Cab Morris - Dartmouth

Tonight on NBCSN: No. 10 Dartmouth hosts scrappy Vermont

It’s a mid-week, inter-conference battle deep in the heart of the northeast that sees an ECAC team favored over a Hockey East team.

University of Vermont (3-7-3) @ No. 10 Dartmouth College (6-2-2) — 7:00 p.m. ET

Dartmouth started off the year unbeaten in their first six but in their next four games have won just just once and drawing twice. They’ve gotten outstanding goaltending from junior Cab Morris (1.97 GAA, .917 SV%) and steady scoring from sophomore Tyler Sikura (6 goals, 9 assists) but the real story is how good they’ve been killing penalties.

The Big Green PK has given up just one power play goal all season, killing off 35 of 36 penalties through 10 games. While those kinds of numbers are seemingly unsustainable, they’re doing something right to keep opponents off the board. Coach Bob Gaudet has his team beating the odds so far having the team ranked in the NCAA top ten.

As for Vermont, things haven’t gone quite so smoothly. They’re off to a tough start but, unlike last season, they’re playing with a lot of heart. After a three-point weekend against Maine this past weekend and valiant efforts being swept by No. 5 Minnesota, the Catamounts are scrappy.

Senior forward Chris McCarthy is doing his part to lead the offence with four goals and six assists while it’s freshman goalie Brody Hoffman who has shouldered the load in net playing all but 35 minutes worth of ice time in goal this season. Some of that scrappy play tonight might come in handy against a Dartmouth team that’s slipped of late.

The ECAC is off to a strong start, but piling up non-conference wins is key to keeping up appearances for the league.

NHL prospects to watch

If you’re eyeing guys who have been drafted, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled on Vermont. Sophomore defenseman Michael Paliotta is a Blackhawks prospect and he does most of his work setting others up (four assists) and mixing things up (24 PIM). Fellow sophomore blue liner Nick Luukko is a Flyers draftee (his father Peter is a heavy hitter with Comcast and the Flyers organization) and junior forward Connor Brickley (Florida) is the nephew of Bruins broadcaster Andy Brickley. Nice roots there.

As for Dartmouth, they’ve got but one draftee in senior forward Dustin Walsh, a Montreal prospect. With two goals and four assists so far this season, he’s worth keeping an eye on. The undrafted Sikura as well as forwards Eric Robinson, Matt Lindblad, and Brandon McNally should help spice up the DC attack.

(Photo: Dartmouth Sports)

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.”

It looks like Havlat won’t make Panthers

Martin Havlat

As PHT’s mentioned before, the Florida Panthers stand as a fascinating contrast between youth and experience.

Let’s not kid ourselves, though; fresh faces usually beat out gray beards, at least when it comes to teams that are still trying to build toward contender status.

While it’s by no means official, two Panthers beat writers – the Miami Herald’s George Richards and the Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov – report that the Panthers are likely to pass on Martin Havlat.

It wasn’t just about the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad leading the charge. Other young Panthers (maybe most notably Quinton Howden and Connor Brickley) made the team, thus making Havlat less necessary.

One would assume that it might be tough for the 34-year-old to find work, at least if he insists upon only an NHL deal.

Health issues continue to dog him, but he’s no longer one of those guys who tantalizes with talent when he is healthy enough to play.

Havlat also doesn’t really bring much to the table defensively. While other veterans can kill penalties and show a little more verstaility, Havlat’s greatest selling point is scoring.

Could this be it for a solid career that may nonetheless end with a “What if?” or two?