How does Carolina get ready for a game? Tailgating

It’s a part of hockey in the deep south that doesn’t get nearly enough publicity. The fans are great and they’re dedicated and bless them all, they’ve brought one of the wonders of college football to the NHL world: Fantastic tailgating.

Showing you photos doesn’t do justice to what you can see in virtually every parking lot at RBC Center. It’s certainly more than taunting enough to show you some of the food that was being barbecued but looking at it all doesn’t do justice to just how good everything smelled.

If you’ve ever caught yourself doubting the greatness of the fans in the south when it comes to hockey, we’re hoping this heaping helping of chicken, ribs, and whole roasted pigs can buy your affection. A little bit of booze helps too.

As you can see here, tailgating is no joke. This is just one of the many tent setups around RBC Center where fans would set out their different salads, food stuffs, and adult beverages of choice. These guys even have their own band there to perform for everyone that stops by.

As for what kind of goodies these guys were cooking up, prepare to be very jealous and hungry as they had deep fryers and a gigantic grill to roast a pig on to consume later on in the afternoon.

I  know, you’re asking, “But where’s the food?!” All right fine… Another group of fans were happy to oblige me showing off their incredible barbecued chicken and what appears to be a rack of ribs off of a T-Rex or the greatest piece of brisket in history.

Elsewhere around the arena, there’s a group that does their pregaming in style from Cole’s Grassy Knoll, aptly named for Hurricanes forward Erik Cole. These guys were instantly the day’s favorites just for how they’re able to decorate the area.

Poor Jeff Skinner, the Justin Beiber comparisons have been virtually non-stop here. Consider us to be bigger fans of Skinner. Perhaps in a few years when he’s of proper drinking age, the folks at the Grassy Knoll will oblige him with a fine cocktail. They’re more than prepared for a good time.

Finally, it wouldn’t be an official tailgate anywhere without spotting an old Volkswagen van that’s rocked out and ready to party. I present to you, your moment of zen to prepare for tonight’s SuperSkills.

Enjoy the SuperSkills everyone, we’ll have updates on your winners throughout the night.

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.”