Riding the Zamboni – Saturday, February 5th

If you’d like a rundown of the shutout-packed early games, click here. To read about the Hurricanes’ key win over the Thrashers, check out this post.

Columbus 4, Edmonton 3

R.J. Umberger factored into all four Blue Jackets goals (two goals and two assists) while Kristian Huselius avenged a healthy scratch with two of those tallies as Columbus squeaked by the Oilers in this action-packed game. Magnus Paajarvi scored two goals in a losing cause for a pesky Edmonton team that had a 3-2 lead before the Jackets stormed back.

NY Islanders 5, Ottawa 3

Robin Lehner made a bonehead move by elbowing Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin as the two netminders passed each other at the end of the second period and the Isles made him pay to begin the third. Rob Schremp scored his second goal of the game on that ensuing power play, continuing the misery that is the Senators’ free-fall from playoff hopefuls to cellar dwellers.

Philadelphia 3, Dallas 1

Brian Boucher made 30 saves while three different Flyers scored goals to help Philly best the Stars. Kari Lehtonen was very strong for Dallas in his own right, making 29 out of 32 saves in a losing effort.

Buffalo 6, Toronto 2

The Sabres (along with the Florida Panthers) are a rung below the Canes and Thrashers in the race for the last playoff spot, but they’re picking up steam with five wins in their last seven games. Drew Stafford scored two goals and one assist as Buffalo out-shot Toronto 43-25 in a dominating home win.

Nashville 3, Detroit 0

The super-talented Red Wings have had a rough weekend. Detroit has been shut out in consecutive games, as division foes from Nashville and Columbus beat them 3-0 each. Pekka Rinne was the main reason the Wings had so much trouble Saturday night, as he made 35 saves to blank Detroit.

Phoenix 1, Minnesota 0

The Coyotes went back to the basics with this game, grinding out a 1-0 win on the strength of a Taylor Pyatt goal, 41 shots and Ilya Bryzgalov’s fourth shutout of the season.

Los Angeles 4, Calgary 3

Justin Williams had a goal, two assists and the shootout winner to help the Kings win a match between two of the hotter teams in the league. Alex Tanguay scored two goals to help Calgary get to overtime, but the Flames’ six-game winning streak dissolved after Los Angeles won the skills contest. The Kings now find themselves in eighth place in the West with 60 points while the Flames aren’t far behind in 10th with 59.

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.”