Mike Smith

Report: Coyotes might not have Smith in goal for Game 3


According to Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune, the complexion of the Coyotes-Blackhawks series could be in for a major change.

Kuc reports that Phoenix starting netminder Mike Smith — who was brilliant in Games 1 and 2 — will be a gametime decision for tonight’s crucial Game 3 at the United Center.

Smith was shaken up after being charged by Chicago’s Andrew Shaw midway through Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss. While he returned to finish the contest, Smith missed Monday’s practice before rejoining his teammates for Tuesday’s morning skate.

Following the skate, Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett wasn’t offering much insight to Smith’s status.

“Game time decision,” he said. “Game time decision.”

Tippett was a bit more loquacious when it came to speaking about the hit that injured Smith (emphasis on “a bit”.”)

“It’s a blatant hit to the head,” Tippett said. “The type of hit they are trying to get out of the game.”

The controversy surrounding the Smith situation is complex. Shaw already had his disciplinary hearing with Brendan Shanahan, yet no ruling’s been announced — leading to speculation that Shaw’s punishment might be tied to any potential injury to Smith.

Further muddling things is that, after returning to Saturday’s contest, Smith is now listed as a game time decision, raising a lot of 1) concussion protocol flags, and 2) suspicions that Phoenix is playing coy with Smith’s actual status.

Tippett was asked about that, too — and (surprise!) didn’t offer much.

Reporter: If Smith is a game time decision, are you at all re-thinking that he should’ve finished last game? Can you take us through that a little bit?

Tippett: No. He was fine.

Reporter: But he’s not fine now, necessarily?

Tippett: We’ll see.

Smith has stopped 89 of 95 shots through two games against Chicago — that’s a .937 save percentage on an average of 47 shots faced per game. If he can’t go, duties will fall to backup netminder Jason LaBarbera.

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.”