Hitchcock says Backes and Fabbri ‘should be good to go’ for Game 5

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The St. Louis Blues won Game 4 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday night, but it certainly came at a price. Both David Backes and Robby Fabbri were unable to finish the game.

Fabbri suffered an undisclosed injury after he was hit by Sharks forward Tommy Wingels. The Blues forward didn’t see much ice time in the third period, but that might just be because the Blues had control of the game.

Here’s the hit that sidelined Fabbri:

As for Backes, it’s unclear when he got hurt. The St. Louis Dispatch points out that the injury could have occurred after he made contact with Brent Burns, or it could have happened when he lost an edge while in the corner. The Blues captain was on the bench for the entire game, but he didn’t see the ice in the second and third frames.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock didn’t want to get into specifics when it came to each player’s ailment, but he did mention that they should both be available in Game 5.

“We’ll let you know in a couple of days on both guys,” Hitchcock said after Game 4. “They should be good to go.”

 

 

Hitchcock said changes were coming — will Paajarvi make playoff debut?

Magnus Paajarvi
AP
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Following an ugly 4-0 loss in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock alluded to lineup changes for when the series shifted back to San Jose for Game 3.

“Changing your lineup has a real impact,” Hitchcock said, per the Post-Dispatch. “We’ve made adjustments all playoffs and everyone of them has worked.

“We’re probably going to have to make a few more [Thursday] and hopefully they work.”

So, what are those changes going to be?

Here are Blues beat reporters Jeremy Rutherford and Lou Korac:

Of the two, Paajarvi would be the biggest move. The veteran Swede hasn’t played at all in the playoffs, with his last action coming on Apr. 9, and he finished the year with just three goals and nine points in 48 games.

That said, Hitchcock has been fond of what Paajarvi brings to the table — calling him one of the team’s best players back in late December — and the move could give St. Louis some more speed, which has been an issue against the Sharks.

“They skate fast,” Hitchcock said, also per the Post-Dispatch. “They skate fast, they support the puck. They might look faster than they are, but they’ve got a lot of quick players. They’ve got a lot of aggressive skating players.”

Jaskin has been more involved than Paajarvi this postseason, though only slightly. He appeared in two games during the Dallas series, but did score the game-winning goal in Game 5 of the series.

There’s also the possibility Hitchcock could shake up his defense as well. Roberto Bortuzzo, who hasn’t played since Game 6 of the Dallas series, could draw in ahead of Joel Edmundson, who was out doing extra work following this morning’s skate.

Hitchcock: Blues ‘are fortunate’ series vs. Sharks is 1-1

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This time, the St. Louis Blues didn’t get away with playing an uninspired home game against the San Jose Sharks.

That seems to be the takeaway from Ken Hitchcock after watching the Sharks beat his Blues 4-0 in Game 2 to tie the series 1-1.

“We seem to want to play a little different at home than we do on the road,” Hitchcock said. “We got away with it in Game 1 and didn’t get away with it today at all. They were much better than us probably in every aspect, especially on special teams.”

Hitchcock noted that the Blues “don’t have the foot-speed of other teams” and didn’t feel great about the way St. Louis managed the puck.

He believes they can “clean up” issues on the PK and, in general, “catch up.”

On the other end, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer bragged about a strength that might be on San Jose’s side rather than on the side of the Blues.

DeBoer says refs need to call the game ‘accordingly’; Hitchcock says Blues ‘won’t whine for calls’

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In 2011, the last time the San Jose Sharks made the Western Conference Final, special teams played an enormous role in their demise, as the Canucks scored nine times on the power play and ended the series in five games.

Only a few Sharks are left from that 2011 squad, but the importance of special teams was on display again in Game 1 of the 2016 conference final. San Jose went 0-for-3 on the power play, the St. Louis Blues went 1-for-2, and the Sharks lost the game, 2-1.

“St. Louis’ penalty killing did nothing we haven’t seen before this season,” said Sharks coach Pete DeBoer. “When our power play doesn’t score, it’s either the goaltending is great or our execution is off. I think it was a little bit of both last night. But we’ve always managed to fix that. I have confidence we’re going to get that fixed for next game.”

According to forward Logan Couture, San Jose’s biggest problem in Game 1 was gaining the zone and getting set up. That’s when the Sharks are at their most dangerous, when they can throw the puck around and open shooting lanes for the likes of Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski.

“Last night our entries needed to be better,” Couture said. “I think we stalled on the left side entering the zone.”

While Couture, like his coach, is confident that the Sharks can “figure it out,” it’s worth noting that the Blues had the second-ranked PK during the regular season, and their stinginess has carried through into the playoffs. The Stars went just 2-for-20 with the man advantage in the second round.

The Sharks’ power play, unlike the Stars’, couldn’t be stopped in the second round. It converted eight times in seven games versus Nashville, and that was after scoring five times in five games versus the Kings.

And in a remark that may have been intended for the ears of the Game 2 referees, DeBoer said he expects the rule book to be called “accordingly” against the big-hitting, beard-tugging Blues.

“We’re relying on the officials to do their job,” he said. “St. Louis is one of the most penalized teams in the league, regular season and playoffs. They need to call the game accordingly. Need to make them pay a price for being the most penalized team on the power play, which we didn’t last night.”

That, predictably, got a response from Blues coach Ken Hitchcock.

“We’re told not to whine for calls, so we’re not going to whine for calls,” he said. “If Pete wants to do it, that’s up to him, but we’re not doing it.”

All that gamesmanship underscored one main point — special teams could very well decide which of these teams gets to the Stanley Cup Final.

‘I don’t want to be ripping off a team’: Blues’ coach Hitchcock is just fine with taking one-year deals

St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock talks to his team during a time out during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
AP Photo
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Last year, Ken Hitchcock’s future with the St. Louis Blues seemed very much up in the air following another first-round playoff exit.

Despite the disappointing end to last season, he signed a one-year contract extension to stay in St. Louis for the 2015-16 season.

Hitchcock is apparently just fine, however, with such short-term contracts for himself.

“I scare myself because I think if I take long-term deal, I’m gonna get sloppy,” Hitchcock told Hockey Central at Noon and Sportsnet. “I want to stay on one-year deals.

“I don’t want to be sitting ripping off a team and taking money when I’m not doing anything. I just feel comfortable taking one-year deals to be honest with you.”

Interesting comments to make considering he’s helped the Blues finally get over the threshold into the Western Conference Final after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks, the defending champions, and high-scoring Dallas Stars, the top team in the West during the regular season, in back-to-back seven-game series wins.

It’s also interesting given a number of his peers around the league — like Bruce Boudreau and his four-year agreement with the Minnesota Wild — are locking in to longer-term deals. (It’s also just been reported Thursday that Darryl Sutter and the L.A. Kings have agreed to terms on an extension.)

After previous playoff disappointments, the Blues are now only four wins away from the Stanley Cup Final. You’d think he’d want to leverage that into something beyond just one year.