Evgeni Nabokov

Goalie nods: Talbot starts for Rangers, Islanders give Nabokov another chance


News and notes from around the crease on Saturday…

Rangers go with rookie Talbot

The New York Rangers will play in the first of back-to-back games on Saturday and they’ve decided to split the goaltending duties as a result. Rookie Cam Talbot, 26, will start in Montreal so that Henrik Lundqvist is fresh for Sunday’s home game against the Los Angeles Kings.

Talbot has a 1.97 GAA and .933 save percentage in four starts.

Montreal will counter with Carey Price.

Nabokov gets first start in a week

New York Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov has warmed the bench for three straight games after allowing at least four goals in each of his last three starts, but he’ll face Detroit tonight. Red Wings backup Jonas Gustavsson will be his opponent.


— Marc-Andre Fleury is the likely starter for the Penguins for tonight’s match against the New Jersey Devils. Martin Brodeur will fight for his fourth straight win and 675 career victory.

— James Reimer is expected to be in net for the Toronto Maple Leafs in their rematch against the Sabres. Buffalo earned a 3-1 win against Toronto on Friday thanks in part due to Ryan Miller’s 32-save performance. There’s no word on who will start for Buffalo tonight, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they go back to Miller.

— Nikolai Khabibulin will get just his fourth start of the season tonight. He’ll attempt to rebound after posting a 4.73 GAA and .818 save percentage in October. The Blackhawks opponent will be Nashville and the Predators will probably go with 27-year-old rookie Carter Hutton.

— The Tampa Bay Lightning and Phoenix Coyotes’ probable starters have both been identified ahead of tonight’s match. Ben Bishop should get the nod for the Lightning while Phoenix is expected to hand Mike Smith his seventh straight start.

— Justin Peters is penciled in to start on Saturday for Carolina, but nothing has been confirmed. What is known is that the Hurricanes will face St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott.

— The Colorado Avalanche will start Semyon Varlamov against Florida as they try to snap their first losing streak of the season. No word yet on who the Panthers will use, but Tim Thomas is the most likely bet.

— Despite being yanked on Thursday, the Reto Berra will play between the pipes for the Calgary Flames tonight. Berra has a 3.78 GAA and .884 save percentage in five starts this season. Speaking of struggling goaltenders, the Edmonton Oilers will counter with Devan Dubnyk.

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.”