Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils

Around the rink – Thursday, January 13th

7:00 p.m.

Philadelphia @ Boston

Let’s get this out of the way now: No, the Boston Bruins will not be getting redemption tonight. With the Philadelphia Flyers in town we’re sure Jack Edwards will have a slew of Revolutionary War comparisons to make should the Bruins keep their winning streak alive but last year’s playoff failure against Philly is over and done with. That said, if the Bruins can’t collectively get up for this game, there’s a serious problem. The Flyers roll into Boston on a four-game win streak of their own and they’re playing great atop the Eastern Conference. This is easily the game we’re locked into tonight.

Vancouver @ NY Rangers

If the Rangers were looking for a good test for their young defense, they’ve got it. Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, and Ryan Kesler are running wild in the Western Conference and they’re having just as much good fortune out east. One thing the Rangers won’t have to worry about is facing Roberto Luongo. Of course, facing Cory Schneider isn’t much of a treat either as he’s been outstanding as Luongo’s backup this year. The Rangers have been involved in a lot of 2-1, 3-2 games this year and there’s no reason to think this won’t be another one.

Carolina @ Buffalo

Well look at this, these two teams come in on a bit of a hot streak with the Hurricanes having won three in a row and the Sabres winners of four of their last six. While each team has their own superstar goalie, they’ve been struggling to keep opponents off the board. The Hurricanes offense is one of the better ones in the NHL with Eric Staal leading the way. If Ryan Miller can keep the Canes captain off the board, they’ll be in good shape.

Ottawa @ NY Islanders

On every schedule there’s a game that inspires little to no inspiration to watch it. This is tonight’s version of that game. Ottawa rolls into Long Island losers of six in a row and losing badly. If the Senators get thumped on by the improved Islanders and rookie goalie Kevin Poulin, this could be the end of the rope for coach Cory Clouston, GM Bryan Murray or both. Of course, we thought that after they were drubbed by the Maple Leafs two weeks ago and nothing happened so… Yeah. The Isles, meanwhile, are just hoping to keep solid play rolling. After nearly beating the Canucks the other night and winning more often than losing of late, confidence is improving on the Island.

7:30 p.m.

Nashville @ Florida

The Predators are winners of six in a row and playing some great hockey. Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback are stopping virtually everything thrown at them in goal and the offense is picking things up just enough to make it all stand. In typical Smashville fashion, the Preds are making life miserable on opponents. The Panthers have lost three of their last four, but much like Rinne, Tomas Vokoun is doing his part to keep the Panthers in games. These two will grind the game out and see what shakes loose, but if you’re a fan of great goaltending, this is the game to watch.

9:00 p.m.

Toronto @ Phoenix

Can the Leafs make it five in a row and reach .500? That’s what’s at stake tonight and while we’re pretty sure there won’t be any money waving around the locker room this time, the confidence in Toronto is soaring and thanks for a lot of that has to go to surprise goaltending sensation James Reimer. Phoenix won’t be easy to beat though as they’ve won four of their last five. We can’t help but wonder if we’ll see any “bounty” in action on behalf of former Maple Leaf and current Coyote Lee Stempniak. Someone call the NHL fun police!

10:30 p.m.

St. Louis @ Los Angeles

What do you get when you have two teams desperate for a win? You call it tonight’s Blues-Kings game. The Kings have dropped six of their last seven games and the Blues are coming of a 7-4 thumping against Anaheim last night. The Blues might be the streakiest team in the NHL as they’ve lost five in a row. This losing streak is coming off of a stretch of five straight wins. If you think you’ve got a bead on them, good luck. An ugly loss tonight by L.A. could mean GM Dean Lombardi shakes things up a bit more than just swapping guys in and out of the lineup.

Edmonton @ San Jose

Speaking of teams playing unmotivated hockey, hey it’s the San Jose Sharks! The Sharks are losers of five in a row and doing so in rather unspectacular fashion. They’re not scoring goals, they don’t look like they’re trying all that hard and the one guy who is, Logan Couture, is out of tonight’s game after taking a knee-on-knee hit from Colton Orr. If they can’t snap out of it against Edmonton, you have to wonder if there’s something GM Doug Wilson can do to improve things for a team that’s virtually the same one that finished on top of the Western Conference last year. Edmonton, meanwhile, have lost nine of their last ten. We don’t want to say this is a must win game for San Jose but…

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.”