Matt D'Agostini, Alex Steen, Kevin Sharrenkirk, David Backes

Schedule makers didn’t do the St. Louis Blues any favors this season

With the 2011-12 season rapidly approaching, the gang at PHT decided to take a look at all 30 NHL teams’ schedules. Each team’s highs and lows will be studied in detail to give you an idea of what the future might hold for each squad.

Note: Mileage figures via On the Forecheck’s “Super Schedule.”

St. Louis Blues schedule analysis

Total mileage: 38,781 (19th most miles in NHL, but least in the Central Division)

Back-to-back games: 17

Toughest stretches

The Blues have two extremely tough runs that they’ll have to overcome if they want to make the playoffs this season. Things don’t start off easily for the Blues as they face nine games in nine different cities between October 13-30. The good news is that that team will be able to bond in early in the season. The bad news is they’re going to have a lot of time to bond during the beginning of the season. Too much.

If the beginning of the season is tough, then the end of the season is a nightmare. They play 13 of 16 games away from St. Louis between February 23 – March 25. Worse yet, they’ll have to endure their two longest road trips within the same span. They start the spell with a six game road trip, return for three games, then hit the road again for their season-long seven game roadie. The seven-game trip will see the Blues start in the Midwest, hit the Southeast, only to fly from Tampa to Anaheim in the middle of the trip. Hey, at least they’ll rack up a ton of frequent flyer miles over the two week span.

Easiest periods

The folks over at the NHL scheduling offices didn’t do the Blues any favors this year. Looking for positives—at least they get to start the season with a pair of games at home. It pretty much goes downhill from there.

If the Blues want to return to the playoffs, it will be imperative that they take advantage of their mid-season schedule. From January 3 – 21, they play eight of nine games at home. Matchups against the Coyotes, Avalanche, Wild, Stars, and Oilers (twice) within the time period are games that St. Louis needs to win to make the postseason.

Overall outlook

They may travel the least amount of miles among Central Division teams, but the 17 back-to-back games aren’t going to make things easy on the Blues. The Blues are in the tough position of having a rough stretch at the beginning of the season and a brutal road at the end of the season. Most teams can either hope to get off to a good start or know there’s potential for a strong finish—but the Blues have neither luxury.

The Blues don’t have many easy spells during their tough schedule. If people aren’t talking about how hot the Blues are by the end of January, then it may be another long summer in St. Louis this year.

A ‘number of concerns’ about Jonathan Quick led Kings to pursue Bishop

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Dean Lombardi revealed that he and Steve Yzerman had been working on a deal for Ben Bishop for about two or three weeks.

On Sunday, a deal between the Kings and Lightning was finally completed and it had basically everything to do with Jonathan Quick. Speaking in a conference call, Lombardi, the Kings general manager, noted a “number of concerns” for Quick coming back from a 59-game absence because of a groin injury before finally returning to game action Saturday.

Quick, 31, was impressive in a win over the Anaheim Ducks, but Lombardi and the Kings just could not be sure about how he would fare in the stretch drive after coming back from such a lengthy time away, and were therefore set on acquiring another No. 1 goalie.

“You’re never sure how well a guy who’s been out this long — is he going to have his ‘A’ game, so to speak, or not? These type of injuries, which are fairly serious, the history of comebacks can go either way,” said Lombardi.

“On the other hand, we all know Jon’s a tremendous athlete. He’s one of the top goaltenders in the game and most importantly he’s one of the game’s top competitors. So you certainly don’t worry about Jon … once he passes the mental part that ‘I’m capable of doing athletically what I have in the past’ that he’s going to be able to give it his all.”

The Kings, currently three points out of a playoff spot in the West, are in a stretch of three games in four nights.

Bishop is expected to join the team for the morning skate tomorrow. Lombardi even mentioned that coach Darryl Sutter had actually planned on playing the newly acquired netminder Monday versus the Wild. That is still to be determined but it’s likely Bishop plays one of the Kings’ next two games. They’re in Calgary on Tuesday.

The condensed schedule over the next few weeks was another factor in making the trade for the Kings. They just simply don’t want to wear Quick down.

“This is not an insurance policy,” said Lombardi. “There’s not a lot of room here for error. We just want to take that out of the equation by making sure that we have a No. 1 goalie in there every night.”

Bishop is a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The Kings have Quick under contract until 2023 at a cap hit of $5.8 million.

While Lombardi didn’t completely rule out the chance of re-signing Bishop — “You never say ‘never,'” he said — bringing in a player on an expiring contract was something the Kings were willing to do in this case.

“If not, we’re comfortable with what we had to pay to give ourselves a chance here to get in. After that, as we know, anything can happen,” he said. “The focus was on getting the best goalie available.”

The Kings face other issues. You could argue more pressing issues.

Sure, they made a move they believe will strengthen the goaltending position. But they’re also 25th in scoring, averaging just 2.44 goals-for per game. They had a nice third-period outburst Saturday, but for the most part, goals have been hard to come by for L.A.

“There’s players that will freely admit right to you that they’re capable of producing more. We don’t want to lose our defensive identity. We’ve got two of the best goalies in the league there now,” said Lombardi.

“Now when we get into the other team’s end … we’ve got to bear down.”

Video: Duncan Keith gets 500th point; Blackhawks put on passing clinic

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The Chicago Blackhawks’ two biggest names (Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane) scored the first two goals against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday. It’s fitting that Duncan Keith, the third big core player, hit a milestone in the process.

By assisting on Kane’s goal, Keith collected the 500th point of his already-impressive NHL career.

This currently places him at 89 goals, 411 assists and 500 points in 895 games … with some time to beef up his totals on Sunday.

You can see him get his 500th point in the video above.

The prettier of the two plays was likely the passing clinic Chicago put on with Toews finishing the play. Enjoy that impressive display in the video below:

Keith’s assist could end up being important in this one, as the Blues recently made it 2-1 before the end of the first period. Tune into the game on NBCSN and follow the livestream here.

BREAKING: Wild reportedly acquire Hanzal, White from Coyotes

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The Minnesota Wild have made a bold move and paid a price ahead of the trade deadline.

According to multiple reports, the Wild acquired Martin Hanzal, Ryan White and a fourth-round pick in 2017 from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a first-round pick this year, a second-round pick in 2018, a conditional fourth-round pick in 2019 and minor leaguer Grayson Downing, per TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

That’s quite a haul of draft picks for the Coyotes, currently in the midst of a rebuild.

For the Wild, leading the Central Division by three points in their first season under coach Bruce Boudreau, they get a towering center in Hanzal, who stands six-foot-six-inches tall and 226 pounds. He has 16 goals and 26 points in 51 games for Arizona this season.

White has 171 penalty minutes combined between this season and last. He has seven goals and 13 points in 46 games this season.

More to come.

WATCH LIVE: Blues at Blackhawks

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 12: Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck against Jay Bouwmeester #19 and Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues during the season opening game at the United Center on October 12, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The St. Louis Blues will look to improve their cushion in the Western Conference playoff race when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.

You can catch the game on NBCSN (7:30 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

NHL On NBCSN: Blues look to slow down Blackhawks

Blues extend Berglund — five years, $19.25 million

Blackhawks’ Hjalmarsson ‘day-to-day,’ will not play on Sunday