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Wings chase fifth in row against Hitchcock-led Blues

by Adam Kimelman
RED WINGS (9-5-1) at BLUES (8-7-1)


Last 10:
Detroit 4-5-1; St. Louis 6-3-1

Season series:
This is the first of six meetings between the Central Division rivals this season. The Wings won four of six games last season, but the Blues won their most recent matchup, a 10-3 rout in Detroit on March 30. Chris Porter had a pair of goals, and Vladimir Sobotka and Chris Stewart had a goal and 2 assists each.

Big Story:
The Red Wings will go for their fifth straight win, while the Blues hope to keep the good vibes new coach Ken Hitchcock has brought with him through his first three games with the team.

Team Scope:

Red Wings:
If the hockey equivalent of winning the lottery is playing alongside Nicklas Lidstrom, then on Monday, teammate Jonathan Ericsson was holding the winning ticket.

Ericsson filled in for Lidstrom's regular defense partner, Ian White, at Monday's practice, and it's likely that pairing will be in place Tuesday against the Blues. White is out for 1-2 weeks with a broken cheekbone suffered blocking a shot Saturday against Dallas.

Ericsson has played alongside the six-time Norris Trophy winner this season, but only on the penalty kill. At even strength, Ericsson had been paired with Jakub Kindl.

To play with Lidstrom, Ericsson will move from the left side to the right. Ericsson has 1 assist and a plus-3 rating in 15 games. White has 7 points and a plus-8 rating in 15 games.

Blues: Hitchcock has boiled his coaching philosophy to two words -- fast and tight.

"It's not fast offensively," he said at his introductory press conference last week. "Fast and loose offensively ends up in losses. Fast and tight defensively ends up in wins. I think this team has that capability. They've shown flashes. If we can get to that level, we're going to be in good shape."

So far, the Blues have gotten fast and tight enough to go 2-0-1 with Hitchcock behind the bench. Their two wins have been by shutout, and they've outscored their opposition 5-0 in even-strength play.

"If we keep playing the same way and keep doing what (Hitchcock) tells us, good things will happen," center Jason Arnott told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He just wants us to make the smart play. He definitely doesn't want to take the offense out of our hands. His system works as long as we stick to it."

Who's Hot:
Red Wings forward Johan Franzen has 9 points during his current four-game point-scoring streak. Two of his five goals in that span have been game-winners. … Blues forward T.J. Oshie has 4 goals and 6 points in his last five games.

Injury Report:
Besides White, the Red Wings also will be without forward Todd Bertuzzi, who has missed the last four games due to a sinus infection and swelling in his ears. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall missed Monday's practice due to illness, but coach Mike Babcock expects him to play Tuesday. … Blues centers David Perron and Andy McDonald continue to recover from concussions. Defenseman Kent Huskins is out with an ankle injury.

Stat Pack:
The Blues have two power-play goals in three games (10 chances) under Hitchcock. They had three power-play goals in 13 games (40 chances) under former coach Davis Payne.

Puck Drop:
Injuries in the NHL nowadays mostly are classified as either lower-body or upper-body. Those vague designations disappoint fans and media alike, and now Hitchcock has taken their side.

"I don't like that," Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of the upper body/lower body classifications. "It's stupid because all it does is make (the media) do more work and mistrust us. What's the big deal? A guy has a sore shoulder, he has a sore shoulder. I don't like upper-body, lower-body. … To me, if a guy's hurt, he's hurt and I'll tell you what it is and go from there."

Showing that he also likes making jokes, Hitchcock had a quick answer when asked for an update on Huskins.

"Lower body," the coach responded with a laugh.

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