Ryan Johansen, Johan Franzen

Tonight on NBCSN: Doubleheader fun with Wings-Jackets and Sharks-Ducks

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It’s another doubleheader night on NBCSN and you could view tonight as a spoiler special as there are two teams that will be stuck on the outside of the playoff picture looking to mess things up for a pair of teams.

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m. ET)

These two just met on Monday in Detroit and things… Didn’t go very well for the Jackets as Detroit spanked them 7-2 putting four goals up in the first period. Jackets goalie Steve Mason, who thought it he figured out his bad play was thanks to not wearing the right pads, has shown lately that it’s not the pads’ fault he’s giving up oodles of goals. The Jackets will hope that their cannon blasts at home will be able to throw the Wings off their game.

The big news for Detroit is that they’re getting healthy, which means they’re getting more frightening to deal with. We’ve seen Jakub Kindl and Nicklas Lidstrom return and Johan Franzen appears ready to come back tonight. With Jonathan Ericsson also potentially back tonight and Jimmy Howard returning on Friday, the Wings are officially geared up for the postseason.

While coach Mike Babcock is resigned to the fact they’re likely to open the playoffs against Nashville, continuing to win would mean they have home ice advantage for that series. Columbus wouldn’t mind helping make sure Detroit stays on the road in the postseason.

Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks (10:00 p.m. ET)

source: Getty ImagesThe Sharks are today’s leader in the Pacific Division and that means they’re always either a win from seizing control of the situation or a loss away from giving someone else the lead and a lock on a playoff spot. With 88 points the Sharks are one point ahead of the Stars and Coyotes and two up on the Kings. It’s an uncomfortable place to be in, but for the Sharks to really enjoy the moment as Joe Thornton says they should, they’ll have to keep winning, something they’ve done three times in a row now.

The Ducks, meanwhile, want nothing more than to spoil things for their California rivals and if we can keep coach Bruce Boudreau from freaking out on the officials again, they might just be able to do that. The Ducks are just playing out the string at this point, but at least they’ve still got a host of superstar talent to threaten the Sharks with. Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, Bobby Ryan, and Ryan Getzlaf are all still there and capable of putting a monster game together. That crew might just all stick around next season too if Selanne decides to play one more year. Considering they’ve lost six of their last 10 games, you’re never quite sure what you’ll get from Anaheim.

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.”