Jori Lehtera

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Brayden Schenn scoring at will as domination continues

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What’s the limit for Brayden Schenn?

Curious and inquiring minds, like PHT’s own James O’Brien, want to know. 

Add Schenn’s opposition to the list of people looking for answers. They surely want the madness to end.

But Schenn appears disinterested in letting cooler heads prevail. He is, of course, red hot at the moment. And he’s quickly turning into a fearsome goal scorer that is increasingly harder to contain.

Schenn buried his 16th of the season on Sunday night against the Buffalo Sabres some 40 seconds into the game. The goal, which can be seen below, was Schenn’s sixth in his past four games and a marker than extended his goal-scoring streak to four games.

Some wondered how Schenn would cope with the loss of Jaden Schwartz, who is out for at least six weeks because of an ankle injury. 

He answered that in under a minute.

Coming into Sunday’s game, Schenn was on pace for 41 goals and 98 points. He’d crush his previous career highs if his torrid play continues.

For the time being, Schenn is the leading candidate for the top off-season acquisition in the NHL.

How bad is Ron Hextall kicking himself at the moment? A few months ago he had Schenn and didn’t have Jori Lehtera.

The cringe faces must be excellent. Surely.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blues’ biggest question: Are they good enough down the middle?

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Jonathan Toews. Anze Kopitar. Jeff Carter. Patrice Bergeron. Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin. Pavel Datsyuk. Henrik Zetterberg.

Teams that win the Stanley Cup almost always have an elite center. As you can see, some of them even have two.

Do the St. Louis Blues?

The answer to that will depend on your definition of elite. If it’s a generous one, then maybe Paul Stastny gets the nod. Otherwise, it’s hard to answer yes.

Next season, the Blues’ top two lines could look something like this:

Alex Steen – Paul Stastny — David Backes
Jaden Schwartz — Jori Lehtera — Vladimir Tarasenko

If one of Dmitrij Jaskin, Ty Rattie or Robby Fabbri can step into a top-six role, coach Ken Hitchcock has said that Backes could be moved to the third line.

Regardless of how the lines shake out, it’s no surprise that the Blues were left wanting more from Stastny, their big free-agency signing from last summer.

“Paul Stastny needs to be a bigger part of our group,” GM Doug Armstrong said. “We need him to be a bigger and better part of our team.”

Stastny had 46 points in 74 games last season. He then managed just one goal, with no assists, in the Blues’ six-game playoff loss to the Wild.

Not enough from a player who was supposed to be a difference-maker in the tough Western Conference.

“I think in every sport if you’re strong up the middle you’re usually a strong team,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, per Yahoo Sports. “The center icemen seem to be the catalyst, usually offensively. They’re the guys who have the puck the most and make maybe the most decisions on the ice based on the number of touches they have in a game.”

Which is why there’s so much excitement in Washington about young Evgeny Kuznetsov.

But we digress.

The Blues are obviously a strong team. Their regular-season record is proof of that. But they haven’t been able to win that elusive Cup, so it’s only natural to pore over their roster in search of why.

Their lack of a truly elite center — and this goes for good teams like the Wild, Predators, Canadiens, Rangers, and Jets — may be as good an answer as any.

Related: Doug Armstrong is under pressure

Blues announce that Lehtera had ankle surgery last week

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The St. Louis Blues announced today that forward Jori Lehtera underwent successful surgery on his right ankle on Aug. 4.

According to the Blues, Lehtera “suffered the injury at the end of last season and is expected to be available to skate in six to eight weeks.”

More from Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch, with a quote from GM Doug Armstrong:

The Blues open the regular season on Oct. 8, slightly less than two months from today.

Related: Blues re-sign Lehtera: three years, $14.1 million

Hitch says Backes’ role will be determined by play of Jaskin, Rattie, and Fabbri

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A pending unrestricted free agent, David Backes could be relegated to third-line duty next season for the Blues.

According to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch interview with coach Ken Hitchcock, Backes’ role will be determined by the readiness of youngsters Dmitrij Jaskin, Ty Rattie and Robby Fabbri. If one of those three can hold down a top-six role, Backes will likely be the third-line center. If not, Hitchcock is planning for Backes to play right wing in the top six, with Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera as the top two centers.

“I can tell you right now, (Backes) is going to play more right wing than he’s played since I got here,” said Hitchcock. “Whether he’s a full-time player there or not, we don’t know yet. That depends on those three young kids.”

Backes had 26 goals and 32 assists last season. The 31-year-old’s long-term future with the Blues is not clear at this point.

Blues re-sign Lehtera: three years, $14.1 million

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Jori Lehtera has scored big after his first season in St. Louis — on Wednesday, the Blues inked him to a three-year, $14.1 million deal with a $4.7M average annual cap hit.

More, from the club:

Lehtera, 27, appeared in 75 regular season games with the Blues during his first National Hockey League (NHL) season in 2014-15, posting 44 points (14 goals, 30 assists) while ranking second on the club with a +21 rating. He also added two assists in five postseason outings.

Lehtera’s extension kicks in at the start of the 2016-17 campaign. He has one year left on his current deal, which pays $2.75 million annually.