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Blues' Hitchcock matches wits against former pupil

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The St. Louis Blues will aim for a fourth straight win and a share of the Central Division lead Friday when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes. With 77 points, the Blues trail the Chicago Blackhawks by two points and also have four games in hand.

St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock will match wits with Carolina counterpart Kirk Muller, who played for Hitchcock with the Dallas Stars. Hitchcock had no problem admitting the coaching matchup feels awkward.

"It's hard for me to look at Kirk as anything but a player yet," Hitchcock said. "When you're looking at a guy that's played for you, and you've had such a unique relationship and so much success with them, it's hard for me to look at him as a guy you've got to coach against. It looks like a friend who happens to be standing on the other team's bench."

After stringing together four straight wins, the Hurricanes dropped a 3-0 decision on the road Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens. Muller wants to see the Hurricanes return to a fast game with a strong forecheck.

"We have to use our assets," Muller said. "We have to make this a high-tempo game and move the puck on them and get it into the areas that make a 200-foot game."

Carolina removed goalie Cam Ward from injured reserve Thursday and sent him to Charlotte of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment.

Here are the projected lineups for the Blues and Hurricanes:


Jaden Schwartz - David Backes - Alexander Steen

Vladimir Sobotka - Derek Roy - Vladimir Tarasenko

Magnus Paajarvi - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie

Brenden Morrow - Maxim Lapierre - Chris Stewart

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Cole - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Jordan Leopold, Carlo Colaiacovo, Ryan Reaves


Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin

Jeff Skinner - Jordan Staal - Elias Lindholm

Nathan Gerbe - Manny Malhotra - Patrick Dwyer

Drayson Bowman - Riley Nash - Tuomo Ruutu

Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk

Ron Hainsey - John-Michael Liles

Mike Komisarek - Jay Harrison

Anton Khudobin

Justin Peters

Scratched: Radek Dvorak, Brett Bellemore

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