nikita Filatov.

The Jackets' top prospect, selected sixth in the 2008 Entry Draft, has been playing primarily on the left wing with the Syracuse Crunch, Columbus' American Hockey League affiliate. With Russia using him in the middle, the Blue Jackets have a unique opportunity to see if he has potential to become an NHL pivot as well.

Russia opened the World Junior Championship in Ottawa on Friday with a game against Latvia.

"They obviously believe he's capable of moving to that position, and we're curious to see how it goes," Boyd told NHL.com. "That'll be an interesting twist for us to watch how he performs there. It won't be from a lack of skill or lack of attitude he has. We may play him at both positions before it's over."

The Jackets have been searching for a true No. 1 center for basically their entire existence. R.J. Umberger currently is filling that role alongside star captain Rick Nash, but Filatov could be the wave of the future.

 
 
Even if he isn't, the Jackets are anxious to see him perform against his top peers at the elite international tournament for under-20 players.

"We just feel it's a tremendous learning opportunity for (all players) and tremendous exposure to a situation that hopefully the players can gain some experience from and bring it back to the program," Boyd said. "Scott was never hesitant in allowing Nikita play."

Happy 1,000 -- The Nashville Predators showed their respect and admiration for captain Jason Arnott last weekend by giving him a camouflage-patterned four-wheeler as a gift for playing in his 1,000th career National Hockey League game.

"I think we caught him off-guard," Predators defenseman Ryan Suter told The Tennessean. "Most guys expect a watch."

According to the newspaper, the Predators hid the vehicle from Arnott, an avid hunter and outdoorsman, before finally giving it to him during a post-practice stretch prior to their game last Saturday against the New York Islanders, which was Arnott's 1,000th.

"To receive a gift like that from your fellow teammates, it almost puts a tear in your eye," Arnott said. "It's very special."

Arnott made his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 6, 1993. The following June he finished second to the Devils' Martin Brodeur for the Calder Trophy. He went on to win the Stanley Cup with Brodeur in New Jersey in 2000, when he scored the Cup-clinching goal 8:20 into the second overtime of Game 6 in Dallas.

He scored a career-high 76 points with the Stars in 2005-06 and played in his first All-Star Game in 10 years last season, his second in Nashville.

"You start off your career, you play your first season and you look across the room at guys who have been in the League a long time and you think, 'Man, am I going to make it that far?'" Arnott told the newspaper. "I am lucky enough to say I have, and in every city I have played in I have made great memories and great friends."

This and that -- Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom now is moving up two all-time lists: points and assists by a defenseman. Lidstrom had three assists last Saturday, moving him past Larry Robinson on the points list and Denis Potvin on the assists list. He had 745 assists and 962 points heading into Friday's game at Nashville. … Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville gave his players three days off this past week. The Hawks played Sunday, practiced Monday, and after their annual Christmas party scattered for the holiday break. They returned to the United Center Friday morning for their pre-game skate before putting their seven-game win streak on the line against the Philadelphia Flyers that night. … Kariya (hip) and Oshie (ankle) were planning to practice with the Blues on Friday. … Nashville is 9-0-0 when leading after one period this season. … The Tennessean reported that Predators forward Wade Belak stayed in South Florida until Christmas night to be with his family. Belak was traded to Nashville by the Panthers earlier this season. He hadn't seen his two boys since the Nov. 27 trade, but the Predators played in Florida on Tuesday night. … Blue Jackets rookie center Derick Brassard should have surgery to repair his dislocated shoulder soon after Jan. 1. It's expected he will miss the rest of the season. … Columbus has gone the last 122:46 without a goal.

He said it -- "We always have Red Wing fans come to Chicago to watch us play. It used to be hard to get ticket here in Detroit so you saw a lot of fans from Detroit coming to watch the games in Chicago because it's not that far. Now the intensity is higher than maybe even last year. You can feel that excitement in the building. The fans are intense. You see (Detroit fans) in warm-ups still, but you don't hear them as much. It's fun to play in that arena." -- Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom, talking about the excitement building in Chicago, and especially the United Center.

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com.


Quote of the Day

We've got a team filled with captains, that's what I think. With these first two games we got in, we're really dominating and moving the puck really fast, and it's worked out really good.

— U.S. goalie Brandon Halverson after a 6-0 win against Germany in the World Junior Championship on Sunday