Nick Palmieri, Mattias Tedenby, Ilya Kovalchuk

Riding the Zamboni – Sharks take out Wings, Habs upend Canucks, Devils and Coyotes keep rolling

Phoenix 3 – Philadelphia 2 (F/OT)

The Coyotes made it eight in a row after captain Shane Doan powered home the game-winner in overtime. Phoenix thought they had it locked down late in the third until Claude Giroux tied it with under two minutes to play. Ilya Bryzgalov played big all night though stopping 37 shots in the win. Phoenix was able to hold off the surging Sharks in the Pacific Division with the win moving to 75 points on the season.

San Jose 4 – Detroit 3

Joe Thornton scored his 300th goal while Devin Setoguchi scored twice to help give the Sharks their ninth win in their last 11 games. Antti Niemi stopped 35 shots in the win. Dan Cleary scored twice for Detroit in a losing effort while Jimmy Howard stopped 39 shots in the loss making it look respectable.

New Jersey 1 – Dallas 0

They just keep rolling along. The Devils made it eight straight wins as a Nick Palmieri tip home of an Ilya Kovalchuk shot was the only goal of the game while Johan Hedberg won his seventh straight game earning his third shutout of the season stopping 19 shots in the win. The Devils are now nine points out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference thanks to the Rangers shootout win over Carolina. The impossible dream lives on for New Jersey so long as they keep winning and everyone ahead of them keeps bumbling away.

Montreal 3 – Vancouver 2

Montreal got a 37-save performance out of British Columbia native Carey Price in what initially shaped up to be a big mismatch for the Canadiens. Getting goals from David Desharnais and Brian Gionta in the first period to give the Habs a 2-0 lead set the tone for the game and Andrei Kostitsyn’s second period goal gave them a 3-1 lead they could sit on the rest of the way thanks to Price’s great play. Henrik Sedin and Mikael Samuelsson had goals for the Canucks, but the Habs were able to make it stand and keep pace with Boston in the Northeast.

NY Rangers 3 – Carolina 2 (F/SO)

Until the final minutes of the game, it looked like Carolina was going to get things together and start to strengthen their hold on the last playoff spot in the East. Instead. Wojtek Wolski tied it up in the final two minutes of play and scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Rangers a much needed win. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 30 shots to get the win while Cam Ward’s 43 save performance goes by the wayside. Jussi Jokinen had two third period goals for Carolina. Shootout wizards Jokinen and Mats Zuccarello both missed on their attempts in the skills competition. Yes, we were surprised too.

Colorado 4 – St. Louis 3

Columbus 4 – Nashville 0

Steve Mason earned his third shutout of the year stopping 20 shots while Rick Nash had two goals for the Blue Jackets. With the win, Columbus pulled to within two points of the final playoff spot in the West. Of course virtually everyone is in the mix for the playoff spots between fifth and eighth so it doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but for the Jackets to be getting back in the mix it’s a tremendous accomplishment. The loss by Nashville hurts them because now the rest of the pack is catching up to them pulling them back into the mix that makes making and missing the playoffs a touchy line to cross.

Boston 3 – Calgary 1

Milan Lucic scored twice, including an empty netter, while Tim Thomas stopped 28 shots to give the B’s an important road win. For Calgary the loss hurts as it slows their momentum to climb up the standings in the West. Rookie forward Brad Marchand scored his 19th goal of the year while Calgary’s Curtis Glencross scored his 20th.

Toronto 2 – NY Islanders 1

Phil Kessel and James Reimer were the men of the hour for Toronto. Kessel scored a late, clutch goal to give the Leafs the lead and the victory and did so by deking Al Montoya out badly to beat him. Reimer fought off illness during the game and made 28 saves to continue his stellar play and helping give the Leafs another victory. The Leafs are six points behind Carolina in the East for the eighth spot. For the Isles, Matt Moulson’s 27th goal of the year would be all they’d muster in the game as their win streak ends at two.

Minnesota 4 – Edmonton 1

It was Minnesota’s most effective win of the season and doing it against the West’s worst team is about the right way to do it. Pierre-Marc Bouchard led the way with a goal and two assists. His spin-o-rama goal in the third will undoubtedly be the highlight reel goal of the week as he embarrassed Nikolai Khabibulin badly with the move. Jared Spurgeon scored his first NHL goal and Martin Havlat scored his 19th of the season for the Wild. Niklas Backstrom made 20 saves in the win. The victory puts the Wild in a three-way tie for fifth place in the West.

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.”