St. Louis Blues

Goalie nods: Pekka back for Preds

All the latest from the blue paint…

Rinne Returns

Pekka Rinne will start in goal for Nashville — for the first time since Jan. 19 — when the Preds host the Ducks tonight at Bridgestone.

Rinne, the NHL’s wins leader (29), had been playing at a Vezina- and Hart-worthy level prior to suffering a sprained knee three weeks ago, posting a .931 save percentage and 1.96 GAA. While Nashville did well in his absence (Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec combined to go 4-2-2), Rinne’s return will be a massive boost, especially against a Ducks team that’s tied on 72 points with the Preds, but trails in the standings because of the regulation wins tiebreaker.

For Anaheim, Frederik Andersen will get the start in goal.

Elsewhere…

Blues at Sabres: Jake Allen vs. Jhonas Enroth

Isles at Flyers: Jaroslav Halak vs. Steve Mason

Caps at Sens: Braden Holtby vs. Robin Lehner

Kings at Panthers: Roberto Luongo for Florida, Jonathan Quick likely for L.A.

Bolts at Stars: Andrei Vasilevskiy for Tampa Bay, Kari Lehtonen likely for Dallas.

Wings at Avs: Petr Mrazek for Detroit, no word on a Colorado starter.

‘Canes at Coyotes: Cam Ward vs. Mike Smith

Sharks at Canucks: Ryan Miller for Vancouver, Antti Niemi likely for San Jose.

Brodeur to participate in Devils’ alumni game

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The New Jersey Devils announced today that Martin Brodeur, Scott Stevens and Claude Lemieux would be among the participants in a March 7 alumni game that will comprise part of the 20th anniversary celebrations of the club’s first Stanley Cup title.

Others scheduled to participate include Jacques Lemaire, Jacques Caron, Tommy Albelin, Sergei Brylin, Bob Carpenter, Shawn Chambers, Tom Chorske, Danton Cole, Ken Daneyko, Jim Dowd, Bruce Driver, Bill Guerin, Bobby Holik, John MacLean, Chris McAlpine, Randy McKay, Mike Peluso, Brian Rolston and Chris Terreri.

But it’s the recently retired Brodeur that led the release.

Brodeur, of course, raised more than a few eyebrows last week when he announced his retirement in front of a backdrop featuring the logo of the St. Louis Blues, the optics of the press conference leaving many wondering about his relationship with New Jersey president/GM Lou Lamoriello, and the Devils franchise in general.

“For anybody that thinks that me and Lou are not on the same page, everybody’s wrong,” insisted Brodeur.

It’s possible, we suppose, that the Devils could stage their own retirement ceremony for Brodeur as part of the 20th anniversary celebrations.

Related: Here’s why Brodeur is working for Blues (instead of Devils)

Backes defends his play after boarding Alzner

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David Backes had a short game on Sunday as he was ejected early in the second period for boarding Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner. The blueliner was left bloodied, but he was able to continue playing and went on to log 19:34 minutes.

The NHL decided not to punish the St. Louis Blues captain further over the incident, but it wasn’t until today that Backes offered a public defense of his actions.

“Yeah, it’s nine years now and I’ve had one major penalty that was quickly rescinded right after that,” Backes told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Now this one, where I think it’s pretty benign — he hops back up and doesn’t miss a shift.

“Never looking to hurt anyone out there. The rules are the rules, I guess, and if there’s blood, (then the ejection was warranted). But the result is, the guys had one heck of a penalty kill for that five minutes, really got momentum off that and played a heck of a game … They really picked me up.”

As far as his one major penalty note, for what it’s worth Backes has 24 major penalties and 17 misconducts in 616 career games, according to CBS Sports. Boarding Alzner was his second major penalty of the 2014-15 campaign, although it was his first game misconduct. That being said, he might not be counting his fights and those do account for most of his major penalties.

Here’s the hit in question:

Sidney Crosby is still the Hart Trophy favorite

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Updated Hart Trophy odds from online bookmaker Bovada:

Sidney Crosby 9/4
Jakub Voracek 9/2
Carey Price 13/2
Patrick Kane 8/1
Claude Giroux 17/2
Ryan Getzlaf 17/2
Alex Ovechkin 15/1
Rick Nash 15/1
Steven Stamkos 15/1
John Tavares 20/1
Vladimir Tarasenko 20/1

If I had a few bucks to throw at this, I’d be throwing it behind Carey Price. In my opinion, no player has been more responsible for his team’s success this season than the Canadiens’ star goalie. Granted, there’s still a lot of season left and that means a lot of time for a guy like Crosby to heat up, but if the voting occurred today, there’s a very good chance Price would get the nod.

Blues hoping to fill the Shattenkirk ‘void’

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Two of the best teams in the NHL will meet tonight in St. Louis when the red-hot Blues host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You never know, this may even be a Stanley Cup Final preview.

Granted, the mood in St. Louis hasn’t exactly been jubilant since it was learned that defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk would be forced to undergo abdominal surgery and be lost indefinitely.

Shattenkirk has 40 points in 49 games, second to only Calgary’s Mark Giordano (43 points) among NHL d-men. His 20 power-play assists are the most in the league, tied with Arizona’s Keith Yandle.

“He’s a vital part of our team. He’ll be missed, but someone else is going to have to step up and fill that void,” forward David Backes said, per NHL.com. “We can’t dwell on what we’re missing. We’ve got to move forward with the 20 guys in the lineup, wish him a speedy recovery and hopefully he’s back sooner than later. But these things happen and everyone will have to pick it up just a little bit and keep moving forward.”

The Blues still have a couple of pretty good defensemen in Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo, but Shattenkirk’s absence will be felt in all situations, from even strength to the power play and penalty kill. Chris Butler is expected to draw into the lineup on defense, and he’s only played 20 games this season.

St. Louis will also be without key forwards Jori Lehtera (concussion symptoms) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder) against the Lightning.