Dany Heatley

Get your game notes: Predators at Wild


A couple of Central Division rivals meet tonight in Minnesota when the Wild host the Nashville Predators. The game can be seen on NBCSN (TSN in Canada) starting at 8 p.m. ET.

Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• Entering the tenth game of the season, Wild forward Dany Heatley is still searching for his first goal of the season (0-2=2). Heatley, with 360 goals in 796 NHL games, had never previously gone more than five games without scoring a goal to begin a season. Heatley had 24 points (14g, 10a) in his first 18 career games vs. NSH but has gone scoreless in his last 3 games vs. NSH.

• The Predators are 8-2-1 in their last 11 meetings with the Wild. Since the beginning of the 2011-12 season, seven of eight games have been decided by one goal (the eighth by two goals), with one ending in overtime and three decided in a shootout.

• This game pits the league’s No. 1 and No. 2-ranked faceoff teams, with Nashville winning 55.8% of its draws and Minnesota 55.7%. The Predators’ Paul Gaustad is the NHL leader in faceoff win percentage at 61.1% (110/180), while Kyle Brodziak leads the Wild at 57.7% (75/130), 6th-best in the league. Wild captain Mikko Koivu (56.7%) and Preds veteran David Legwand (56.4%) also are among the top 15. Gaustad has finished among the league’s top 10 in faceoffs in each of the last 4 seasons.

• Predators head coach Barry Trotz is the longest-tenured bench boss in the NHL (hire date: Oct. 6, 1997). Since he coached his – and the Nashville franchise’s – first game (Oct. 10, 1998), there have been 124 other head coaches in the NHL (regular or interim), including NHL on NBC’s Mike Milbury and Ed Olczyk.

Zach Parise ranks 2nd in the NHL with 51 shots on goal – but none of his last 21 have gone in the net, a goal drought spanning four games after the Minnesota top-line left winger had scored four times in the season’s first five games. (Parise has six goals in 10 career games vs. NSH.)

• Parise’s drought reflects his team’s own: the Wild have been held to one goal in each of their last three games, all losses (0-2-1), and have scored two or fewer in seven of their nine games this season. Tonight, they meet a Predators team that has allowed only one non-shootout goal in each of their last three games (2-0-1). Minnesota and Nashville are tied for 25th in the league in goals per game (2.11).

• Wild defenseman, Ryan Suter, the NHL leader in average ice time (29:22), is slated to play in his 600th NHL game tonight. He played his first 542 games in a Predators sweater (2005-12), 2nd among defensemen in franchise history (Kimmo Timonen, 573, 1998-2007). Nashville captain Shea Weber is next in line, with 537 games played.

• Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne is 9-3-2, with a 2.08 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 15 career games vs. the Wild, including Nashville’s 3-2 win at home on Oct. 8. His countryman, Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom (who might start his first game since suffering a strained knee in Nashville on Oct. 8), is 9-5-1 vs. the Preds, with a 2.66 GAA and .908 save %. Backstrom’s first NHL win came at Xcel Energy Center vs. Nashville, on Oct. 7, 2006.

• After allowing six goals in its first 17 times shorthanded this season, the Predators have killed off 16 straight penalties over their last five games (4-0-1), their longest successful PK stretch since killing off 18 in a row between Jan. 10-24, 2012.

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.”