Chris Stewart 2

Hitchcock attributes Stewart’s down year to lack of fitness


One of the big mysteries out of St. Louis this year was the poor play of Chris Stewart.

The 24-year-old saw his offensive production plummet and ended up a healthy scratch twice in the postseason, a stunning development from a guy that was — as recently as last season — considered one of the league’s best young power forwards.

Now, we’re starting to learn more about Stewart’s struggles.

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock spoke with Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Stewart’s major issue this year — a lack of fitness.

“He’s got to play with a high level of physicality for seven months, nine months. That’s a long time,” Hitchcock explained. “You can’t do it unless you’re in optimum shape. His season was a roller-coaster. He was up, he was down, he was up, he was down.

“In order to play the type of game he needs to play, it requires an unbelievable level of fitness. It’s not a game of skill. It’s a game of grit and skill. In order to play that game, you’ve got to be in unbelievable shape. Otherwise, you break down.”

One wonders if this is related to Stewart’s playing weight. He’s listed at 232 pounds — the heaviest player on St. Louis roster — and stands 6-foot-2, which is a pretty solid frame.

(I’m not saying this is the case, because some guys play better when they’re heavier. But it’s definitely worth mentioning.)

Regardless, Stewart has made amends for his down year by joining Team Biosteel, a professional sports training and nutrition group that counts Boston’s Tyler Seguin and Montreal’s Carey Price among its clients.

Stewart’s new dedication to fitness has already impressed Hitchcock.

“Stewy’s figured out that he wants to have a long career,” he said. “It’s not like he’s suddenly found a trainer. What he’s found is that he can only get so far himself doing the training.

“Now he’s got somebody pushing him really hard everyday. I’m really proud of him.”

NHL on NBCSN ’15-16 coverage begins tonight with doubleheader

Corey Crawford, Derek Stepan
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After months of waiting, we’re finally ready to begin the 2015-16 campaign and NBCSN will kick off its coverage with a doubleheader tonight.

The action will begin with the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the New York Rangers, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Chicago has been called a dynasty by some for winning the Stanley Cup three times over the last six campaigns, but one thing that the Blackhawks haven’t done is successfully defend a title. The last team to do so was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98 before the salary cap era kicked off. That change was on display this summer as the Blackhawks were forced to move or otherwise walk away from Johnny Oduya, Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, and Brandon Saad in the name of cap compliance.

Even after losing all those pieces of their 2015 championship team though, Chicago has emerged from the summer with much of its core intact. It also has some promising new players, such as 23-year-old KHL star Artemi Panarin, who is attempting to make the leap to the NHL after outscoring former teammate Ilya Kovalchuk on his way to leading SKA St. Petersburg to a KHL championship.

The New York Rangers should be a great first test for the Blackhawks as they begin their new quest. The Rangers advanced to at least the Eastern Conference Final in three of the last four years, but they haven’t earned a championship since 1994. With Henrik Lundqvist set to celebrate his 34th birthday in March, the Rangers’ window for winning the Cup in front of their all-star goaltender is closing and thus the stakes are high for New York this season.

Starting at 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN will air the San Jose Sharks’ contest against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. This is the second straight year that these two teams have been matched for the opener, but this time it’s under much different circumstances.

A year ago, Los Angeles had its sights set on defending its title while the Sharks were seeking revenge after suffering a reverse sweep in the first round against the Kings. In the end, neither team had the season they were looking for as they both fell short of the playoffs.

For the Sharks, that miss ended a playoff streak that dated back to the 2003-04 campaign while Los Angeles suffered its first major setback since it celebrated its first championship in 2012. Both teams have to be hungry to bounce right back this season and given that each both of these squads are certainly capable of obtaining that goal. First though, they need to settle the latest chapter of their rivalry.

PHT Morning Skate: Remembering 10 years of Crosby, Ovechkin

Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Here’s a detailed look back at Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin‘s first 10 years in the NHL. (

Speaking of Crosby, he’s signed a multiyear partnership with adidas. (Newswire)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will play a key role in easing Connor McDavid into the NHL. (Edmonton Sun)

After two polar opposite seasons, the jury is still out on Patrick Roy as a head coach. (Denver Post)

Marc-Andre Fleury enjoys pulling off pranks on his teammates. “I play better when I’m looser, laughing and having fun,” he said. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Art McDonald, a Canadian who won recently won a Nobel Prize, talked to the committee members about the Toronto Maple Leafs. (SB Nation)