St. Louis Blues

Blues confirm Elliott will be playoff starter

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The St. Louis Blues have developed something of a rite of passage in the spring in which they’re faced with questions about their starting playoff netminder.

This year, they’re getting out in front of it.

Head coach Ken Hitchcock confirmed on Thursday that Brian Elliott is currently the team’s No. 1 and will be when the posteason begins, per the Post-Dispatch.

“Ells is the starter,” Hitchcock explained. “He’ll play the majority of games leading up to the playoffs. We’re on the course that we set two months ago when we made the decision that Ells was going to be the guy and we’re not changing that course.”

Questions were asked about Elliott’s status after backup Jake Allen started each of the last two games, and fared well, allowing just four goals on 51 shots in an OT loss to Detroit and an OT win over Pittsburgh.

Allen, 24, is considered to be the franchise’s goalie of the future and, what’s more, the Blues do have a history of platooning in goal.

Last spring, Ryan Miller — acquired in a trade deadline blockbuster from Buffalo — played in all six games of St. Louis’ opening-round series loss to Chicago. The year prior, Elliott played all six in St. Louis’ opening-round series loss to Los Angeles and, the year prior to that, Elliott, Halak and Allen all saw playoff time as the Blues advanced to the second round.

Hitchcock did keep the door slightly open for a goalie switch should Elliott struggle, but added it doesn’t look like that’s about to happen.

“Obviously if [Elliott] doesn’t play well at all, then we’ve got to reassess it like any team does,” he explained. “[But] right now, he’s showing no signs of letting up.”

Related: Hitchcock clears the air regarding the Blues’ goaltending situation

Pens say Ehrhoff will miss several days with upper-body injury

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without defenseman Christian Ehrhoff for “several days” thanks to what the team deems an upper-body injury.

That injury and cap concerns leaves the Penguins facing the Carolina Hurricanes with 11 forwards and six defensemen, the team announced.

Ehrhoff, 32, was injured after receiving this hit from Vladimir Tarasenko during Tuesday’s overtime loss against the St. Louis Blues:

The Penguins didn’t really provide a whole lot of detail about Ehrhoff’s condition beyond that terse statement. Some want Pittsburgh to place the blueliner on IR to alleviate some of their depth concerns, but we’ll need to wait and see.

If you want to try to guess when he might come back, here’s a link to the Penguins’ regular season schedule.

Report: Blues think Shattenkirk, Gunnarsson will be back Saturday

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Kevin Shattenkirk hasn’t played since Feb. 1 because of an abdominal injury, but St. Louis Blues believe that the 26-year-old defenseman will be available for Saturday’s game against Columbus, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford.

That seems to mesh well with Blues coach Ken Hitchcock’s note on Tuesday that Shattenkirk’s return is coming “pretty quick,” per the Post-Dispatch, and the Blues’ announcement yesterday that 21-year-old defenseman Petteri Lindbohm has been sent to the AHL Chicago Wolves.

Before Shattenkirk was injured, he looked like a potential Norris Trophy candidate. He had 40 points and 77 blocked shots in 49 contests while averaging 22:54 minutes per game. Despite missing a player of his caliber, the Blues have stayed strong with a 14-8-3 record during his absence. They’re in the running for the Presidents’ Trophy.

Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) is also expected to return from a two game absence. If both of them are available, then Hitchcock will have a tough time assembling the lineup given that he also have blueliners Barret Jackman, Zbynek Michalek, Jay Bouwmeester, Chris Butler, Alex Pietrangelo, Robert Bortuzzo to choose from. With that in mind, St. Louis might dress seven defensemen on Saturday.

Goalie nods: Price versus Rinne in potential Vezina showdown

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Elite battle at Bridgestone

Two goalies most have penciled in as Vezina candidates will square off tonight in Nashville when Carey Price and the Habs take on Pekka Rinne and the Preds.

Price, widely considered to be the Vezina favorite, has been nothing short of brilliant all season long and heads into tonight’s action leading the NHL in wins (40), save percentage (.938), GAA (1.86) and shutouts (nine). The 27-year-old’s dominance has led to serious discussion about Hart Trophy consideration as league MVP.

Rinne, meanwhile, has been solid as well. He’s second to Price in both GAA (2.09) and wins (38), sitting fifth overall in save percentage (.927). What’s interesting about the two, however, is that Price has never been named a Vezina finalist over the course of his seven-year career; Rinne, who’s in his ninth NHL campaign, has been a finalist twice and fell just short of capturing the Vezina in 2011, when he finished a few votes shy of eventual winner Tim Thomas.

So with Price and Rinne likely to both be finalists this year, the conversation turns to who’ll be the third nominee. Right now, it seems like a three-horse race between New Jersey’s Cory Schneider, Washington’s Braden Holtby and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk.

Elsewhere…

Wild at Isles: Devan Dubnyk vs. Jaroslav Halak

Kings at Rangers: Jonathan Quick (probable) vs. Cam Talbot

Blues at Pens: Jake Allen vs. Marc-Andre Fleury

Ducks at Jackets: John Gibson vs. Sergei Bobrovsky

Coyotes at Wings: Mike Smith vs. Jimmy Howard

Panthers at Bolts: Roberto Luongo vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy

Jets at Canucks: Michael Hutchinson vs. Eddie Lack

PHT Morning Skate: Ducks’ Patrick Maroon the latest guest on ‘Between Two Zambonis’

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Anaheim Ducks forward Patrick Maroon recently joined teammate Ryan Kesler on the latest installment of ‘Between Two Zambonis’. The pair discussed Maroon’s celebrity look a likes and even took shots at captain Ryan Getzlaf’s hairline.

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“I wake up in the morning and wonder what I’m going to do besides work out” – Tom Sestito discusses the diminishing enforcer role in hockey. (The Globe and Mail)

Top prospect Dylan Strome had a six-point game Sunday to win the Ontario Hockey League’s scoring title. (Yahoo)

The Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets develop D-Men down to a science. (NHL.com)

Bridgeport Sound Tigers forward Kael Mouillierat used a lacrosse-style move to open the scoring against the Binghamton Senators on Sunday:

Sixteen seasons. 22 teams. Zero NHL games. But the passion never left Frank Littlejohn. (The Hockey News)

St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo discusses the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon: