Columbus Blue Jackets v Detroit Red Wings

Riding the Zamboni – February 4th; Pittsburgh comes back to win, Columbus shuts out Detroit

Columbus 3 – Detroit 0

Every now and again Steve Mason reminds us why he was the rookie of the year two seasons ago. Tonight was that night as Mason stopped 34 shots to earn his second shutout of the year. Mason was backed up by goals from Antoine Vermette, Jared Boll, and an empty netter from Andrew Murray as the Blue Jackets snapped a two-game skid. For Detroit, Jimmy Howard stopped 21 shots in the loss. Vermette and Murray finished the game with two points each.

Pittsburgh 3 – Buffalo 2

Buffalo jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on goals by Paul Gaustad and Mike Grier, but as the Penguins have been doing with Sidney Crosby out of the lineup, they fight back and that’s what they did in the second period. Dustin Jeffrey, Tyler Kennedy, and Matt Cooke each scored in a span of 3:14 to give Pittsburgh a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Ryan Miller did all he could to keep Buffalo in it stopping 36 shots, but Marc-Andre Fleury would take home the win after making 27 saves. Evgeni Malkin’s first game back to action was a short one as he left the game in the second period with a lower body injury. The win is the Penguins fifth in a row and they’ll head to Washington on Sunday for their afternoon showdown on NBC with the Capitals.

Washington 5 – Tampa Bay 2

Florida 4 – New Jersey 3 (F/OT)

Florida’s been snake bitten by fluke goals and funny bounces all year and they saw their fair share of those tonight against the Devils. Tonight, though, they were able to overcome all that and earn an overtime win thanks to Rostislav Olesz’s goal in the extra session. Tomas Vokoun saw two odd hops off the boards lead to Devils goals by Travis Zajac and Jason Arnott and a floating knuckler of a shot by Mark Fayne to get by him to make the Panthers believe if they didn’t have bad luck they wouldn’t have any luck at all. Vokoun was strong otherwise though stopping 28 shots. Chris Higgins, Dennis Wideman, and Mike Santorelli would score for Florida in regulation. Johan Hedberg stopped just 25 shots in the loss for New Jersey.

Vancouver 4 – Chicago 3

St. Louis 5 – Edmonton 3

At one point, St. Louis held a 4-1 lead on the Oilers thanks to goals from T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo, Matt D’Agostini, and Brad Boyes but the Oilers would sum up their pride and bounce back after goals by Taylor Hall and Theo Peckham to cut the lead to 4-3. Ty Conklin would make sure it held up though as he held off the Oilers the rest of the way making 29 saves in all to earn the win in a surprise start as Jaroslav Halak was out with a minor injury. Devan Dubnyk had a rough night saving just 21 shots for the Oilers.

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.”