Author: Jason Brough

Ken Hitchcock

Hitch admits coaching the Blues was ‘a struggle’ earlier in the season


Good read here on Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, by Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Long story short, apparently Hitch wasn’t exactly loving his job earlier this season.

“There were times in November and December where I thought, ‘This is a struggle.'” he said. “That ended in January. It’s been off and running since. We had some trouble getting players to buy in and you start wondering if we could do it the way we did before. But when you see what this team can do, it’s invigorating.”

Granted, the Blues didn’t look too good in their last outing, a 4-1 loss to Vancouver on Monday that led d-man  Zbynek Michalek to conclude, “I don’t think there’s one good thing about our game right now.”

And to be sure, if St. Louis is once again eliminated early in the playoffs, there will be questions about Hitchcock’s job status.

But for what it’s worth, GM Doug Armstrong has said that Hitchcock will coach the Blues until Hitchcock no longer wants the job. And right now it sounds like he still wants the job.

St. Louis is back in action tomorrow versus the Flames.

Patrick Kane is practicing today

Kane practicing

Um, wasn’t Patrick Kane supposed to miss 12 weeks with his fractured clavicle?

We only ask, because it’s five weeks into his recovery and the Blackhawks star is practicing right now.

Image via CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers:


That’s him in the white no-contact jersey.

Kane can’t return during the regular season due to salary-cap constraints, and that probably wouldn’t be realistic anyway. But you do have to wonder if he’s ahead of schedule.

We’ll add any updates from the Blackhawks below, though don’t hold your breath for a new, specific timeline.



Related: Blackhawks tease good injury news for Kane

‘Canes sign McKeown (a.k.a. the prospect they got in the Sekera trade)

2014 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7
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The Carolina Hurricanes have agreed to terms with defenseman Roland McKeown on a three-year, entry-level contract, the club announced today.

McKeown was acquired by the ‘Canes in the Andrej Sekera trade with Los Angeles. The 19-year-old was selected 50th overall by the Kings in the 2014 draft.

“We like what we’ve seen from Roland on the ice, and the leadership qualities he displays as Kingston’s captain,” GM Ron Francis said. “He was an important part of the trade we made with Los Angeles in February, and we are excited to see him continue to develop.”

McKeown had 32 points (7G, 25A) in 65 games for the Frontenacs this season.

Jets in tough to make playoffs after ‘brutal’ loss to Rangers

New York Rangers v Winnipeg Jets

Lost in all the controversy surrounding Dustin Byfuglien’s crosscheck to the head of J.T. Miller was the fact the Winnipeg Jets lost in regulation last night, falling 3-2 to the Rangers on a goal by Chris Kreider with less than four minutes remaining.

It was the second straight painful loss for the Jets, who fell 4-3 to Chicago on Sunday on a goal by Jonathan Toews with just 31 seconds remaining, and it dealt a serious blow to Winnipeg’s chances of making the playoffs.

“This is brutal, to be honest,” said forward Mathieu Perreault, per the Winnipeg Free Press. “It’s unacceptable, really, at this time of the season. We’ve just got to regroup and put it behind us because it’s going to do us no good to keep thinking about those two games.

“We’ve got to bear down, especially at the end of the games. It’s unacceptable.”

As we noted yesterday, the Jets had a comfortable playoff cushion coming out of the All-Star break. Tomorrow, they could be bumped out of the final wild-card spot if the Kings beat the Oilers at Staples Center. According to Sports Club Stats, their postseason chances have fallen below 50/50 to 48.6 percent.

It’s estimated the Jets will have to go around 3-2-0 in their final five games to get in. They have two home games remaining, versus Vancouver and Calgary, and three road contests left, in Minnesota, St. Louis and Colorado.

Winnipeg is now 13-12-4 since the All-Star break.


Versteeg misses Kane

Toronto Maple Leafs v Chicago Blackhawks

It’s been a tough go for Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg, ever since Patrick Kane fractured his clavicle and was lost for the remainder of the regular season.

Versteeg has played 14 games since that fateful night versus Florida. He has just two assists, despite skating with the likes of Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

“Obviously, me and Kane had a good thing going on,” Versteeg said, per the Chicago Sun-Times. “And since I haven’t played with him in a while, it hasn’t been going my way.”

The prevailing theory (supported by numbers) is that Versteeg is a more effective scorer with a creative, unpredictable play-maker like Kane, as opposed to the more straightforward styles of Toews and Hossa.

But with Kane out until at least the playoffs, Versteeg knows he has to adapt.

And really, there are worse linemates to be stuck with than Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, two of the best all-around forwards in the game.

“Whether it’s a role you have to dump it in, or a role you have to check, or a role you have to score,” said Versteeg. “I just want to help this team.”