Doug Armstrong’s Dallas allegiances die hard

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The St. Louis Blues raised a few eyebrows upon announcing the firing of head coach Davis Payne and the hiring of his replacement, Ken Hitchcock. Payne was regarded as one of the NHL’s better young coaches and Hitchcock was rumored for the Columbus job once the Jackets put Scott Arniel out of his misery.

But there was another wrinkle to the decision, one that played a big role in raising those eyebrows. The hiring of Hitch had a real turn-back-the-clock feel to it, mostly because of his history with Blues GM Doug Armstrong.

The two won a Stanley Cup together in Dallas in 1999, with Hitch the head coach and Armstrong the assistant to GM Bob Gainey. Apparently, Armstrong was quite fond of his time in Dallas…because he’s since loaded up the St. Louis organization with a bunch of his old cronies.

Here’s an unofficial Doug Armstrong-Dallas-St. Louis flowchart.

Hitchcock: As discussed above.

Jamie Langenbrunner: Current Blues LW. Played under Hitch/Armstrong for six-and-a-half years in Dallas. Memorably posted 10G-7A-17PTS in 23 games during the 1999 Stanley Cup run.

Jason Arnott: Current Blues center. In Mar. 2002, Armstrong traded Langenbrunner and Joe Nieuwendyk (now the GM in Dallas, oddly enough) to New Jersey for Arnott, Randy McKay and a first-round pick.

Corey Hirsch: Current Blues goaltending coach. In 2002, Armstrong signed Hirsch to be the third goalie in Dallas behind Marty Turco and Ron Tugnutt.

Rob DiMaio: Current Blues professional scout. DiMaio played under Armstrong in Dallas for three years — one season with Hitch as head coach, one season as a teammate of Langenbrunner’s and two seasons as a teammate of Arnott’s.

Now, keep in mind this isn’t a rarity. The NHL is like six degrees of Kevin Bacon when it comes to filling out a staff/roster — decision-makers will generally tend to go with who they know rather than who they don’t. That said, it’s somewhat amusing to watch Armstrong get the band back together and party like it’s 1999.

Could the call to Sergei Zubov be next?

Anybody got Richard Matvichuk on speed dial?

The Buzzer: Kempe, Schwartz record hat tricks; Leafs honor Gord Downie

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Players of the night: Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues / Adrian Kempe, Los Angeles Kings

The Blues forward tallied his third career hat trick during a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Schwartz scored the game’s first two goals before completing his hat trick with a late empty-net goal to stave off a Chicago comeback.

Wednesday’s feat for Schwartz came three years to the day of his first career three-goal game.

Kempe, meanwhile, tallied his first NHL hat trick and finished with four points during LA’s 5-1 rout of the Montreal Canadiens. Two of his three goals were assisted by Mike Cammalleri, who also finished the night with four points.

Highlight of the night:

Eddie Olczyk returned to the NBC broadcast booth as he continues his battle against colon cancer. Olczyk, along with Doc Emrick, called the Blues-Blackhawks game from Scottrade Center Wednesday night.

MISC:

Auston Matthews recorded the 20th multi-point game of his career. He now has six goals and 10 points on the season.

Patrick Marleau became the 18th NHL player to reach the 1,500-game mark.

Jake Allen kept his shutout bid alive with this great stick save on Patrick Kane late:

-The Kings are off their best start in franchise history at 5-0-1. They’ve allowed only 10 goals against through six games.

Jeff Carter left the game in the first period and did not return after tangling with Jeff Petry. Afterward, Kings head coach John Stevens said the forward will miss some time.

-Finally, The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie passed away from cancer at age 53 on Wednesday. The Maple Leafs paid tribute before their game against the Red Wings.

Factoid of the night:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 6, Red Wings 3

Blues 5, Blackhawks 2

Kings 5, Canadiens 1

Cammalleri, Kempe power Kings over Canadiens

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Adrian Kempe recorded his first career NHL hat trick and Mike Cammalleri added two goals as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1.

After Paul Byron opened the scoring for Montreal midway through the first period, the Kings responded with five unanswered goals to hand the Habs their sixth straight defeat.

Cammalleri, who inked a one-year deal over the summer to return to the Kings, had a hand in four of LA’s five goals. He started the scoring for the Kings in the first period by celebrating the Dodgers’ playoff run with his own special kind of baseball swing.

Kempe, who finished with four points as well, scored his three goals over a span of 10:50 in the third period to help the Kings to their best start in franchise history (5-0-1).

LA remains the only NHL team yet to lose in regulation this season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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