Henrik Lundqvist is realistic about the Rangers chances this season

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GYI0060132541-henriklundqvist.jpgRangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist can almost always be best described as being the main reason the Rangers stay in any kind of contention each season. He’s one of the league’s best goalies and he’s also the guy who ends up suffering the most at the hands of the inconsistent Rangers offense. He’s become a bit of a rock star in New York City for his incredible play and hit with the ladies of Manhattan for his impeccable taste in fashion.

One thing that may help him either earn the respect of the Rangers faithful or cause him some trouble is his sense of realism when it comes to his team. While Lundqvist and a handful of other NHL players get some pre-pre-season training in in Sweden, Lundqvist spoke with Swedish website HockeyExpressen.se about playing a little bit at home as well as what he thought about the Rangers prospects for the upcoming season were. For Henrik, he thinks this season could be a little bit tricky (translated site). Wonky Google translation straight ahead!

“The challenge is to try to be about winning in New York, it would be incredibly fun. I feel absolutely no craving to change clubs,” he says.

“Sure, it has been heavy in recent years and we have not gone so far in the playoffs. But we hope to be involved in the turns. Last year, the Rangers fought to the end of the playoff spot. It will not get any difference in years,” says Henrik Lundqvist.

“I think we will lose some top teams. There will be war at the line just like last.”

I really should just start learning basic Swedish because web translators just do not cut it. To sum it up better, Lundqvist realizes that the Rangers are going to be fighting for a playoff spot this year and why not? Last year they were a shootout win away from being the eighth seed. Meanwhile, other teams in the Eastern Conference that missed out on the playoffs have improved (Atlanta, Tampa Bay) while those that did make the playoffs at least stayed the same. No one is really going to drop off without notice and the Rangers have to be careful or else they’ll find themselves in a bad way.

Of course, Lundqvist’s play guarantees that they’ll at least be close to making the playoffs no matter what. Whether or not the additions of Alexander Frolov, Steve Eminger, Todd White, and Derek Boogaard can help the Rangers get those extra points needed to crack the East’s top eight remains to be seen, but at the very least Lundqvist isn’t fooling himself into thinking the Rangers are an instant Cup contender. Whether or not the fans approve of that is something else entirely.

(Photo: Jim McIsaac – Getty Images)

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.”