Patrik Berglund

Patrik Berglund looks to be the secret weapon in St. Louis

If you were to ask people right now who their pick for the sneaky, surprise team in the Western Conference might be this season, the St. Louis Blues is the one team you’re going to hear a lot. With a healthy Jaroslav Halak in goal and with guys like David Backes, Chris Stewart, and T.J. Oshie to lead the way at forward and growing into better players with coach Davis Payne at the helm, some feel that that’s a good mix to shake things up in the West.

One guy who might be the key to seeing the Blues get things turned around for good is Patrik Berglund. The Swedish center is coming off his best season as a pro in 2010-2011. After three seasons in the league, the Blues are hoping his 22 goal, 30 assist season is the first of many that see his offensive numbers climb. His performance in the 2011 IIHF World Championships (8 goals, 2 assists in nine games) showed that his big regular season wasn’t a fluke.

Lou Korac of In The Slot talked with Berglund and finds out that maturing and growing into the game at the NHL level could be the keys to help him become even more of a factor in helping the Blues bounce back into being a perennial playoff team.

Berglund, 23, feels good about where he is as well as the Blues, but he also understands there’s more where that came from. There’s more to achieve and with the effort he’s putting into his progress, boundless opportunities exist.

“I’m not satisfied. I want to keep developing,” Berglund said. “That’s the only thing I’m thinking about when I’m working now.

“I had a great year, but I don’t want to stop. I want to be … this year, in five years, I want to be a player that is one of the best in the league. That’s my goal. I know I can get there if I work hard and things go my way. That’s my belief. I think it’s important to have those expectations on yourself and not just be happy you had a good year. … If I play well all over the ice, the results will show. We’ll see where it takes me.”

Korac sees Berglund lining up with Oshie and Stewart on one of the Blues’ scoring lines. With that kind of mix on one line and with Backes, Andy McDonald, Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Alexander Steen finding their way around elsewhere on other lines, the Blues could indeed be a handful to deal with.

If Berglund can have another 50+ point season and improve upon what he did last year, it’s a huge lift for a team that’s missing one of their other young and talented guys in David Perron thanks to his recovery from a concussion going slowly. The forwards for St. Louis look to be good and strong and if they can get solid play from their defense, the Blues very well could be a surprise team in the West.

With the likes of Chicago and Detroit being in their division along with an always difficult Nashville team and an improved Columbus squad, it’s going to be difficult. That said, the Pacific Division showed last season that everyone in a division can have a good season and if the Central Division works out to be as tough as it’s setting up to be, the Blues mix of youth and veteran experience could make them a fun team to watch.

PHT Morning Skate: Beat writers survey predicts Ducks will win Cup

Corey Perry, Frederik Andersen
AP Photo
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

In a survey of 29 beat writers, the Anaheim Ducks emerged as the clear favorite to win the Stanley Cup. If you’ll recall, they have that in common with the EA Sports simulation. (Boston Globe)

Alex Ovechkin would pick an Olympic hit against Jaromir Jagr as the biggest check of his life. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

Here are the highlights from Minnesota’s 5-4 victory over Colorado:

The Montreal Canadiens seem committed to using Alex Galchenyuk as a center throughout the 2015-16 campaign. (The Canadian Press)

The NHL recently enlisted its players to read off some not so mean tweets. (USA Today)

Bills coach Rex Ryan talked about the Sabres in Thursday’s press conference. (

Frederik Andersen may have the Anaheim Ducks’ starting job for now, but with John Gibson still a big part of their plans, Andersen has to keep proving himself. (Orange County Register)

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.