Evgeni Malkin

Malkin doesn’t travel with team, will miss at least next two games

Stop us if you’ve heard this before. The Penguins will be without a center for at least a few more games. No, not that world-class center—the other one. Sidney Crosby’s battle to get back in the lineup has stolen all the headlines, but now Evgeni Malkin is scheduled to miss the Penguins next two-game road trip. The advantage to having an embarrassment of riches at center is that the Penguins have a replacement when they lose one of those Hart Trophy winning centers. The bad thing is they don’t have an answer when they lose both of them at the same time. (see: last season).

Here’s the news from Shelly Anderson at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“The Penguins have arrived in Winnipeg, but the team reports that center Evgeni Malkin and three other injured players did not make the two-game trip, which includes a game against the Jets on Monday and a game at Minnesota on Tuesday.”

The official word is that Malkin has soreness in the right knee that he had surgery on last season. You’ll remember that was a season-ending surgery that forced the former 2nd overall pick to miss 39 games. This isn’t the kind of news fans wanted while they wait for that other center to get back on the ice.

Even while recovering from last year’s injury, Malkin has still looked good in the few games he’s played in the early season. He’s missed three of the last four games, yet he’s still managed a goal and three assists for the Penguins this season. Not bad for a guy who has only played in three games this season.

The Penguins showed at the end of last season that they are capable of getting by without Malkin and Sidney Crosby in the lineup. Strong defensive play, great goaltending, and spreading out the scoring responsibility helped the Penguins finish with the 4th seed last season. They’re already using the lessons learned from last season to tread water until the superstar duo gets back on the ice.

The next opportunity Malkin will have to return will be at home on Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens. As widely reported, Crosby was cleared for contact last week and is also battling to get back into the lineup as soon as possible. Either way, the Penguins could use one of those guys sooner rather than later.

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.”