Jake Allen’s strong play gives Blues ‘a sense of calm’

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ST. LOUIS (AP) Three months ago, most St. Louis Blues fans were ready to run goalie Jake Allen out of town. Now they are chanting his name.

Allen is the main reason the Blues, whose major January swoon got their coach fired, are one win away from sweeping the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the NHL playoffs. Game 4 is Wednesday night.

Allen has stopped 114 of 117 shots in the series for a .974 save percentage. Only one of the three goals he’s given up has come at even strength against a team that averaged 3.21 goals a game, second best in the NHL regular season.

Watch Blues vs. Wild: Game 4 at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBC Sports app

“I’m just playing my game,” Allen said. “I don’t know what’s going on over there but we’re just focused on ourselves and we’re not worrying about what they’re doing or what they’re changing or doing to their lineup.”

Allen’s playoff performance is a far cry from a dreadful span from Dec. 8 to Jan. 31, when he was 4-10-0 with a 3.50 goals-against average and a .876 save percentage. Allen was so bad that he was left home from a January road trip so he could mentally regroup. On Feb. 1, the Blues fired coach Ken Hitchcock and goalie coach Jim Corsi. Mike Yeo replaced Hitchcock and Martin Brodeur took over Corsi’s role.

Allen took off. The 26-year-old has a 1.85 GAA and a .938 save percentage since Yeo took over.

Read more: A remarkable turnaround for Allen

Blues forward David Perron said Allen never got rattled during his struggles.

“During the season if he was getting pulled or whatever he showed up the next day and did the work and I think we’re really proud of him the way he’s playing right now, but at the same time you could have swore he played the exact same way the whole year,” Perron said. “He’s pretty level headed and we definitely need that.”

Yeo said Brodeur’s influence is seen in Allen’s mental preparation.

“One of the biggest areas is how he handles the days in between, what he can draw upon from his own experience as arguably the best goaltender of all time,” Yeo said. “How do you play at that level all the time? Obviously you learn very quickly to put the past behind you, you learn from it whatever, but you find a way to get focused, feel good, and confident going into the next one and I think that’s what we’re seeing with Marty.”

Nothing has come easy for Allen since the Blues drafted him in the second round of the 2008 NHL entry draft.

He split time with Brian Elliott his first two full NHL seasons. Allen’s first prolonged playoff experience ended with him getting pulled in Game 6 of a first-round series in 2015 against the Wild. He started all six games of that series, which Minnesota won, going 2-4 with a .904 save percentage.

Still, the Blues had enough confidence in Allen’s pedigree – he had won a gold and silver medal for Team Canada as a junior player – to trade fan-favorite Elliott to Calgary in the offseason.

That decision is finally paying dividends.

“I think maybe subconsciously he’s been so good for us it kind of gives you a sense of calm back there,” Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. “Knowing you have a guy back there that if you make a mistake he’s going to be able to bail you out.”

Allen has left an impression with the Wild.

“He’s obviously playing extremely well and he’s sharp . … All you can do is keep driving to the net, get bodies to the net, get pucks to the net,” Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “That’s what you have to do and see if you can get a couple in there and change the momentum.”

Even with a commanding lead in the series, Allen isn’t taking anything for granted.

“The next game is going to be even harder so we’re going to have to take the next two days to rest up and be ready for the hardest game yet,” Allen said.

Mitchell signed PTO with Blue Jackets — shortly after getting cut by Blackhawks

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When the Chicago Blackhawks announced their roster moves yesterday, John Mitchell was among the cuts.

His professional tryout with the Blackhawks had come to an end, as it did for veterans Mark Stuart and Drew Miller.

It can be an uphill battle to make an NHL roster for veterans on professional tryouts. But for Mitchell, he quickly received another opportunity to attend a camp and try to land a spot, signing a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Mitchell, 32, has appeared in 548 NHL regular season games with 70 goals and 177 points.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are still without forward and restricted free agent Josh Anderson, as the two sides are stuck in a contract impasse right now. It was reported on Thursday that his representatives have been in contact with Hockey Canada about the 2018 Olympics.

Calgary mayor: ‘Errors of omission’ in Flames arena proposal

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On Thursday, the Calgary Flames released a report claiming they were prepared to contribute $275 million for a new arena, with additional funding — in the ball park of $225 million — from a Community Revitalization Levy.

On Friday, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi responded to the proposal and the events of yesterday.

“I wouldn’t say dishonesty. I would, however, say that there are perhaps some errors of omission,” Nenshi told reporters, according to Global Calgary, when asked if there had been a level of dishonesty from the Flames with their proposal.

The Flames not only released a report with financial details to their website, but they also took out ads in local newspapers. Nenshi took issue with the details the Flames released yesterday.

“What was in that ad was not actually what the last deal on the table with the city was,” he said.

“For example, yesterday you saw that the Flames’ owners are claiming that they’re putting $275 million up front. Makes it sound like a (check) is being put on the table. Certainly that has not been discussed. That would’ve really changed things had that been the discussion.

“The discussion, the last I saw, was the Flames were putting $100 million in and the rest would be a ticket tax, which they wanted the city to take out, to get for and to front. I’m not quite sure how that equals the Flames putting in money up front.”

Yesterday, the Flames added in their report that, after two years of discussions with the city about a new arena, they will no longer pursue a new arena in Calgary.

The Flames currently play at the Saddledome, which is now 34 years old.

Report: Skinner among leading candidates for Hurricanes captaincy

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The Carolina Hurricanes went last season without a captain. That will change once training camp is over, and, according to a recent report, Jeff Skinner is one of the prime candidates to possibly wear the ‘C’ for this season.

The Hurricanes selected Skinner seventh overall in 2010. He made an instant impact on the NHL club, scoring 31 goals and 63 points in his rookie season as a teenager. He’s been a valuable offensive weapon for Carolina ever since.

This past season, he scored 37 goals — a career best. Although the consideration to potentially make him the next captain goes beyond his skills around the opposing net.

From NHL.com:

“He’s a passionate guy and he’s a passionate player,” Peters said. “He’s a real good pro in the fact that he looks after himself, he trains properly and the guys have unreal respect for the way he looks after his body. The maturity shows. I know guys bring it up quite a bit.”

To that end, Peters said he was at a staff golf outing prior to the start of training camp with about 16 people, including members of the Hurricanes’ medical and strength training staffs, and he polled as many people about the captaincy candidates as he could.

“[Skinner’s] name came up in the conversation quite a bit, and they bring up that type of stuff, the way he looks after himself and the way he prepares,” Peters said. “He’s passionate about it and he’s hungry to win.”

The Hurricanes have, over the past few years, done a nice job of building a talented young roster that has shown signs of being able to compete in the Eastern Conference. They do, however, play in a difficult Metropolitan Division, which features the Blue Jackets, Penguins, Capitals and Rangers.

The biggest change in Carolina this offseason was in net, with the addition of Scott Darling, who was the capable back-up in Chicago but is now taking over the No. 1 role with the Hurricanes.

Another change is still upcoming. Eric Staal was the captain in Carolina for six years, but the team is expected to soon name a replacement. There are other candidates for the Hurricanes captaincy, as well, like Justin Faulk and Jordan Staal.

“Someone is going to wear one, for sure,” said Peters earlier this month, per TSN. “Our leadership group is fine and we’ve got real good candidates. They’ll all provide leadership whether they wear a letter or not.”

Islanders sign 2016 first-round pick Bellows to entry-level deal

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The New York Islanders made a few roster moves Friday. That included sending 2016 first-round pick Kieffer Bellows back to the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League.

Shortly after that, it was announced that Bellows and the Islanders agreed to terms on a three-year entry-level contract.

The Islanders originally selected Bellows with the 19th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

The 19-year-old left winger played one year at Boston University, tallying seven goals and 14 points before deciding to leave school to play this season in the WHL, which has a completely different schedule from college.

“Play more games,” Bellows told NHL.com in July. “I think just the 72 games in the [WHL] regular season is the biggest thing. I can’t thank [Boston University coach David] Quinn enough and all the guys on the team. I had an unbelievable first year at Boston University, but I just felt it was best for me to go and play more games.”