Mike Halford

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues walks on the ice in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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St. Louis’ penalty kill is great, but Hitch doesn’t want to talk about it

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The Blues have killed off 93.9 percent of penalties taken this season — the second-best mark in the NHL — and have allowed just one PPG over the last eight games, when they were shorthanded 29 times.

For most, that’s cause for praise (heck in Chicago, it would be cause for a parade.)

Yet for head coach Ken Hitchcock… well there’s this, from the Post-Dispatch:

Hitchcock will talk about just about anything. Except his team’s penalty kill.

Ken, your penalty kill …

“Don’t want to talk about it,” he said last week.

Is that a bad omen?

“Don’t want to talk about it.”

It hasn’t seemed to miss a beat with Rick Wilson taking over for Brad Shaw …

“Don’t want to talk about it. Next question.”

Hitchcock’s refusal to talk could come from a fear of upsetting the hockey gods — thou shall not speak glowingly of thy PK — or maybe he just doesn’t want to draw attention to unit that, historically, has been really good for a really long time.

Last year, the Blues had the league’s third best penalty kill, at 85.1 percent.

The year prior, they finished ninth at 83.7 percent.

The year prior to that? Second, at 85.7 percent.

A big part of this is consistency. Even though the coaching changed over from Shaw to Wilson, several of the contributors stay the same: Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo see the most shorthanded TOI per night, while the likes of Alex Steen, Patrik Berglund and David Perron — back for his second tour of duty in St. Louis — log big minutes up front.

Effective penalty killing is part of the Blues’ DNA, and often leads to success. So it’s probably worth noting that, in last year’s Western Conference Final loss to San Jose, the Blues surrendered four power play goals over the final five games of the series (and had their hands full with Brent Burns).

Related: ‘Invigorated’ Hitch signs on for one final year in St. Louis

‘It’s going to be great for him’ — Habs send Sergachev back to junior

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Mikhail Sergachev celebrates with the Montreal Canadiens after being selected ninth overall during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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On Monday, the Habs announced that Mikhail Sergachev — the 18-year-old blueliner taken ninth overall at the draft — has been re-assigned to OHL Windsor after spending all of October in Montreal, appearing in three games.

It’s a move that, apparently, was always in the cards.

“The plan was to keep him a month and evaluate after that,” Habs GM Marc Bergevin said, per the club’s Twitter account. “He needs to go play. It’s going to be great for him.”

Sergachev impressed team brass during training camp and the exhibition campaign, earning an opening-night roster spot over Mark Barberio.

But, as Bergevin noted today, the club is playing well and has solid depth across the lineup, making it tough for the rookie to secure minutes.

The Habs also saw some potentially troublesome developments — specifically, Sergachev tailoring his style of play to survive and stick with the NHL club.

Sergachev has loads of skill and is a gifted offensive d-man, so it should be fun to see him follow up on his ’15-16 campaign in Windsor, when he scored 17 goals and 57 points in 67 games.

The Spitfires should be a contender for the Memorial Cup, which is another reason Montreal was keen to send Sergachev down. Windsor is currently being led by a fellow first-rounder from this year’s draft — Logan Brown, taken 11th overall by Ottawa.

Undermanned Wild dealing with salary cap problems

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 25: Cliff Fletcher of the Minesota Wild attends the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Chuck Fletcher will be working the calculator hard over the next few days.

The Minnesota GM finds himself in a financial quandary ahead of tomorrow’s tilt against Buffalo — with Zach Parise, Marco Scandella and Zach Dalpe out week-to-week, Erik Haula out 7-10 days and Chris Stewart sick, the Wild only had 14 skaters at Monday’s practice.

Now, Fletcher will try to get some healthy bodies in the lineup — if he can.

From the Star-Tribune’s Mike Russo:

The Wild’s using eight real forwards in practice and defenseman Nate Prosser, so only three lines.

The Wild’s currently trying to figure out how it can afford three or four callups for Tuesday’s game for Buffalo. Will it have to play shorthanded? Will Prosser have to play wing?

Right now, yes, unless the Wild figures out a way to create cap space by putting Scandella and maybe Victor Bartley on LTI (Long-term injury allows you to surpass the cap, but you must get compliant when the player returns), although the rule is convoluted on Bartley because the Wild’s not absorbing his full cap hit in the first place after his training camp injury.

Per CapFriendly, the Wild are pushed right up against the cap ceiling. In Saturday’s 4-0 win over Dallas, the club gave AHL Iowa recalls Tyler Graovac and Cristoph Bertschy their season debuts, and both played well — Bertschy registered his first NHL point (an assist) while Graovac scored his first big-league goal.

It would be unfortunate if all these injuries and a tight cap situation derailed what’s been a great start to the year. The Wild are 6-2-1 and atop the Central Division, and have received terrific netminding from Devan Dubnyk, the NHL’s reigning second star of the week.

Related: They ‘don’t have superstars,’ but the Wild are off to a hot start

Craig Anderson is the NHL’s first star of the week

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Craig Anderson #41 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates with Erik Karlsson #65 of the Ottawa Senators after the Senators scored against the Dallas Stars in the third period at American Airlines Center on November 24, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Last week, Devan Dubnyk became the first goalie in Wild history to post three straight shutouts.

And Shea Weber scored five points and a pair of game-winning goals.

Terrific performances, sure, but here’s guessing everybody — even Dubnyk and Weber themselves — appreciates who got the NHL’s first star of the week.

Craig Anderson, who returned to the Senators after learning of his wife’s cancer diagnosis, put forth a remarkable effort Sunday night, turning aside all 37 shots faced against Edmonton for an emotional 2-0 victory.

Fittingly, he was named No. 1 star on Monday.

From the league:

Anderson stopped all 59 shots he faced to post a 2-0-0 record and guide the Senators (5-3-0, 10 points) to third place in the Atlantic Division. He made 22 saves in a 3-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks Oct. 25.

Anderson then took a leave of absence following the cancer diagnosis of his wife, Nicholle, but returned with a 37-save shutout in a 2-0 triumph over the Edmonton Oilers Oct. 30. The 35-year-old Park Ridge, Ill., native has earned consecutive shutouts for the third time in his career – and first time in nearly a year (Nov. 19-21, 2015).

He owns a 5-1-0 record with a 2.46 goals-against average, .921 save percentage and two shutouts in six appearances this season.

More: ‘What a team is all about’ – Sens, Oilers on Anderson’s night

Anderson’s return came after Sens backup Andrew Hammond was injured just minutes into Friday’s loss in Calgary, a game in which 22-year-old AHL recall Chris Driedger was thrown into action — and allowed four goals on 15 shots.

On Saturday, Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion held an emotional presser in which he announced Nicholle’s cancer diagnosis, adding that she asked her husband to return to the team.

After 22 days and two games, Frk waived by Carolina

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 23: Martin Frk, 49th overall pick by the Detroit Red Wings, looks on during day two of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 23, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Upon claiming Martin Frk off waivers from Detroit earlier this month, ‘Canes GM Ron Francis praised the youngster’s offensive production in the AHL, saying Frk “has been a goal scorer at every level.”

That didn’t translate to the NHL level.

On Monday, the ‘Canes put Frk on waivers after he appeared in just two games for the club, going pointless while averaging just over eight minutes of ice time per. He last dressed in a 4-2 loss to Detroit on Oct. 25.

Taken 49th overall by those same Red Wings at the 2012 draft, Frk has indeed been a good minor league scorer. He had 23 goals in 29 games for ECHL Toldedo two years ago, and 27 in 67 games for the Griffins last season.

Problem is, Frk just hasn’t shown enough to warrant a full-time roster spot. The ‘Canes are expecting d-man Ryan Murphy (lower body) to be healthy and available soon, meaning Frk became the odd man out.

Should he clear, he’ll be back to the AHL — though this time, with Carolina’s affiliate in Charlotte.