Around The Rink – October 11

Happy Columbus Day to all of you fortunate enough to have a bank holiday to sit around and watch afternoon hockey. There are three games dropping the puck before the sun sets today while you’re kicking back enjoying some lasagna to celebrate everyone’s favorite 15th Century Italian explorer. All times are eastern because that’s the way Columbus wanted it.

1:00 pm

NY Rangers @ NY Islanders

Nothing says “holiday” like the Rangers and Isles going at each other like cats and dogs on Long Island. It’s their first meeting of the season and, like all other times they meet, should be a slugfest. Look for Derek Boogaard and Zenon Konopka to get to know each other at some point. Henrik Lundqvist will start for the Rangers in goal while Dwayne Roloson will start for the Islanders. Update: So much for Roloson, DiPietro gets the nod.

2:00 pm

Anaheim @ St. Louis

So the Ducks won’t have newly-signed Andreas Lilja in the lineup just yet, but at least they’ll have defenseman to kick around soon. Until then, the leaky defense will have to deal with David Backes and company. Cam Janssen won’t be around to punch people as he’s out for two weeks with a concussion.

4:00 pm

Pittsburgh @ New Jersey

Paul Martin makes his return to New Jersey as a member of the Penguins and he’s expecting to be met with boos. As for the game, the Devils will hope to tighten things up a bit after losing 7-2 to Washington Friday night. That might be tricky to do as they’ll be playing perhaps as few as 18 players. They’ll be without Pierre-Luc Letorneau-Leblond who was suspended. Anton Volchenkov may also miss the game after taking a puck in the visor that broke his nose.

7:00 pm

Chicago @ Buffalo

Buffalo native Patrick Kane gets to show off in his hometown this time without the Stanley Cup or a fire truck crane to get stuck in. Chicago is looking for their first win of the season while the Sabres are hoping they can bounce back after a 6-3 drubbing at the hands of the Rangers on Saturday.

Colorado @ Philadelphia

With Michael Leighton out for up to eight weeks with back surgery, it’ll be the Sergei Bobrovsky/Brian Boucher show in Philly. Bobrovsky looked solid in a win over Pittsburgh while Boucher fared well in an overtime loss to St. Louis. Meanwhile Colorado is riding high after an OT win over Chicago on opening night.

Ottawa @ Washington

The fighting Capitals are hoping to build on the 7-2 win they had over New Jersey on Saturday night that saw the Capitals make like it was the 1980s and both score tons of goals and have everyone drop the gloves. Meanwhile, the Senators are looking for their first win of the season. Coming off a rough 5-1 loss to Toronto gives the Sens all the motive they need to play better.

10:00 pm

Florida @ Vancouver

These teams dealt with each other enough in the off-season and training camp making three different trades with each other. As it happens, Keith Ballard will be all that Vancouver will be bringing to the ice that Florida might recognize, while the Panthers will break out Steve Bernier and Darcy Hordichuk. Look for Hordichuk to find a fighting partner on Vancouver to deal with.

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.”