Doug Armstrong AP

Armstrong: St. Louis is where ‘good players want to be’


Shortly after locking in Jay Bouwmeester, Blues GM Doug Armstrong talked up his hockey club.

“We’re entering a new phase in our organization with this current group,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Now we’re a place where good players want to be.”

It’s hard to argue against him.

Over the course of the summer, St. Louis retained all of its key free agents — Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart, Patrik Berglund, Jordan Leopold, Jake Allen — while adding depth at forward in the form of Derek Roy, Maxim Lapierre and Keith Aucoin.

Armstrong also got proactive by inking Bouwmeester to a five-year, $27 million extension, even though the defenseman had a year remaining on his deal.

The only thing left now is to re-up with key RFA defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. According to Armstrong, the club will do “what is necessary” to get it done.

Overall it’s a pretty bold statement out of St. Louis, a team that’s always been spend-conscious.

Last year, the club operated roughly $18 million under the salary cap ceiling; in 2011-12, they were around $9 million shy; in 2010-11 they were nearly $15 million under.

At the time of writing, the Blues were just $8 million under the cap with Pietrangelo still left to sign.

That, plus the team’s young core and a stable of talented draftees still on entry-level deals — Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Ty Rattie, Dmitrij Jaskin — makes it no surprise that players are excited about St. Louis.

“It was exciting when I talked to Jay and his representation,” Armstrong said. “They felt this was a team that was on the rise and a team that he wanted to be part of.”

Goalie nods: Niemi expected for Stars against Penguins

Antti Niemi, Jonathan Toews
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Talk about getting thrown into the fire.

Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goalie tonight in Dallas when his Stars host Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Niemi has, not surprisingly, been given the assignment over Kari Lehtonen, the latter of whom struggled badly during the preseason, allowing 15 goals on 84 shots.

Not that Niemi was razor sharp himself. He allowed eight goals on 65 shots, for a save percentage of .877.

Considering the Stars have a combined $10.4 million in cap space tied up in those two veteran netminders, it’s no wonder the number-one question facing the club is whether the goaltending has indeed been fixed.

We’ll start to find out tonight.

Marc-Andre Fleury will undoubtedly be in goal for Pittsburgh, though that hasn’t been confirmed.


Craig Anderson, the goalie the Senators decided to keep, versus Robin Lehner, the one they traded to the Sabres.

Cam Ward will start for Carolina when the Hurricanes visit the Predators, who will obviously go with Pekka Rinne. The consensus is that Eddie Lack will eventually supplant Ward as Carolina’s starter, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.

Brian Elliott goes for the Blues versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers. Elliott was excellent in the preseason, stopping all but two of the 57 shots he faced, while Jake Allen allowed six goals on 60 shots.

Steve Mason for the Flyers versus Ben Bishop for the Lightning.

Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg versus Tuukka Rask for Boston.

Devan Dubnyk likely for the Wild versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.

Flyers want to prove doubters wrong

Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux
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Jakub Voracek totally understands why nobody’s expecting much from the Philadelphia Flyers. When a team finishes 14 points out of the playoffs the year before, that’s typically going to be the case.

“We weren’t good enough last year, let’s face it,” Voracek told CSN Philly. 

So, no, it doesn’t upset him that the Flyers aren’t considered among the Stanley Cup favorites.

That being said, “it makes you feel you want to prove them wrong.”

The Flyers get going tonight with a tough game against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. They also play Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, before a rematch with the Panthers Monday in Philadelphia.

“My biggest concern would be getting off to a good start,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That’s one thing that we need to do.”

That’s something they didn’t do last year. In fact, they won just once in their first six games. By the end of November, they were 8-12-3 and in a big hole — one that proved too deep to climb out of.

Related: Flyers to start season with seven defensemen