Tyler Seguin

TGIF: Five NHL games to watch this weekend

Saturday: Tampa Bay at Phoenix (8 p.m. ET)

The Lightning are a perfect 2-0-0 since Steven Stamkos broke his tibia, including a 5-1 destruction of the Ducks Thursday night. But now they’re facing a four-game trip to Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Anaheim. That slate of games would test any team, let alone one missing an elite player like Stamkos. As for the Coyotes, they’ve been outshot by a whopping margin, 91-49, in their last two games. The results? A win in St. Louis and a shootout loss in Chicago. Could’ve been worse.

Sunday: St. Louis at Washington (6 p.m. ET)

A tough test for the Caps. St. Louis is just so good at controlling the puck and, as a result, limiting total scoring chances. In fact, the Blues have kept opponents to 24 or fewer shots in each of their last four games. They absolutely destroyed Colorado Thursday, exploding for seven goals against an Avs side that had been one of the NHL’s stingiest. We still wonder if GM Doug Armstrong should go out and get a Jaroslav Halak insurance policy (possibly Ryan Miller), but there’s plenty of time to decide that before the March 5 trade deadline.

Sunday: San Jose at Chicago (7 p.m. ET)

The Sharks finish their current five-game road trip at the United Center against the defending champs. It’s been an OK trip so far, with a shootout loss in Winnipeg and wins in Calgary and Vancouver. But despite the five points out of a possible six, they’re still not playing the way they’re comparable of. San Jose was lucky to get last night’s game versus the Canucks to overtime…

…and afterwards head coach Todd McLellan admitted, “We weren’t the better team tonight.” Before traveling to Chicago, San Jose has to play Friday in Edmonton against an Oilers side that hasn’t scored in its last three home games. The Sharks were dominant earlier this season. They’ll likely need to get back to that level to get a win against the ‘Hawks.

Sunday: Los Angeles at NY Rangers (7 p.m. ET)

The Kings escaped Long Island Thursday evening with a 3-2 victory over the Islanders, thanks to some questionable goaltending from Kevin Poulin and a bonehead penalty by Colin McDonald. For L.A., it was the first of what could be quite a few games without star goalie Jonathan Quick, and fans are rightly wondering how backup Ben Scrivens will fare. But here’s the thing: Quick hasn’t even been that good this season. His .905 save percentage is right down the near bottom of the regular-starters list. You could even argue the Kings had been winning in spite of the 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy recipient.

Sunday: Dallas at Vancouver (8 p.m. ET)

If you haven’t heard of the Roxy Flu, read this first. After you’re done with that, consider that the Dallas Stars have two nights off before Sunday’s game at Rogers Arena. Now consider they’ve won five of their last six, including a huge 7-3 victory Thursday in Calgary. They deserve to have some fun, right? In a related story, Lindy Ruff just locked Tyler Seguin in his hotel room.

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.”