Saturday, January 31, 2015

Blues players, fathers having time of their lives

Dads recall past experiences with sons, 
feeling proud seeing them persevere in NHL

WASHINGTON -- When Kurt Allen first stepped into the charter plane that Blues players, including his son Jake, use for trips, he couldn't believe his eyes.

"I took pictures of the plane and when I get back home, I'll say to my friends, 'You won't believe what the life is like on the road,'" Kurt Allen said.

It's far from the life of long ago when Blues dads -- and moms -- were busy raising their sons, sons who would one day don an NHL jersey.

And in this case, sons who would fulfill a dream and for their parents to enjoy.
Blues players and their fathers line the fence outside the White House
in Washington for a team portrait.

The Blues (31-13-4), who conclude their brief two-game trip with a Sunday matinee against the Washington Capitals at noon, have found life to be good with their dads in attendance the past two games.

Seventeen dads from the team's roster accompanied them this trip, and true to form, they're having the time of their lives.

"It's been really great," said Willard Reaves, Ryan Reaves' father and former NFL (Miami and Washington) and CFL (Winnipeg) running back. 

Willard has especially been pleased. Ryan has scored goals in back-to-back games and all three times Willard has seen him in person, including once earlier this season in Winnipeg.

"The last live game I saw was in Winnipeg," Willard said. "Of course he wins it with a goal in the third period, then these last two games here have been absolutely marvelous. I am proud of him. He's worked really hard coming up through the years. He's finally arrived."

And watching Ryan score?

"I was going crazy ... are you kidding me," Willard said. "I was going crazy. To watch on TV is great, but to actually be here and the kid scores, it's even more exhilarating than ever."

Kurt Allen was especially on the edge of his seat Friday night at PNC Arena. With Jake in goal and in a tight game, the elder Allen was pulling for the Blues and his son to prevail.

"Nerve-wracking. I get very nervous," Kurt said. "It's not like he's a forward or defenseman. They get a shift, they get off and you have four or five guys that bail you out. As you know, the goaltender's the last line of defense. I've been there for a lot of good times, I've been there for a lot of bad times.

"... When it got to the shootout, I was OK because he's pretty good in the shootouts. He's relaxed. I was kind of relaxed there, too, because the last time he played against Carolina, he had three shots and made three saves."

And when Jake made the final save on Eric Staal to preserve the win? There might have been a fist pump ... or two. 

"Oh yeah, yeah ... there was," Kurt Allen said. "I pretty well stayed in the back in the end, but everybody was standing up, so I had to come around and get to the front because I couldn't see it."

For these dads, it was all worth the sacrifice, the long hours, the travel -- even in arduous conditions, the expenses all worth seeing their boys excel at the highest level.

"It's a long road, for sure," said Rick Schwartz, Jaden Schwartz's father and a hockey player until midget. "He was like two years old, and then he started playing hockey at four years old. We grew up with hockey in my family. Being from Saskatchewan, that's a big part of our lives. In the winter, there's not much else to do but play hockey. 

"It's a dream come true obviously when you see your kid make it in the NHL. I'm very proud and honored. It's a lot of hard work and sweat. Dollars and time goes into it, but it's all worth it. Hopefully he has a long career and enjoys himself."

Willard Reaves, who's semi-retired and working in the management program at Costco, recalled one of his fondest memories, and it fits Ryan to a tee.
Joe and Alex Pietrangelo

"We went to Saskatchewan. This is when they first allowed the kids to start hitting," Willard recalled. "Ryan kind of bashed a kid really hard, just laid on the ice. You know the slow motion when you're on the ice and you're just sliding and you come to a complete stop and there's no movement? That's how it was. The parents happened to be sitting behind me and they were yelling at me because my kid hit their kid. I just looked at them and was like, 'I had nothing to do with that.'

"... We drove him around at 6 a.m., we're headed down whatever street that was to the cold arenas and stuff like that. It was a long haul, but this is a great reward to see him reach something that he's always wanted to do."

Ryan Reaves remembers something very fondly himself.

"I think the one that stands out with my dad is I got kicked out of a game real early and I don't know why ... I think I ran somebody and was sitting in the box," Ryan said. "My other two linemates got kicked out and sure enough, I turn left and there's my dad getting kicked out because he's fighting with another parent. I don't know what was going on. They had to call the cops in and separate them. The whole Reaves family was out of the arena, but my dad was always encouraging, never anything negative."

Every dad is soaking in everything that goes with being on the road with their kids, but for Kurt Allen, he's extremely grateful.

Coming from Fredericton, New Brunswick, which was blasted with a blizzard last week, he was simply happy to make it to St. Louis.

"The day that we left, our airports were going to shut down for two days," Kurt said Saturday. "We had 35 inches of snow. I just talked to my wife (Susan) this morning, they're getting 25 more and it's blowing and cold.

"This is only the second time I think I've been around Jake as far as the team goes. We were here for Christmas, my wife and I, but before that, when they played L.A. in the playoffs, when he got in for, what, a minute and five seconds or so, but other than that, I haven't been around much. I don't get out and about places like this much, so it's pretty neat to see. ... Spent a lot of time and a lot of trips, a lot on goalie equipment. Thank goodness I don't have to pay for that anymore."

Kurt Allen's fondest memories of Jake include a pair of names that are well-known in the hockey world.

"He was probably about seven years old, we had the NHL's old-timers in Fredericton, which I know every community has that, but Guy Lafleur was there," said Kurt, who was Jake's coach in bantam. "Guy Lafleur took him under his wing and during the pre-game warm-up, Jake was playing in net for the NHL guys, he took him out and shot on him for quite a while, just he and Jake in front of the whole crowd. That was pretty exciting.

"The other memory that I have is when he played in the World Under-18 in Kazan, Russia and they won and he won the MVP in goaltending. (Vladislav) Tretiak made the presentation to him in the final. I think we have a picture of that in the living room. Obviously I wasn't there. I was watching on TV at home, but it was still very exciting."

Don't think the boys aren't appreciative of their parents. Having their dads here is a simple payback for all that the parents have done.

"Him and my mom (Brenda), waking up early and driving me and my brother to football and hockey, to soccer to getting us to school and putting up with all our garbage all the time," Ryan Reaves said of his parents. "It's been fun to have him down here and see them enjoying themselves a little bit and thanking them for everything they did."

Said Jaden Schwartz: "They're a huge reason of why we're where we are today. They sacrificed a lot for us to be here. For us, it's fun, but I think for them, it probably means a little bit more and it's something that they won't forget. I'm sure they're having a blast."

The fathers have done a little bit of everything. Included with the travel much like their sons have that sometimes means getting into the next city in the early hours of the morning, there have been dinners, including one with legendary and recently-retired goalie Martin Brodeur; they sat in on a players meeting in which coach Ken Hitchcock warned the dads if they hear anything negative about their boys, don't take it to heart; there was also Saturday in which the players took the day off so they could take their fathers sight-seeing at some of the historical monuments around Washington, including getting pictures at the fences of the White House. They even came down the locker room after the win Friday to celebrate with their sons.

"It reminds you back when they were little tykes," Willard Reaves joked. "We had to lace up their skates and stuff like that. Now they can take their own skates off and stuff like that. The smell is the same."

"The meeting the other day was interesting of how they go about that, critique and try to improve the systems, letting the players know the systems and their roles and how important detail is," Rick Schwartz said. "To be a part of all the events and traveling with them, that's an eye-opener and very exciting for me anyway for sure."

But above it all, the dads have gotten to know one another.

"I sat with Willard on the bus (Friday) night and hearing about his football career in Miami maybe and (Washington) and then he played in the CFL in Winnipeg," Kurt Allen said. "... Talked to Mr. (Pat) Shattenkirk and found out what he does. He works on Wall Street as a banker. 

"I'm from a small area and I'm an athletic director of a high school (Leo Hayes High School) and all these guys have pretty good jobs. Mr. (Gord) Porter, he's a surgeon. You find out about a lot of different people and what they're doing. You really get to know a lot of people. And the European guys, Mr. (Bjorn) Gunnarsson and I were the first two in the suite and we just basically talked, and he told me what he did and what Sweden was like, in his hometown."

"It's been absolutely fantastic," Willard Reaves said. "Getting to meet some of the other fathers of the players and of course coming to watch my son play is something that I'll always remember.

"This is a lot easier. You're being catered and (Ryan's) paying. The repayment here is watching him fulfill a dream that he's always wanted to do. He's doing really good at it."

Now that the fathers are taking their turn, they wouldn't mind if the moms had their chance with their sons. 

After all, "They're the other half of it," Willard Reaves said.

"I'd like to get the mothers experience," Rick Schwartz said. "They're very proud as well and they did a lot of hard work. As greedy as I am, I think they should get a shot at it."

Well ... maybe not.
Gord and Chris Porter

"I don't want to see that," Kurt Allen joked. "I don't want to see (Susan) take it away from me. She said the same thing, 'When's the moms trip?'"

There very well could be one, and the Blues would be best suited to do an annual fathers trip, especially seeing the success this one has been.

"The Blues should do this every year," Willard Reaves said. "... This is something that the experience and the camaraderie of the other players and the fathers is something every team should (do)."

"You can see all the dads are so proud and excited about being a part of this organization and just being a part of this event this weekend here," Rick Schwartz said.

The fathers here representing the Blues (with sons in parenthesis) are: Bill (Brian) Elliott, Kurt (Jake) Allen, Joe (Alex) Pietrangelo, Pat (Kevin) Shattenkirk, Dan (Jay) Bouwmeester, Doug (Ian) Cole, Doug (Chris) Butler, Bjorn (Carl) Gunnarsson, James Osman (Barret Jackman), Steve (David) Backes, Tim (T.J.) Oshie, Rick (Jaden) Schwartz, Anders (Patrik) Berglund, Lennart (Joakim) Lindstrom, Willard (Ryan) Reaves, Butch (Steve) Ott and Gord (Chris) Porter.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Shattenkirk nets another shootout winner, Blues top Canes 3-2

Defenseman scores game-winner on 
back-to-back nights; team is 2-0-0 with fathers in attendance

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Kevin Shattenkirk was on the Blues' bench trying to catch his breath.

The Blues' defenseman had just finished a final shift in overtime when coach Ken Hitchcock tapped him on the shoulder.

He was second in line in the shootout to T.J. Oshie, and once again, Shattenkirk was money in the bank for the Blues.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Kevin Shattenkirk celebrates with teammates after scoring in a shootout
Friday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Shattenkirk's goal in the shootout proved to be all Jake Allen would need in goal since the Carolina Hurricanes couldn't beat the Blues' goalie in a 3-2 St. Louis victory Friday night at PNC Arena.

"I was just catching my breath, too, from that last shift," Shattenkirk said. "When (Hitchcock) told me I had to go, I was just trying to fight for air on the bench and then watch 'Osh' go and try to get some sort of idea of what I was going to do. I was obviously happy, happy to help and glad he called me. Obviously you want to go out there and score every time."

Shattenkirk, who also won the shootout for the Blues (31-13-4) on Thursday night against the Nashville Predators, is now 7-for-15 for his career. Six of them have been game-deciding goals.

"I just watched Osh go and make his move," Shattenkirk said. "He beat him on the move, just wasn't able to tuck that backhand in. It sailed a little on him. I just came down, started the same way and I tried to look to shoot. If it's there, I go for it, so luckily, it just kind of surprised (Carolina goalie Cam Ward) a little bit."

Hitchcock normally uses a rotation of Oshie, Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen. He wanted to reward Shattenkirk.

The Blues, 6-2 in shootouts this season, didn't need a third shooter after Allen ended it by stopping Eric Staal on Carolina's third attempt.

"He's scoring," Hitchcock said of Shattenkirk. "He's scoring at practice, scoring in the games. Took advantage of it. 

"He's lighting it up every day after practice. We watched that closely, and I get good evaluation on it from the coaches, too."

The Blues, who are 9-0-1 in the past 10 games, are now 2-0-0 under the watchful eyes of their dads, who were in attendance Thursday and 17 of them accompanied their sons on the trip.

"It's nice when you have them up there; they're watching. It's something we have to make sure we're making them proud. We were joking around before the game that you don't want to get in the car and have your dad go silent on you or tell you that you didn't give it your best."

Ward took the loss for the Hurricanes, who are 17-25-6 overall but 7-2-2 in their past 11. Ward stopped all 29 shots faced in regulation and overtime after replacing starter Anton Khudobin, who was lifted after allowing two goals on three shots in the first 3 minutes, 25 seconds.

Even after playing Thursday night, even after a draining divisional game, even after a shootout, even after flying and losing an hour traveling east and getting in at 2:30 a.m., it was the Blues that had the early bite, and of course the early jump.

Reaves' second goal in as many days, off a backhand feed from Steve Ott, who got it from Marcel Goc, put the Blues up 1-0 1:48 into the game. Reaves got the puck in the left circle and wired a wrister top shelf past Khudobin.

It was Reaves' third goal in three games with his father Willard in attendance. He scored twice in a game with his mother watching.

"I'm always trying to impress the parents," said Reaves, who scored Thursday against Nashville. "I scored two years ago, two in front of my mom, so I figured I'd do it in front of my dad."

Was this snipe better that the one Thursday?

"It might," Reaves joked. "I think that one (Friday) had a little better sound to it. The other one was more of a thud. This one had a nice little ring to it. It was nice. A perfect pass by Otter. I don't think if that pass is in stride on my tape, I don't think I get it off as good. Great play by 'Otter' and 'Gocher' as well."

The Blues kept up the pressure, as Backes made it 2-0 3:25 into the game that chased Khudobin after three shots faced.

Alex Pietrangelo was in the corner and found Backes at the top of the right circle, and his wrister chased Khudobin in favor of Ward.

"I think that's the story. They were waiting for us and we were in the swing of things to start," Backes said. "Two-nothing, goalie change after three minutes. You don't see that a lot, but it seemed to light a fire into their camp and they came out a lot harder and made a push. Jake played really well and kept us in there as our legs started to die out in the third. He made some big saves, got to the shootout, but he was perfect and gave us a chance and Shatty with another great shootout goal."

The Blues had a 6-0 edge in shots to start the game, and although it took the Hurricanes a while to get their legs underneath them, they were finally able to get some life. Faulk's wrister had eyes and beat Allen through traffic in front 10:57 into the first period on their first shot of the game off a feed from former Blue Jay McClement.

Once Carolina scored, the Hurricanes seemed to find their bearings and switched the momentum. They got the equalizer in the second period on Ryan Murphy's first goal of the season, a shot that deflected off Backes and past Allen with 5:41 left in the second period to tie the game 2-2.

"The thing that helped Carolina was the change of the goalie," Hitchcock said. "They hit the reset button, then we had the two shifts where we hit the goal post and missed the empty net. Otherwise, it's three- or four-nothing. 

"Even in the third period, this is a lot of hockey to get played in a short period of time out of the break. We out-chanced them badly in the third period. I thought we played a smart third period. Even though we took it to a shootout, this was a game we deserved to win. ... It was a good, solid road period by a team playing on a back-to-back. This is a big game to win. You play back-to-back, our record was only two games over .500 on the road. To start off the second half of the season and win a big road game like this is important. The guys deserve a lot of credit."

Reaves almost put the Blues ahead after getting a feathery feed from Goc, but Ward closed the pads to make the save with 9:10 left. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ryan Reaves (75) celebrates after scoring in the first period of the Blues'
3-2 shootout victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.

It almost turned into disaster for the Blues when Carolina's Jeff Skinner flipped a puck towards Allen harmlessly. But the puck took a strange carom towards the Blues' goalie from his right. Allen lost sight of the puck and it hit the post with 6:31 to play.

"This rink, even (Brian Elliott) said the same thing. The seats are so dark. As soon as the puck gets flipped up in the air, I lost it like five or six times in the game before that," Allen said. "I had no sweet clue at all where that thing was. I thought it was in the corner. I sort of probably should have made a move at it, but I might have kicked it in my net. It's just one of those rinks that the seats are so dark, flip the puck up and I literally had no idea where it was."

The game stayed tied and the Blues moved on to the nation's capital and will play the Washington Capitals on Sunday at noon before heading home.

They'll spend Saturday with their dads, including a visit to the White House.

"It's the greatest thing," Backes said. "They got a little bit of the initiation by getting into the hotel at 3 a.m. (Thursday) night and trying to fall asleep, wake up and try to be productive today. One more and we would make it a phenomenal father's trip. Hopefully it'll be on the docket every year after this because your dads, your parents sacrifice so much to get you to this level that you give them a little glimpse into how you live and they've enjoyed it."

* NOTES -- Ty Rattie made his Blues debut this season on Friday when he was recalled to play after Patrik Berglund and Jori Lehtera both missed the game with upper-body injuries.

"He was OK. First game back," Hitchcock said of Rattie, who played 9:01 on a line with Joakim Lindstrom and Dmitrij Jaskin. "This is a full day for him. He starts at six in the morning getting his gear (in Chicago) and then he plays tonight. It's a long day for him. He'll be a lot better on Sunday."

Rattie is expected to play Sunday also because Hitchcock doesn't expect Berglund and Lehtera to play.

"I don't think either one of the guys are ready yet, so we'll see on both guys here later on," Hitchcock said. "Right now, I'll say yeah, (Rattie's) going to play."

(1-30-15) Blues-Hurricanes Gameday Lineup

RALEIGH, N.C. -- With the sudden injuries to forwards Patrik Berglund and Jori Lehtera during a 5-4 shootout victory against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night, the Blues were left shorthanded up front as they departed for a short two-game trip.

Both Berglund and Lehtera sustained upper-body injuries -- Berglund late in the second period and Lehtera early in the third period -- and did not return to the game, leaving the team with 10 forwards for much of the final 20 minutes, and Nashville was able to tie the game late.

The Blues recalled right wing Ty Rattie from the Chicago Wolves on Friday morning and he is expected to be in the lineup tonight when the Blues (30-13-4) face the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes, who are 17-25-5 but 7-2-1 in January, at 6 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).

Rattie, 21, has played in 43 games for the Wolves this season and is second with 28 points. He leads the team with 17 goals and is fifth in the American Hockey League. Rattie was recently part of the 2015 AHL All-Star Game and had a goal and three assists.

Rattie, the Blues' second round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, has had a cup of coffee in the NHL with the Blues. He played in two games last season when the Blues were decimated with injuries down the stretch.

Rattie took a 5:45 a.m. flight out of Chicago and arrived in Raleigh around 11:30 a.m. local time.

"It's just as exciting (to get the call up)," Rattie said. "Feels like the first time. After getting two games last year, you see what it's like, you want it that much more. I've worked really hard, happy to be here (and) hopefully I'll do anything I can to help us win."

"... I've had a pretty good year so far, but obviously there are lots of things to build on. I want to keep that going."

The Blues did not hold a morning skate Friday, so line combinations won't be known until later, but one would assume that the top line of Alexander Steen, David Backes and T.J. Oshie will remain in tact, and Paul Stastny will slide into Lehtera's spot between Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Anything after that could be a scramble. 

One group of forwards that got more responsibility as the game progressed Thursday was the fourth line with Steve Ott, newcomer Marcel Goc and Ryan Reaves.

Ott and Reaves scored goals and the group got thumbs up from the coach.

"We got really good minutes from Goc, we got really good minutes from 'Otter' and we got great minutes from 'Revo' again," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "This is two or three games in a row Revo has played outstanding. (He) deserves more ice time, and with the two injuries, he's going to get it now."

Goc, who won 13 of 18 faceoffs and played 12 minutes, 56 seconds, impressed his new coach.

"Managed the game," Hitchcock said. "Seventy-something percent (72 percent to be exact) on faceoffs, underneath the puck, he did a great job for us."

Reaves finished with four hits and two shots in 9:29 but look for him to get into double-digit minutes tonight.

"It only grows confidence in Hitch with us that we can roll all four lines," Reaves said. "When you can do that, it wears down other teams especially, because we play real physical. They don't really want to go back and get the puck."

Joakim Lindstrom will enter the lineup tonight as well.

- - -

Blues fathers, who were in attendance at Scottrade Center on Thursday, have joined their sons on this trip.

They were able to bring with them 17 of the 23 dads, including those of goalies Brian Elliott and Jake Allen, defensemen Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Carl Gunnarsson, Kevin Shattenkirk, Barret Jackman, Ian Cole and Chris Butler and forwards Ott, Backes, Oshie, Lindstrom, Schwartz, Berglund, Chris Porter and Reaves.

Fathers unable to commit are those of Steen, Stastny, Lehtera, Tarasenko, Dmitrij Jaskin and Goc. And of course, Rattie's dad would have been under an emergency recall had he had ample time to join the rest of the fathers.

- - -

Tonight's game begins a stretch of five straight games against Eastern Conference foes for the Blues, who are 11-3-2 against the "other" conference this season.

"They're a little more skilled," Shattenkirk said of Eastern Conference teams. "They kind of get you to fall into that trap of trying to play a track meet game. That's not us; we can't do that. It's a matter of beating them up physically, making sure that we're putting pucks in and these next couple games, getting on their defensemen and trying to make them make harder plays than they're used to. That's when we really seem to thrive. It just feeds into the rest of our game."

- - -

The Blues' projected lineup:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij Jaskin-Joakim Lindstrom-Ty Rattie

Steve Ott-Marcel Goc-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman-Ian Cole

Jake Allen start in goal. Brian Elliott will be the backup.

Chris Butler will be the healthy scratch. Patrik Berglund (upper body) and Jori Lehtera  (upper body) will not play tonight. Chris Porter (ankle) remains out of the lineup.

- - -

Hurricanes' projected lineup:

Eric Staal-Jordan Staal-Jiri Tlusty

Nathan Gerbe-Victor Rask-Elias Lindholm

Jeff Skinner-Riley Nash-Chris Terry

Brad Malone-Jay McClement-Patrick Dwyer

Andrej Sekera-Justin Faulk

Ron Hainsey-Brett Bellemore

Tim Gleason-Ryan Murphy

Anton Khudobin will start in goal. Cam Ward will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Alexander Semin, Andrej Nestrasil and John-Michael Liles. The Hurricanes report no injuries, although Tlusty was held out of practice the past couple days and is expected to play.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Blues top Predators 5-4 in shootout

Shattenkirk winner on his birthday pulls home 
side within four points of Central Division leaders

ST. LOUIS -- Kevin Shattenkirk made the most of his 26th birthday. His father Pat was in attendance to see his son step up in a crucial moment.

Shattenkirk scored in the fourth round of the shootout to give the Blues a 5-4 victory against the Nashville Predators at Scottrade Center on Thursday. 

"You kind of go into it and think to yourself, 'There's no way you can get gypped on your birthday,'" said Shattenkirk, who is 6-for-14 career in shootouts with five of them game-winners. "It was a nice little present and happy we had the fathers here. My Dad was here to see it too."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Kevin Shattenkirk (22) scored the shootout winner for the Blues in a 5-4
victory against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.

Shattenkirk beat Nashville goalie Carter Hutton with a forehand, and Brian Elliott stopped James Neal to give the Blues their eighth win in nine games (8-0-1). St. Louis (30-13-4) ended a seven-game homestand 6-0-1.

"Luckily I get to go when there's an opportunity to go ahead by a goal and not have to tie it up. I think that's mentally a huge break when you have that opportunity. It's nice when you get to go later after the other guys go so you can see what their goalie's doing a little bit." 

Jaden Schwartz, T.J. Oshie, Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves scored in the second period for the Blues, who trailed 2-0 and moved within four points of first-place Nashville (31-10-6) in the Central Division. Oshie also scored in the shootout. 

Elliott made 33 saves for the Blues, who play at the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.

Elliott made three saves in the shootout, and got a bit of a break on Neal, who seemed to lose handle of the puck before Elliott stopped it.

"He's usually a shooter," Elliott said of Neal. "I don't think it settled down for him at the right time. Just kind of floated in on me."

"One point gained on them, but we definitely wanted the two-point game. That's why it's tough gaining ground." 

St. Louis lost left wing Patrik Berglund to an upper-body injury late in the second period, and center Jori Lehtera early in the third period to an undisclosed injury. Neither will play against Carolina but will travel, according to coach Ken Hitchcock.

"That third period, they showed they had one more game under their belt," Hitchcock said, referring to Nashville playing Tuesday. "That showed up. We looked like we had missed eight or nine days. That showed up also. 

"We were much better than they were in the first (period) and they were much better than we were in the third and the second was probably from a play standpoint a draw." 

Mike Fisher scored twice and had an assist, Neal and Filip Forsberg scored, and Roman Josi had two assists and scored a shootout goal for Nashville. Hutton made 31 saves for the Predators, who play at the Colorado Avalanche on Friday.

Neal beat Elliott from the slot off a pass from Fisher with 2:38 remaining in the third period to tie it 4-4.

Playing down two forwards allowed the Predators to attack more. They outshot the Blues 15-6.

"It looked like we ran out of gas in the third there," Elliott said. "Obviously they kept ragging it, ragging it, ragging it until they got that shot to score the fourth goal. We held in there."

The Blues took the lead with three goals in a 4:40 span of the second period, including two in 26 seconds. 

Schwartz made it 2-1 when he followed Vladimir Tarasenko's shot at 8:22. Oshie tied it 2-2 when he followed Stastny's shot at 12:36, then Ott's second goal with the Blues, off another rebound, gave the Blues a 3-2 lead at 13:02. 

Fisher's second of the game, a shorthanded goal, after a Schwartz turnover and when Elliott gave up a rebound of Josi's shot from the left point, tied the game 3-3 at 15:32. 

Reaves' slap shot from the right circle, after he stripped Predators defenseman Seth Jones in the neutral zone, beat Hutton with 1:45 remaining and gave the Blues a 4-3 lead. 

Reaves' shot resembled that of the 'Golden Brett,' who made a living with those kinds of shots.

"It was almost 16-like," Reaves joked, referring to Brett Hull. "It was probably the hardest shot 've ever taken and really leaned into it. I was just trying to get it either through him, or to 'Stas' on a 2-on-1. It worked out well."

Fisher gave the Predators a 1-0 lead, his 500th point in the NHL, on the strangest of goals. He tipped Josi's point shot, and the puck caromed off the glass behind Elliott, came back over the goal and went in off the goalie at 12:49 of the first period. 

The play was reviewed to determine that it did not hit the protective netting above the glass.

The Blues had chances in the first period to take control of the game, but Hutton was up to the task with multiple key saves. In the end, the Blues got the two points they needed against the team in front of them in the division.

"The first period we played was terrific," Hitchcock said. "We had eight scoring chances or seven scoring chances to one or two or whatever. Couldn't get ourselves any gap in it, couldn't finish there." 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Marcel Goc (57) made his Blues debut on Thursday.

"I thought we played hard," said Oshie, who has 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in 13 games. "They're a great team and they made a pretty strong push at the end there. Unfortunately, they got a point out of us, but when a team puts that much pressure on you, one's bound to go in. 

"I thought we recovered really well, I thought we did well in OT."

Now with the Blues down two forwards heading into their game at Carolina, the fourth line guys (Ott, Reaves and newcomer Marcel Goc) will be called upon for big minutes. Goc won 13 of 18 faceoffs and played 12:56 in his debut.

"We got really good minutes from Goc, we got really good minutes from 'Otter' and we got great minutes from 'Revo' again," Hitchcock said. "This is two or three games in a row now where Revo's played outstanding, deserves more ice time and with the two injuries, he's going to get it." 

* NOTES -- Goalie Martin Brodeur, who announced his retirement earlier in the day Thursday, dropped the ceremonial first puck. ... With one goal from Oshie and an assist from David Backes, the line with Alexander Steen extended its point run to 55 in 13 games. Backes extended his point streak to eight games (seven goals, eight assists), while Steen saw his point streak come to an end at 10 (seven goals, 11 assists). ... Hitchcock's 154th victory with the Blues moves him into second place on the all-time franchise list. He trails Joel Quenneville, who had 307.

(1-29-15) Predators-Blues Gameday Lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Newest Blue Marcel Goc has been in this position before.

When the Blues and Central Division rival Nashville Predators face each other on Thursday, it will be the 31-year-old center's fifth NHL team. But the shock of being traded never wears off.

Goc, who was traded to the Blues from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for center Maxim Lapierre on Tuesday, will play when the Blues host the Predators.

Goc will play with Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves on the Blues' fourth line.

"I was a little shocked; it came a little surprising, but the more I start to think about it, this was really good," Goc said. "It got more and more exciting and I'm happy to be here and looking forward to tonight.

"It was always really tough to play against (the Blues). They're a really tight-checking team. If you get chances, you usually have to earn them or do a couple good plays in a row. That's what made them tough to beat."

The easiest transition for Goc and one that made the trade easier was that he was going from one contending team in Pittsburgh to another in St. Louis.

"They have great guys that can make that transition done," Goc said of his newest teammates. He's never been a teammate of anyone on the Blues roster in the past. If you have a switch, you want to go to a team that's up there as a competitor.

"... I just knew guys from playing against them," Goc added. "Steve was the one I know most. When I came in the League with San Jose, he was in Dallas. I saw him every other day."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said there shouldn't be much difficulty for Goc to transition into a new system.

"I think you've got to decide how much information he already has from the system the other team played," Hitchcock said. "We're lucky because Pittsburgh uses the same terminology, the same system of plays. So there's not going to be a big adjustment. And then it's just getting used to his linemates. 

We're not going to over-play Marcel. We're going to just weed him in. The biggest change is when we get into penalty killing and see how he does it because that's probably the biggest difference. Pittsburgh kills a little bit different than we do. ... He'll be a good add for our group."

- - -

After announcing his retirement Thursday morning, Martin Brodeur will drop the ceremonial first puck tonight prior to the Blues (29-13-4) and Predators (31-10-5). Puck drop is 7 p.m. on FS-MW and KMOX 1120-AM.

- - -

The Blues' probable lineup:

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

Patrik Berglund-Paul Stastny-Dmitrij Jaskin

Steve Ott-Marcel Goc-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman-Ian Cole

Brian Elliott will get the start in goal. Jake Allen will be the backup.

Healthy scratches include Joakim Lindstrom and Chris Butler. Chris Porter (ankle) had his cast removed and is walking around but still remains out indefinitely.

- - -

The Predators' probable lineup:

Filip Forsberg-Mike Ribeiro-Craig Smith

Colin Wilson-Mike Fisher-James Neal

Matt Cullen-Calle Jarnkrok-Gabriel Bourque

Eric Nystrom-Paul Gaustad-Olli Jokinen

Roman Josi-Shea Weber

Mattias Ekholm-Seth Jones

Anton Volchenkov-Victor Bartley

Carter Hutton will get the start in goal. Marek Mazanec will be the backup.

Forward Taylor Beck is a healthy scratch. Pekka Rinne (knee) and Ryan Ellis (lower body) are out indefinitely.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blues trade for Goc fills a need, according to Armstrong

GM likes newcenter's ability to add "stability" to 
fourth line; more reaction on Brodeur retirement

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Both Blues general manager Doug Armstrong and coach Ken Hitchcock, in a roundabout way, liken the trade that sent Maxim Lapierre to the Pittsburgh Penguins that brought back in return Marcel Goc to the trade the Blues made over the summer with the Toronto Maple Leafs involving defensemen Carl Gunnarsson and Roman Polak.

Both teams had a need and traded away players that were valuable to them but ones they were willing to part with at the time to fill that void.
(Pittsburgh Penguins photo)
Newest Blues center Marcel Goc was acquired Tuesday
from Pittsburgh in exchange for Maxim Lapierre.

The trade Tuesday involving Goc and Lapierre is not of the same magnitude as the Blues-Maple Leafs deal, but it falls in line with the same thought that both teams traded for players that fill an area both felt they lacked.

For the Blues, getting the 31-year-old Goc gives them a player that plays a safe game without as much reckless play as Lapierre gave them. 

Both are similar in that they are bottom-line centers, both are decent on face-offs, and they both play important roles on the penalty kill.

The change for the Blues allowed Lapierre's former linemates (Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves) to play with more of a reckless edge knowing they have a buffer in Goc, who plays more closer to the vest.

"The one area, I think it's going to free Ott and Reaves up to be a little more reckless down on the forecheck," Armstrong said. "Marcel is a very confident, very established player and very responsible and I think it's going to allow maybe our forecheck to be a little more intense off the wings.

"It just adds a little bit of stability to that line. ... Sometimes in the games, we saw we were getting caught giving up odd-man rushes and all three players, Lappy, Reaves and Ott really like to get in on the forecheck. I think this is going to give us a little more reliability at that center position. It's a small trade. I think Pittsburgh was looking for the exact opposite, a little more recklessness from that position. We were looking for a little less recklessness and a little more stability. I think it's a deal that both sides think they're getting a little better in their needs."

Hitchcock admitted he had three players that played with an aggressive edge and perhaps needed someone mixed in that can provide some safe avenues.

"It's a different type of player than Lappy was," Hitchcock said. "Lappy was a hunter and very good at it. He was a strong forechecking player, very good at it. Goc manages the ice in a different way. ... This is kind of a small trade that can help both teams. Pittsburgh needed a certain element in their team to enhance their fourth line and we felt we needed something different on our team to enhance the guys that we have playing on the fourth line. 

"One of the things we had going for us is we loved the energy of the fourth line, but when you looked at scoring chances for and against, they were exactly the same every night. So we were giving up and getting at the same pace. This allows us to have the two guys that play there be hunters and then we have a guy that's backing up the hunting and playing that 'in-between-the-dots' role that we think we need from that position."

Lapierre was a popular guy in the locker room. He was one of the more lively, jovial players that kept everyone loose and always smiled. T.J. Oshie said Wednesday he and Lapierre had their respective daughters in music class together, but from a linemate standpoint, it will be an adjustment for both Ott and Reaves.

"It's tough to lose him, I've played with him for two years," Reaves said of Lapierre. "We had good chemistry together, but management saw a change needed to be made. I think (Goc) is a little more defensive than Lappy. I think we had three reckless players, and sometimes it worked out and sometimes it didn't.

"I think if the centerman stays a little more at home, I think it allows me and 'Otter' to play the way that we usually do. Not to say that Lappy wasn't responsible, but I think Pittsburgh was looking for a guy a little more reckless and we were looking for a guy that stayed at home a little more."

"(Goc) is a good player," Ott said. "I've played against him going back to (when Goc was with San Jose and Ott was in Dallas). He is a very reliable player. He's hard to play against and coming in with me and 'Revo' obviously it will take some time to adjust and figure each other out quickly. But in doing so, he's a good veteran player that should be able to read off us easy and build on that chemistry." 

Unlike Lapierre, who was confined to the team's fourth line, Goc is someone the Blues can move around in the lineup if needed.

"I know you can bounce him up and play him in the three-hole if you needed it and if you had injuries and stuff like that," Hitchcock said of Goc. "It gives probably a little more flexibility.

"I think the biggest difference is you've got a player who demands the puck. From our standpoint, that's what we needed. We needed a player by the way be played his position, he demanded the puck, whether it's from a defenseman or a winger whereas Lappy played a very strong territorial game. Lappy wanted the puck once it got below the hash marks in the offensive zone, but before that, he wanted to play a territorial game and we just felt like what we needed was to find little bit more puck  control so we're hopeful we can do this and see where it goes."

* More reaction on Brodeur -- The mood around the Blues and Hitchcock on Wednesday was one of peace and relief all rolled into one.

With news of Martin Brodeur's retirement to become official Thursday, players are sad to lose a teammate they barely knew but respected the heck out of, but on the other hand, happy to have Brodeur on board in a front office position.

"I've never learned so much in two months from a single guy," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "The knowledge of the game he has on the offensive side, the defensive side, just in general, it's  pretty impressive. 

"It's tough to see him retire, a guy of that stature who's had a lot of success in his career. We're glad to have him."

Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who grew up watching Brodeur as a kid, agreed.

"To have the opportunity to really see him at a young age and see him walk in the locker room for me was a cool experience for me," said Shattenkirk, a New Rochelle, N.Y. native. "He's the greatest goalie that's ever played, and really just to say you've been able to play with him and get to know him as a person is a fun experience. He brought a lot of knowledge to our locker room and the short time that we had him is still going to be beneficial for us.

"... He's a guy that's accomplished everything, and that's not something that many people can say they've done."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Martin Brodeur will announce his retirement from the NHL on Thursday.

Hitchcock has lobbied for Brodeur to stay with the Blues in any capacity, and when he learned of Brodeur's decision to remain with the organization was music to Hitchcock's ears.

"The impact he had here was very positive, very helpful of every aspect of the competition side, whether it was the coaching staff, the scouting part of goalies, the players themselves, the trainers, he had a real positive impact," Hitchcock said. "He appreciated every day he was here and it showed in his personality. It was really absorbed in a positive way by the players.

"Moving forward with me, Marty's got this volume of knowledge of winning that  everybody wants to tap into. You can gain 12 months of knowledge in a coffee  for an hour with him, and that's what we're looking from him; just picking his brain, talking to him about what he sees. He observes things that a lot of people don't have the knowledge to observe."

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Lapierre traded to Penguins for Goc; Elliott's 
All-Star journey, wife's idea for selfie; goalie rotation

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues made a trade in a swap of fourth-line centers on Tuesday night.

The Blues traded Maxim Lapierre to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Marcel Goc.

Goc is a 31-year-old center who has 11 years of NHL experience playing for the San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and Penguins. The Blues will be his fifth team.

Goc has two goals and four assists in 43 games with the Penguins this season, including an assist in a 5-3 victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.

In 605 games, the Cawl, Germany native 74 goals and 185 points. 

Lapierre, 29, was in the final season of a two-year, $2.2 million contract with the Blues and was the regular fourth-line center playing mostly between Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves. Lapierre has two goals and nine points this season and like Goc, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Lapierre has 65 goals and 137 points in 579 games with the Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks and Blues.

Goc's salary cap hit is $1.2 million this season, while Lapierre's is $1.1 million.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong will address the trade Wednesday morning after the team's practice at St. Louis Outlet Mall.

* Elliott's All-Star journey -- Blues goalie Brian Elliott and wife Amanda were basking in the fun and sun on the island of Turks and Caicos last week as the Blues were given a six-day break before reconvening for the post All-Star schedule.

But even before Elliott got that call from Armstrong that he was chosen as a replacement for injured Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

"We were kind of laughing the night before we got the call," Elliott said of he and his wife. "I wondered if they were going to bring anybody knew in. There's already two goalies that had been replaced already."

Elliott did get the call, and 2,238-plus plane miles later, Elliott was in Columbus for his second-career All-Star Game having to cut the life in the sun short.

"It was a little bit of a whirlwind," Elliott said. "I saw on Twitter that Bobrovsky got hurt and didn't know how bad it was or anything like that. ... I woke up in the morning (Thursday), went on a boat tour, did some snorkeling and everything, had a good morning and afternoon, came home, saw a text because my phone was connected to the wifi. We had all Thursday night after that and enjoyed it, watched the sun go down on the beach and next morning, you make your way to Columbus. Little bit of a tough travel day, but when you get there and be part of something like that ... it's a little bit of a milestone in your career that you can say that you're part of something like that. I could never turn something like that down.

"When you're there (in Turks and Caicos), you're probably thinking, 'Well, it's pretty nice here,' but in 20 years when you're looking back, what are you going to remember more, the day on the beach or being in an All-Star Game? It's something that you can hang that jersey on your wall and be proud of it and just have fun with it."

Reaves commended Elliott for finding his way from Turks and Caicos, to Miami, to St. Louis to get his equipment and off to Columbus -- all in one day.

But ... 

"Mmmmm, yeeeaaahhh, I probably would have showed up before the game," Reaves said with an extended deep breath. "I would have got as much Turks and Caicos in me as I could. I would have strolled in dressed right to the game.

"His numbers are up there with the best in the league, so there's no doubt in my mind he should have been there. With an injury, without an injury, I thought he was definitely an all-star caliber goalie."

Elliott made the best of the situation when he arrived at Nationwide Arena. He wasn't on hand Friday night for the draft, but did take part in the Skills Competition and received tons of notoriety for the selfie he took during the breakaway contest with he and teammate Vladimir Tarasenko. He also used one of the target plates used in the shooting accuracy contest in his glove for Tarasenko to hit.

"My wife came up with the selfie thing," Elliott said. "The target thing, I was going to do a bunch of stuff; take off all my equipment and lay it down so he can deke around it and stuff. Only so much time and so many things you can think of at the time, but hopefully ... I don't know, it would be fun to do that one again actually. It's a tough game to get voted back into.

"Nobody really wants to do that one, so I was like, 'Nobody wants to do that one for sure because I'm the last guy,' so we started planning and were trying to think up different ideas. Got Vladi in on it and he was more than happy to play along. ... I'm getting a lot of imitation poses of kids on the ice with their friends doing the same (selfie) pose. It's kind of funny; it's kind of the Ellen thing, the Oscars. It was front page news in the Toronto Sun back home. That's pretty big for a Toronto kid."

Tarasenko was more than happy to take part.

"Ells was like, 'I have a pretty good idea for you'" Tarasenko said. "... I was a little nervous about doing it right but it was good; it was fun. The target was nice. Puck stayed in the glove. 

"It was really cool. It was really great experience. For me, it was being with the guys like (Tyler) Seguin and especially guys from Chicago who we have a big rival with, guys who were with me like (Jonathan) Toews, (Corey) Crawford, (Brent) Seabrook. Those are pretty good guys. Duncan Keith talk with me also. It's good to find out that they respect you and you respect them. There, you can be like normal guys. Everybody was really friendly."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who could have opted to see Elliott take the time off to rest the knee he sprained in November, was more than happy to see him take part in the festivities.

"One of the things that's impressive about Ells is the respect he has for the game," Hitchcock said. "He did this out of respect for the game and he's a humble guy. That's the part you appreciate. He could have blown it off, just stayed where he was at, but out of respect for the game, I think he did what all of us hoped somebody would do. He was the guy that did it, so that's the impressive part to me. Just out of respect for what getting that call means, it paid off."

As for the game, Elliott allowed six goals on 15 shots in the third period to Team Toews, which won 17-12 against Elliott's Team Foligno. Needless to say, the All-Star Game is not meant to pad goalies' statistics.

"There's no way you're excited about going out there," Elliott joked. "That 20 minutes feels like three games. You're just waiting for the clock to count down. You try not to cover (the puck) to stop the clock, but some of the goals that go in, noone's really going full-out and the defense is definitely not going full-out. They still pull off some crazy moves."

* Goalie rotation -- Hitchcock made mapped out his plan for goalie usage for the next three games. 

The Blues (29-13-4), who resume their schedule Thursday at home to wrap up a seven-game homestand against the Predators, will use Elliott in goal, then Jake Allen will get the game Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes and Elliott will come back and play against the Washington Capitals.

"He's just getting up to speed now," Hitchcock said of Elliott. "I think it's different for an older goalie; I was talking to Ells about that. I don't think it bothers a younger guy as much as it does an older guy. If you're an older guy, you need to get your mind and body up and running again. 

"Brian, because of the injury and because of this six-game break, seems to have started and stopped so keeping him going, I think is important. But we've got so many games, we've got to have both guys going here now."

* Notes -- The Blues were on the ice Tuesday for the second of three practice days before resuming their schedule Thursday, are doing all they can to take advantage of the down time between games. Because once the schedule resumes, the boots will be laced up for what starts as nine games in 15 days.

And the Blues want to take advantage of this time.

"I think a little bit," Elliott said. "We definitely want to take advantage of them. It's as much as you get out of it as you put in. We had a good skate today. You get those tired legs and you've got to work through that and you have time to work through that these couple days. Sometimes you don't, and you go right back into the games. That's the tough part. We have time to work through those tired legs, get the train rolling again and try to keep the steam engine going."

Hitchcock had to call the troops to a group a couple times to talk about tempo and flow on the ice, which all teams are trying to recapture after the lengthy break.

"We're pushing ... we're pushing more for the tempo, to try and get the tempo as high as we can and get as many ... I told the players (Monday) we've got to really take advantage of these days," Hitchcock said. "We're the team that has time on our hands, so we've got to really take advantage of it and really push the tempo. Tempo, execution, try to practice as fast as we can and in as many game-like situations, putting details in. I'm really harping on getting up and down the ice as fast as we can. We'll stay on that these for tomorrow and get ready to play. There's a lot of teams who had one practice yesterday and get to play tonight. We get three days of hammering away on each other."

. . . Hitchcock said that forward Chris Porter had his cast removed from his injured ankle and Porter is, "walking around normal and we'll have more knowledge for you next Monday."