After naming Elliott playoff starter, Hitch now says Allen could be the guy

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After Jake Allen started and played well in consecutive games two weeks ago, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock threw his support behind No. 1 netminder Brian Elliott, saying that Elliott would be St. Louis’ starter come playoff time.

But what about now?

Today, the Blues announced that Allen would start Tuesday’s tilt against Winnipeg, his second straight nod and third in the last four games. And make no mistake, Tuesday’s game is an important one for St. Louis as it looks to tighten its grip on the Central Division lead.

“We see a guy that is hot, that’s feeling it, so you ride it out,” Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Whenever that runs out, then you go a different direction. You’re looking to get points at this time of year.

“I think during the season there’s more of a long-term plan. But when you get into that 30-day mode, when there’s 30 days left, it’s whatever is going. It’s nice to have options. That’s what we’ve got right now — we’ve got options — so let’s use them.”

Since Hitch’s announcement two weeks ago, his goalies have responded in dramatically different ways. Elliott’s gone 1-2-0 with a .841 save percentage and, in his lone victory, allowed five goals on 32 shots to Dallas; Allen, meanwhile, has allowed just two goals on his last 57 shots faced and was magnificent in Sunday’s crucial win over Chicago, finishing with a .974 save percentage.

Hitchcock now admits plans could change with regards to Elliott being the No. 1 in the playoffs, suggesting Allen could wrestle that gig away. That, along with these recent starting decisions, seems to have rattled Elliott a bit.

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With everyone on the outside reading into which goalie is getting each start, Elliott chose not to say whether he’s also reading into it.

“There’s an inside voice and an outside voice, so …” Elliott said. “I have my own feelings, so I’ll keep them to myself.”

Hitchcock was asked if it’s difficult telling Elliott that the Blues are going with Allen for now.

“Maybe for him, but not for me,” Hitchcock said. “I’ve got to do what’s best for the hockey club. And what’s best for the hockey club is whoever’s playing the best gets to play. That’s just the way it is.”

After Tuesday’s game against Winnipeg, the Blues have two games left: Thursday at home versus Chicago, then Saturday at home against Minnesota. The Chicago game could very well decide the Central, and quite possibly the Western Conference; St. Louis heads into tonight’s action just two points back of Anaheim for top spot, but with a game in hand.

In short, the Blues have everything to play for this week. Which is why Hitchcock’s goaltending decisions will be quite telling.

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

Red Wings trade Andreas Athanasiou to Oilers

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When Connor McDavid returned to the Edmonton Oilers’ lineup on Sunday night and opened the game between Sam Gagner and Alex Chiasson it was painfully obvious they needed to get another winger.

They got that winger on Monday when they acquired Andreas Athanasiou and Ryan Kuffner from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Gagner and two second-round draft picks.

Oilers general manager Ken Holland drafted Athanasiou during his time in Detroit, so there is that obvious connection here.

This seems like it has the potential to be a strong fit. Athanasiou is one of the few players in the league that actually has the speed to keep up with McDavid, and could create one of the fastest forward duos in the league. After scoring 30 goals a year ago for the Red Wings, Athanasiou has 10 goals in 46 games this season. Now he might get an opportunity to play next to the best offensive player in the world.

Athanasiou is a restricted free agent after this season.

The Oilers are three points out of first place in the Pacific Division, trailing only the Vegas Golden Knights. Edmonton still has two games in hand.

This is the second trade between the two teams in less than 12 hours after the Oilers also acquired Mike Green from the Red Wings on Sunday night.

MORE: PHT’s Trade deadline live blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Trade: Sabres get Wayne Simmonds from Devils

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Well, here is the most unexpected trade on deadline day (so far).

The Buffalo Sabres, who entered the day six points out of a playoff spot and with multiple teams ahead of them, sent a conditional fifth-round draft pick to the New Jersey Devils for veteran forward Wayne Simmonds.

That pick will become a fourth-round pick if the Sabres make the playoffs this season and Simmonds plays at least 10 games.

Simmonds is an unrestricted free agent after this season.

There is nothing wrong with the cost here for Simmonds. It’s probably about what his value should be in this market and given what he currently provides. Plus, a mid-round pick has very little chance of even turning into an NHL player, let alone an impactful one. But it’s still surprising to see a team in Buffalo’s position attempt to add something at the deadline.

Is it a last-minute effort for general manager Jason Botterill to try and do something to save his job? Or is it a team looking at what happened with St. Louis and Columbus a year ago and thinking, “hey, we can do that too!” If it’s the former, well, that’s understandable. The pressure is on to win in Buffalo and patience is running thin with everyone. If it’s the latter, that would simply be a gross misunderstanding of what happened with those teams (especially St. Louis).

The 31-year-old Simmonds has eight goals and 16 assists for the Devils this season. At his peak he was one of the best power forwards in the league and a true force as a net-front presence on the power play, but his production has rapidly fallen off the past two years.

Buffalo has played much better in February (7-3-1) but has only managed to gain four points in the standings during that stretch. They still have six points to make up and only 20 games to do it. They would not only need to maintain that similar level of play, but also get some help along the way.

MORE: PHT’s Trade deadline live blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rangers sign Chris Kreider to 7-year contract extension

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Some massive news from the New York Rangers on Monday as team president John Davidson announced a seven-year contract extension for winger Chris Kreider, removing one of the biggest names from the trade market just hours before the deadline.

Kreider re-signing with the Rangers was always a possibility, but the longer it went on without a new deal (or talks of any kind) the less likely it seemed to be. But this was clearly something the two sides wanted and they were able to find a common ground on a new deal.

It is reportedly worth around $6.5 million per season.

It is a pricey contract for sure, and with Kreider already being 28 years old there is some real long-term risk down the line. But in the short-term Kreider remains a significant part of a Rangers’ core that has made significant progress over the past couple of months. They may not be able to do enough to get in the playoffs this season, but they are certainly on track to be a serious factor in that race next season.

Kreider is in the middle of a career year for the Rangers and has always been a lock for around 20 goals and 50 points while bringing a ton of speed to the top of the lineup.

The Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, and St. Louis Blues were all thought to be potential suitors if he were to be traded.

More: NHL Trade Deadline Live Blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rangers’ Shesterkin, Buchnevich injured in car accident

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Along with announcing a new contract extension for Chris Kreider on Monday, New York Rangers team president John Davidson said teammates Igor Shesterkin and Pavel Buchnevich were involved in a car accident in Brooklyn on Sunday night.

According to Davidson, Shesterkin was driving when a vehicle did a U-turn in front of them resulting in the collision.

Fortunately both players were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident.

Buchnevich was “quite shaken up” according to Davidson, but will only be out of the lineup on a day-to-day basis.

Shesterkin has a non-displaced rib fracture and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Shesterkin has emerged as the Rangers’ starting goalie in recent weeks and has a 9-1-0 record with a .940 save percentage since his re-call. His performance has been one of the biggest factors in the Rangers’ recent hot streak that has seen them climb back to within striking distance of a playoff spot this season.

The Rangers are currently carrying three goaltenders, while Alexander Georgiev and Henrik Lundqvist will take over the goaltending duties in Shesterkin’s absence.

More: NHL Trade Deadline Live Blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.