Chris Kreider

Tonight on NBCSN: College doubleheader teeming over with prospects

Friday Night Ice is set to have an explosive doubleheader on NBCSN tonight with up to 42 players that have been drafted by NHL teams.

No. 5 Boston College (16-10-1) kicks things off at 7:30 p.m. ET traveling to Burlington to take on the University of Vermont (5-21-1). BC is led by Rangers prospect, junior forward Chris Kreider whose 30 points is tops for the Eagles. Kreider’s had a feisty year scoring 16 goals and leading the team with 48 penalty minutes. The rest of their offense, however, is strong with undrafted senior Barry Almeida, junior Steven Whitney, and ¬†sophomore Bill Arnold (Calgary) leading the charge.

With junior defenseman Brian Dumoulin (Carolina) on defense and junior goalie Parker Milner there to keep opponents off the board, the Eagles are putting things together at the right time leading up to the postseason.

Dealing with a struggling Vermont team tonight led by junior forward Sebastian Stalberg, brother of Chicago’s Viktor Stalberg, as well as sophomore forward Connor Brickley (Florida) and sophomore defenseman Drew MacKenzie (Buffalo) on their home ice at Gutterson Field House might be a bit easier than expected. Vermont is coming off a weekend that saw them soundly humbled by No. 7 UMass-Lowell. If ever there was a team to get fired up for, however, it’s Boston College.

source:  In the night cap, a pair of ranked teams do battle in a potential Frozen Four showdown as No. 2 Minnesota (19-9-1) visits No. 14 Denver (15-9-4) (10:00 p.m. on NBCSN). Leading the way for Minnesota ( is Panthers prospect, and Team USA World Junior Championships teammate of Chris Kreider, sophomore Nick Bjugstad. With 21 goals and 33 points Bjugstad has been a monster for the Golden Gophers.

Bjugstad getting support from fellow Panthers draftee, freshman Kyle Rau as well as sophomore and Wild prospect Erik Haula has helped get the Gophers back into the national spotlight. Senior forward and Blue Jackets prospect Jake Hansen hasn’t been a slouch either. Goalie and Avalanche prospect Kent Patterson has the unenviable job of being the guy to carry the full load in net as he’s played every minute in goal this season. Things haven’t always been easy for Minnesota against Denver, however.

Denver comes in angry after not earning a win last weekend against rival Colorado College, especially after rattling off wins in seven of their previous eight before that (losing only in a shocker to Alabama-Huntsville). The Pioneers are led by Panthers prospect junior forward Drew Shore. Shore has been dominating with 17 goals and 40 points. Getting to team up with his brother, sophomore Kings prospect Nick Shore, has made life easier in Denver but the most dynamic player for the Pioneers might be Jason Zucker.

Zucker, a sophomore, is a draftee by the Minnesota Wild and a player we’ve seen playing great for Team USA at the World Juniors. With 14 goals and 19 assists he can do it all and when out there at all with the Shore brothers, coach George Gwozdecky’s Denver team is a dangerous one. They’ll all need to be on top of their game against the Gophers, however, as their top line will give them fits.

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.”