CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 07: Matt Halischuk #24 of the Nashville Predators is chased by Marian Hossa #81 and Duncan Keith #2 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on April 7, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

NHL on NBCSN: Hawks, Preds have very different agendas

NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Nashville Predators at the United Center at 8:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

No matter what happens, the Chicago Blackhawks will enter the postseason with the first seed in the Western Conference, but they still have one thing left to fight for before the playoffs start: the Presidents’ Trophy.

“We still want to keep moving forward, whether we’re looking at Pittsburgh or still looking at how we play,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago.

Chicago has a four-point cushion on the Pittsburgh Penguins with a game in hand, so you’d think that the Blackhawks already have the Presidents’ Trophy all-but locked up. However, Pittsburgh has won 20 of their last 22 games and has shown no signs of letting up, so a mediocre finish from the Blackhawks could cost them their final regular season goal.

They’ll face a Predators team that has lost seven consecutive games and doesn’t have a ton left to play for as a squad. At the same time, there are young players with Nashville that have something to prove and likely see a tough team like Chicago as an ideal opponent to showcase their skills.

One example of that is 18-year-old forward Filip Forsberg. There was plenty of hype surrounding him when he made his NHL debut on Sunday and he’s going into this game looking for his first NHL point.

“He’s got really good hands and a heavy shot,” Predators coach Barry Trotz recently told The Tennessean. “I love the fact he loves to shoot the puck, and I think he has really good instincts when he has the puck. Just like every young player, he has to learn to play without the puck a little bit.”

We’ll see if Forsberg and the other players competing for jobs next season can give the surging Blackhawks trouble tonight.

Probable goaltenders: CHI – Corey Crawford (17-4-4, 1.92 GAA, .926 SV%) | NSH – Pekka Rinne (14-16-7, 2.35 GAA, .914 SV%)

Top scorers: CHI – Patrick Kane (20-27-47, 42 GP) | NSH – David Legwand (11-12-23, 44 GP) and Shea Weber (8-15-23, 44 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Chicago – Forwards: Patrick Sharp (shoulder – questionable) Goaltenders: Ray Emery (leg)
Nashville – Forwards: Patric Hornqvist (upper body), Brandon Yip (lower body), Paul Gaustad (shoulder), Mike Fisher (hand), Gabriel Bourque (upper body), Colin Wilson (shoulder) Defensemen: Kevin Klein (undisclosed)

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.”