David Backes

Hitchcock ‘wants to try’ moving Backes to right wing

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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)
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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.

Hitchcock loving play of line with ‘European creative chemistry’

Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Tarasenko, Barret Jackman
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Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is tickled pink over the play of his all-European line with Vladimir Sobotka, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Patrik Berglund.

Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shares the coach’s thoughts on his newly formed line that’s having big-time success under the arch.

“We kind of threw stuff against the wall with that line,” Hitchcock said. “We didn’t really know where that would get to. But they have some European creative chemistry that is unique. They play an old way, a way that’s probably not familiar for most people watching the game.”

Each player has been on a tear lately.

Tarasenko has 12 points in his past nine games including four goals. Sobotka has 11 points in that span and Berglund has six points with three goals.

Seeing the two Vlads carrying on the way they have has helped give the Blues a lift in their race with the Blackhawks in the Central Division. Having them step their game up while Alex Steen is out with a concussion makes their production even more timely.

Coaching rivalry: Roy lashes out at Hitchcock in the media

Dallas Stars v Colorado Avalanche
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The St. Louis Blues beat their Central Division rivals, the Colorado Avalanche, on Wednesday. Alex Steen tied Alex Ovechkin for the league lead in goals with 20, in the Blues 4-1 victory over Colorado.

But that was all quickly forgotten about following the post-game comments of Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy, and then the retort of Blues bench boss Ken Hitchcock.

“You know what, I was very mad at the end because I have been jabbed by different coaches around the league, especially Hitchcock when he said that was junior stuff, talking to players, talking to the referees,” said Roy, as per The Denver Post.

“But I saw a guy on the other side who was talking to players and then was also talking to the referee and got the referee (mad).

“Seems to me that there’s different rules for everybody in this league. I guess the old guys are allowed to do whatever they want and I guess us, because we are younger, we are not allowed to say anything. I am a little (mad) about that.”

Hitchcock, with 623 wins as a coach in the NHL, offered quite a response. He wasn’t happy.

“Oh, give me a break. Tell Patrick to shut the (expletive) up,” said Hitchcock.

Just. Like. That. But this isn’t Roy’s first run-in with another NHL coach.

In fact, in the season opener, Roy’s first game as a head coach in this league, got into an altercation with Bruce Boudreau of the Anaheim Ducks in between the benches.

Hitchcock raves about Blues’ performance vs. Wild

Ken Hitchcock
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The St. Louis Blues bottled up the Minnesota Wild in a 3-0 win on NBCSN Monday, prompting raving reviews from head coach Ken Hitchcock, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford reports.

“This was one of the best games we’ve played 5 on 5 for a long time,” Hitchcock said. “We really competed and I thought we created a lot of pressure.”

Vladimir Sobotka opened up scoring while Alexander Steen continues to stay within a stride or two of Alex Ovechkin for the goal-scoring lead (he scored twice to give him 19 on the season). Jaroslav Halak cruised to his second shutout of the season and third win in a row: