Troy Brouwer

Chicago’s struggle to clinch a playoff spot magnified by Troy Brouwer’s shoulder injury

Chicago’s race for the playoffs is getting a bit more awkward lately. After losing in overtime to Montreal, sure they got a point in the standings for their effort, but Dallas earned two points behind them after shutting out Columbus. The Blackhawks (93 points) have just a two point lead on Dallas (91 points) and both teams have three games left to play. Calgary is right there as well tied with Dallas, but with just two games left things are a bit tougher for them as they have more shootout wins than both teams.

Chicago will now have to weather the storm tonight against St. Louis and possibly in their final two games against Detroit without forward Troy Brouwer. Brouwer left last night’s game against Montreal with an apparent right shoulder injury. While Brouwer doesn’t come with the abilities that guys like Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, or Patrick Kane do, adding another injury on top of losses to Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland doesn’t do them any favors.

Guys like Jake Dowell and Bryan Bickell will need to step up and play a bigger game the rest of the way without Brouwer in the lineup. They’ve been the steady third line guys all season, but they’ll need them to play a little bigger now. Same goes for veteran Fernando Pisani as well. Pisani’s been through it before in 2006 with the Edmonton Oilers helping lead that team to the Stanley Cup final against Carolina. That kind of experience is invaluable at this time of year.

While you’d think the Blackhawks wouldn’t have too much of a hard time disposing of the Blues tonight and might be looking ahead to a pivotal two-game showdown with Detroit, never discount old Norris Division rivalries to flare up once again. The Blues season is finished but giving them a goal for a night to try and hurt a rival like Chicago’s playoff hopes and the scope of the game changes dramatically.

With both teams coming off of games last night, neither team comes in with a rest advantage. The Blues are buoyed by a win over Colorado and the confidence is high. If you’re the Chicago Blackhawks, you treat tonight’s game like a do-or-die.

‘Invigorated’ Hitch signs for one final year in St. Louis

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues walks on the ice in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Ken Hitchcock is taking one last shot at winning a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues.

The club announced today a one-year contract extension for the 64-year-old head coach. Hitchcock then confirmed during a press conference that 2016-17 will be his final year. He plans to retire from coaching once it’s over.

“I just feel like I’ve got this really good year in me,” Hitchcock said. “This season has invigorated me like no season before.”

The Blues, of course, made it all the way to the Western Conference Final this year. The previous four postseasons under Hitchcock, they made it to the second round once, then lost three straight times in the first round.

“This group of players, their dynamic has changed, and it’s really exciting right now,” he said.

There will be at least one change to the coaching staff. GM Doug Armstrong said today that associate coach Brad Shaw will not be back. The rest of the staff has been offered one-year extensions to match Hitchcock’s.

Now that the decision has been made on the head coach, Armstrong can turn his full attention to the roster. Getting Jaden Schwartz, a pending restricted free agent, signed to a long-term deal will be his initial focus.

As for the captain, pending unrestricted free agent David Backes, there’s interest in bringing him back, but the numbers have to make sense. Forwards Troy Brouwer, Steve Ott, Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall are also UFAs.

On the back end, Kevin Shattenkirk is probably the biggest wild card. He can become unrestricted next summer, and there has been speculation he could be traded this summer. But as of right now, Armstrong expects him to be back.

Armstrong also said there’s a chance Vladimir Sobotka could return to the Blues next season. Sobotka has spent the last two years in the KHL.

However the roster looks next season, it will be interesting to see what Hitchcock can get out of it. The Blues got over a big hump in 2016, but they only got halfway to winning it all.

One thing’s for sure, though, and that’s this:

Related: Parayko’s ‘memorable’ season has extended into the playoffs

NHL explains no suspension for Marleau, says he didn’t ‘pick’ Rust’s head

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PITTSBURGH — Shortly after reports surfaced that San Jose’s Patrick Marleau wouldn’t face supplemental discipline for his hit on Pittsburgh’s Bryan Rust in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety issued a series of tweets explaining their decision.

Following last night’s game, Marleau said he didn’t think he’d be suspended for the hit, explaining that he “kind of let [Rust] skate into me.”

“I just tried to keep everything down,” Marleau added. “I didn’t want to get too high on him.”

Marleau’s assessment was in direct contrast with Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan.

“It’s a blindside hit to the head,” he said. “[Marleau] gets a penalty and I’m sure the league will look at it.”

As for Rust, Sullivan listed him as day-to-day with an upper-body injury following the contest. The hit knocked Rust out of last night’s game, and the Penguins haven’t began their off-day practice yet.

More to follow…

Well-traveled journeyman Arcobello signs in Swiss League

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 23:  Mark Arcobello #33 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Nashville Predators  during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 23, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Predators defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Mark Arcobello, he of waiver wire fame, has decided to sign overseas with Swiss League club SC Bern.

Arcobello is coming off a year in which he managed to stay in just one city — Toronto — though he did bounce back and forth a lot between the Maple Leafs and their AHL affiliate, the Marlies.

The 27-year-old had four points in 20 games for the Leafs, and 59 in 49 games for the Marlies. That statline sort of sums up Arcobello’s career — terrific producer at the AHL level, but found it difficult to translate that success to the bigs.

Doesn’t mean teams weren’t willing to take a chance on the 5-foot-8, 172-pounder.

There was that infamous stretch in ’14-15 when he was waived twice and played for three different teams in a month, eventually landing in Arizona — and it was with the Coyotes where he set some NHL history, becoming the second player to ever record at least a point with four teams in one campaign.

All told, Arcobello played in 139 games at the NHL level, scoring 53 points.

Czech signee Pribyl gunning to play on Gaudreau-Monahan line in Calgary

Calgary Flames' Sean Monahan, left, celebrates his goal with teammate Johnny Gaudreau during the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes in an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Calgary, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)
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There could be a new right winger skating with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan on the Flames’ top line next season.

Daniel Pribyl, the Czech League scoring sensation that signed with Calgary last month, is hoping to fill the coveted spot alongside the club’s two bright young stars.

“Oh for sure, I’d love to play with them,” Pribyl said, per the Calgary Sun. “I wouldn’t know them to see them on the street or something, but I’ve seen highlights of them and I know of them. They’re really good players.”

Pribyl, 23, had been one of the more sought after European free agents this spring.

A former Montreal draftee — the Habs failed to sign him to an entry-level deal prior to their rights expiring — the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder scored 45 points in 45 games for Sparta Praha this season, finishing second in league scoring.

Flames GM Brad Treliving referred to Pribyl as a “big body who shoots right and can make plays,” noting that the club doesn’t have much depth at that position. But he was quick to warn against getting too high on Pribyl too quickly, this while fans in Calgary excitedly penciled him into a first-line role.

“Any time you see a European sign in the last 12 months, everybody is like, “Well, is this the next [Artemi] Panarin?’” Treliving explained. “This is a different player, so let’s be cautious.”