Elliott back in net for Senators as carousel continues

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Elliott.jpgThe Ottawa Senators have some issues. For a team that sat in third
place in the East coming out of the Olympic Break, they’re certainly
facing a series of problems that proves just how improbable it was they
were winning so much. Ottawa cannot score (three goals in three games)
and the goaltending is becoming a bit of a concern.

Leclaire, who was so good for the Columbus Blue Jackets just two years
ago is having an extremely sub-par season this year. The Senators
starter for much of the season, Brian Elliott, won nine straight games
in January and February but has allowed 15 goals in his last four

Neither goaltender has been able to stay in net for very
long, with both being pulled once in the past three games for the
Senators; Leclaire especially has struggled, allowed two goals on five
shots in the first six minutes against Carolina before being pulled.

now we have a team with aspirations of going deep into the playoffs,
yet cannot figure out just what the heck to do in net. Forget about the
Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals issues in net; they have
the offense to cover up for goaltending mistakes on most nights. The
Senators have no such luck: their offense is certainly not horrible but
nowhere near the powerhouses those two teams possess.

The Senators
are now switching back and forth between goaltenders, with Elliott
starting tonight against Edmonton
despite Leclaire actually putting a
decent game together in his last outing. But the team is struggling and
sliding down the standings and they need to find some combination in net
that can be relied upon. Elliott certainly has shown to be the better
option for most of the season, but he’s struggled lately.

Copper & Blue breaks it down further, and says it’s much more than just an issue with the goaltending:

Even though they are mired in goaltending problems, Ottawa has other
troubles.  Ottawa’s big money players are facing the tough minutes and
being slightly outshot and outscored at even strength.  The bottom of
their lineup is outshooting the opponents, and except for Nick Foligno’s
outstanding goalie luck, being outscored at even strength.

Silver Seven blames Spezza a bit as the article said “Spezza’s game
seemed to decline until fairly recently, when he finally realized he
could shoot the puck.”
but in reality the Senators are flawed from
top-to-bottom.  The goaltending is bad, the defense is thin and
the best forwards on the team can’t handle tough minutes, even in the

Senators will play both goaltenders on their current three-game road
trip. So much for stability in net headed into the playoffs.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”