Tag: Ken Hitchcock

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.

NHL on NBCSN: Kings and Blues renew hostilities in St. Louis

St. Louis Blues v Los Angeles Kings

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the St. Louis Blues host the Los Angeles Kings at Scottrade Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

Anytime the St. Louis Blues face the Los Angeles Kings it’s anything but nice.

By now we’re familiar with their meetings the past two seasons in the playoffs with the Kings knocking out the Blues in four games in 2012 and six games in 2013. This season has done nothing to quiet things down.

Each team has beaten the other this season with the Kings taking a 3-2 win at home on Dec. 2 and the Blues getting a blowout 5-0 win in St. Louis on Jan. 5. The game tonight in St. Louis is their final meeting of the regular season and should help set the table in case they meet again in the postseason.

The Blues enter the game on a tear having won 10 of their last 12 games. Goaltending has been a big part of that success lately with Brian Elliott doing most of the work instead of Jaroslav Halak. Elliott’s play has helped us remember how strong he was for the Blues two seasons ago.

More impressively, it’s been the offense that’s stood out for the Blues. During that 12 game stretch, St. Louis is averaging exactly four goals per game. T.J. Oshie, Jaden Schwartz, David Backes, Alex Pietrangelo, and Kevin Shattenkirk have had big seasons already and guys like Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, and Vladimir Tarasenko are bringing plentiful scoring depth that brings a smile to coach Ken Hitchcock’s face.

The Blues’ issues against L.A. in the past were always centered around scoring goals. If this kind of output persists, they’ll be terrifying to deal with in the playoffs.

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Things in Los Angeles aren’t as pleasant lately. The Kings have dropped seven of their last 10 games and about the only good news there has been the return of Jonathan Quick in goal.

Since coming back on Jan. 4, Quick is 3-1-1 and has allowed seven goals in five games. He shutout Vancouver on Monday night making 28 saves. While the solid goaltending is all well and good, the offense has struggled.

Over their 10 game stretch, they’ve scored 16 goals. Scoring less than two goals per game is a recipe for frustration and that’s just what Darryl Sutter’s crew is dealing with now.

The offensive talent is there with Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, and Justin Williams they just have to find ways to produce more. That frustration likely isn’t anything new in L.A. but sending Tyler Toffoli (17 points in 33 games) back to the AHL didn’t do much to instill confidence in what they’re doing

Hitchcock loving play of line with ‘European creative chemistry’

Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Tarasenko, Barret Jackman

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.

Blues send Allen down, but Halak still not feeling well

Jake Allen

The St. Louis Blues can never seem to escape questions about their goaltending.

Following their 5-0 blowout win against the Los Angeles Kings, the Blues sent down goalie Jake Allen. He was initially called up because Jaroslav Halak wasn’t feeling well and Brian Elliott needed a backup.

As Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shares, Halak still isn’t feeling well.

“We just told Jaro it’s best to stay at home right now for a day or two until you feel cleared up,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “It comes and goes. He feels good for a couple of hours and then he doesn’t feel good. He’s at 70 percent — it’s not good enough to play and it’s not getting any better, so a couple of days away I think will really help him.”

In that case, Allen shouldn’t get too cozy back in Chicago with his AHL team as the Blues will play next on Saturday at home against Columbus.

Going through this rotation of goalies has been something they’ve had to do the past few seasons in St. Louis. While it used to be Ben Bishop who did the bus riding from the minors to the pros and back, now it’s Allen.

You’d have to imagine going through this routinely isn’t too high on Hitchcock’s list of things he enjoys while coaching a Stanley Cup contender.

Blues’ Schwartz says getting the ‘bounces’ helping his offense

Jaden Schwartz

St. Louis Blues forward Jaden Schwartz is entering his second full season in the NHL and he’s turned into quite the offensive producer for them.

Schwartz already has a career-high 17 points this season (he had 15 in 48 games last year) and has been getting rave reviews from coach Ken Hitchcock all year. Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch finds out from Schwartz he’s not really doing anything different.

“Sometimes you get some bounces and sometimes you don’t,” Schwartz said. “But I think I’ve been working hard to contribute in the O-zone and I’ve been able to get some pucks through traffic.”

Hitchcock says Schwartz “plays a complete game” and that will help him stay in the lineup regardless. With six goals, he’s one away from his career-high there. His improved game should have the Blues feeling even better about drafting him 14th overall in 2010.