Alexander Steen

Blues’ leading scorer Steen likely out through weekend


Sounds as though St. Louis will be without top goal man Alex Steen for both of this weekend’s games against Colorado and Chicago.

Steen, who sat out Thursday’s 2-1 win over Buffalo with an upper-body injury, is definitely out versus the Avs on Saturday and “likely” out for Sunday’s big tilt against Chicago on Sunday, head coach Ken Hitchcock said.

It’s been a tough campaign for Steen health-wise — disappointing, given it’s also been the best offensive season of his career. The Swede has a career-high 33 goals and is tied with T.J. Oshie for the team lead with 60 points, despite only playing in 64 games.

Steen missed significant time in December and January with a concussion, his second in as many years, yet still showed the Blues organization enough to ink a three-year, $17.4 million extension in mid-Decmeber.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see if Steen will be held out of Sunday’s game against Chicago. The Blackhawks will be without two of their leading scorers, as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have been shut down for the remainder of the regular season to rest their respective injuries.


TGIF: Five games to watch this weekend

Columbus Blue Jackets v Philadelphia Flyers

Saturday: Philadelphia at Boston (1 p.m. ET)

Yes, the Flyers have been shut out two games in a row. No, there isn’t any real reason to panic. Against Columbus on Thursday, they still managed 37 shots on Sergei Bobrovsky. And that’s quite a few.

Sure, you could argue they didn’t get enough “quality” shots, but these were a couple of decent chances I’d say:

Bobrovsky is a good goalie. Won the Vezina last season. Sometimes a goalie like that is going to beat you. It’s not like earlier in the season when the Flyers were finishing games with shot totals in the low 20s, or even lower in some cases.

“Even though we didn’t score, we did a lot of good things,” captain Claude Giroux said.

Saturday: Detroit at Montreal (7 p.m. ET)

The rise of Gustav Nyquist really makes me wonder about all the players who were rushed into the NHL before they were ready. How many had their careers ruined by impatience? It’s impossible to say. Just as it’s impossible to say that Nyquist wouldn’t have developed into the player he appears to be today if the Red Wings had brought him along quicker.

All I know is this: Nyquist is 24 years old. He was drafted in 2008, the same year as players like Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Tyler Myers and Erik Karlsson. Think of all the stuff those four have already been through in the NHL, both good and bad.

Just over a year ago, Mike Babcock was saying this about Nyquist: “He’s got some skill, he’s obviously a real good player. He’s led everywhere he’s ever played in scoring. The problem with the NHL is you have to come up and grab hold of something.”

Saturday: Dallas at Tampa Bay (7 p.m. ET)

Is Victor Hedman the most under-discussed player in the NHL? I don’t know how many people are aware of this, but the 23-year-old has 49 points this season. Only seven d-men in the entire NHL have more, and only three — Karlsson, Duncan Keith, and Alex Pietrangelo — have more even-strength points (31).

Suffice to say, Hedman’s no longer just that stay-at-home Swedish defenseman who got drafted after John Tavares went first overall in 2009.

“His confidence is through the roof, you can totally tell,” Lightning goalie Ben Bishop told the Hockey News recently. “It’s just one of those things where defensemen take a bit longer. He’s playing tremendous and has been a big reason why we’ve done so well lately.”

Sunday: St. Louis at Chicago (12:30 p.m. ET)

On NBC. Streaming live, too. Interesting quote from Blues coach Ken Hitchcock on back-up goalie Brian Elliott: “I’ve been around Brian for three years. This is the best I’ve ever seen him play. He’s playing terrific.” Elliott is 18-5-2 with a .922 save percentage, and as Hitch alluded to, the 28-year-0ld has been practically unbeatable since the Olympic break. Of course, everyone knows Ryan Miller is going to be the man for the Blues in the playoffs, but it’s certainly worth mentioning that Elliott, like Miller, is a pending unrestricted free agent.

Sunday: Pittsburgh at Colorado (8 p.m. ET)

Two teams I’m really curious to see in the playoffs, albeit for different reasons. The Avalanche, because teams whose records defy the statistics are always interesting. The Penguins, because they’ve got so much to prove. If Pittsburgh falls anywhere short of the Stanley Cup Final, you seriously have to wonder about the future of coach Dan Bylsma. For me, it all depends how the Pens lose, if they do. A hard-fought loss to the Bruins in the conference final, for example, wouldn’t be a huge deal. But go out like they did last year to Boston, or the year before to Philadelphia, and I think we could see some significant changes.

Hitchcock: East teams should be nervous about facing Flyers in playoffs


There’s no question that the St. Louis Blues are the favorites going into this afternoon’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. In fact, now that they have goaltender Ryan Miller, just about any team that faces the Blues are the underdogs.

That doesn’t mean that Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is underestimating the Flyers though. In fact, he holds them in very high regard.

“If I was in the East, I’d be really nervous to play them,” Hitchcock said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. “They look like a team right now that not only has a lot of resolve, but they are fully committed to checking.”

Hitchcock predicted that the Flyers will be “a bear in the playoffs.”

He has a history with the Flyers as their former head coach for parts of four seasons starting with 2002-03. The Flyers got over 100 points in each of Hitchcock’s first three campaigns with the team and he led them to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2004.

This will be the Blues’ first meeting against the Flyers this season and they will play again on April 1. After that, they won’t face each other again unless they both make it to the Stanley Cup Final — which by the sounds of things, is a scenario that wouldn’t shock Hitchcock.

Hitchcock ‘wants to try’ moving Backes to right wing

David Backes
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Things have been going well for the St. Louis Blues lately, but that won’t stop coach Ken Hitchcock from tinkering.

Hitchcock’s latest idea is to move center and captain David Backes to right wing. As Jeremy Rutherford of The Post-Dispatch shares, the coach wants to take advantage how his players can take faceoffs and how intelligent they are.

“I want to try it,” Hitchcock said. “What’s happened in the (past) is that Backes takes all the faceoffs on the right, but he stayed at center. So now when [Alex] Steen takes the faceoffs on the left, I want him to stay at center. I want to see these guys be able to read off each other more.”

Hitchcock went on to say that he wants to maximize what he can get out of the line of Backes, Alex Steen, and Jaden Schwartz. Meanwhile, the Blues have won six of the past seven games and are scoring just over three goals per game over that span.

Backes’ line with Steen is one that they expect to do damage in the postseason. Getting them more opportunities, and perhaps more a bit more chemistry, ahead of the playoffs is something Hitchcock wants to do.

Hitchcock: Paajarvi ‘didn’t deserve’ to be scratched Saturday

St. Louis Blues' Magnus Paajarvi, of Sweden, prepares for a face off during the third period of a preseason NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, in St. Louis. The Lightning won 4-3. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Alexander Steen wasn’t expected to play on Saturday after suffering a fractured toe. When he ended up in the lineup anyways, the Blues had to adjust and Magnus Paajarvi ended up being the odd man out.

That doesn’t mean St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock has had a change of heart on Paajarvi. In fact, he was quick to praise the 22-year-old forward on Monday.

“He didn’t deserve to come out the last game,” Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “But somebody had to and it was my decision to make the change. But he’s going right back in tomorrow. He deserves to play and he’s played really well.”

Who will go out remains to be seen. Steen skipped Monday’s practice to rest his toe, but he’s still expected to play tomorrow. With him unavailable for the morning skate, Ryan Reaves moved from the fourth to top unit while Chris Stewart skated on the fourth line.

Stewart only logged 5:32 minutes of ice time on Saturday, so you might think that when Reaves goes back to the fourth line to accommodate Steen, Stewart will be taken out of the lineup entirely. However, Hitchcock insisted that Stewart will also play.