Chicago Blackhawks v Washington Capitals

Dennis Wideman eager to play after suffering hematoma

Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman skated with in an informal practice with teammates on Friday. The workout marked the first time he’s been able to skate with the team since he was injured at the end of last season. He suffered a hematoma in the final weeks of the regular season—an injury that is finally in his rearview mirror.

So what in the world is a hematoma?

A hematoma is when there’s blood in a soft tissue space—like a muscle. It’s caused “by a break in the wall of a blood vessel.” For Wideman, he experienced a break in the wall of his blood vessel when Ruutu’s knee made contact with his thigh in a March 29th game. That’s all it took to prematurely end his season. It’s taken longer than Wideman would have liked, but he’s finally feeling like he’s ready to go for the 2011-12 season.

Katie Carrera caught up with Wideman after the workout:

“I’m 100 percent as far as skating and everything goes. I’m 100 percent. There’s still a little bit to catch up on, in just getting the response that you’d like to see out of your leg but I’m pretty close. I’m able to play and everything — I’m just pretty close to exactly where I’d want to be at this time.”

It would be nice for Wideman to make fewer headlines this season. Since playing the 2009-10 season with the Boston Bruins, the Capitals are his third team in a little more than a year. The Panthers acquired him last offseason—only to trade him at the deadline to the Washington Capitals for a pick and prospect. The Caps hoped he would be able to add some offense from the point down the stretch of the regular season (and even the playoffs), but he only managed to play in 14 games before he was lost for the year. Still, in his 14 games with his new club, he scored a goal and 6 assists showing signs of the offensive defenseman GM George McPhee hoped he had acquired.

The Caps will hope he can continue the success from last season that saw him net 10 goals and 40 points in 75 total games. When healthy, he’s shown that he’s the type of defenseman that can net double-digit goals in the NHL. However, he’s also shown that he can look like a forward trying to play defense in his own zone as well. The Capitals were willing to take the good with the bad at the deadline last season—there’s no reason to think anything has changed.

Wideman enters the season in the last year of his 4-year contract that pays him almost $4 million per season. He’s the second highest paid blueliner on the Caps—a team that has as many as eight NHL defensemen on their roster. They’ll still have seven NHL bodies for six roster spots even if Tom Poti is unable to come back. The luxury of having such a deep defensive corps is that Washington will be able to put Wideman into a position to succeed. He won’t be asked to do the heavy lifting; but he will be asked to help create offense from the backend.

As long as he can avoid Tuomo Ruutu’s knee, he should fit nicely on the Caps blueline next season.

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.”