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Tag:St. Louis Blues
Posted on: November 1, 2011 2:32 pm
 

Handing out some first month grades

octgrades

By: Adam Gretz

The first month of the NHL season is in the books and we're still trying to figure out which teams are good, which teams are bad and which hot start is for real and which one is simply an early season mirage. Let's check in with a progress report on some notable players and teams for the month of October.

Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs: Let's pretend, just hypothetically, that Phil Kessel is able stay near the top of the NHL's scoring list all.

Now, you shouldn't expect him to maintain his current pace (his shooting percentage is currently 26 percent -- that's probably not sustainable for a full season), but what if he were to do something completely unexpected like, say, win the NHL's scoring title and help lead the Maple Leafs to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. Would that do anything to change your opinion of the the trade that brought him to Toronto? Should it? Brian Burke has already said Boston won the trade because it has a Stanley Cup, but that trade -- which landed the Bruins two first-round draft picks, including a No. 2 overall selection used on Tyler Seguin, and a second-round pick -- had little to do with that championship. Seguin played about 12 minutes a game and scored 11 goals during the regular season, and only appeared in two postseason series. It's not like he was the driving force behind that cup run. The steep price Toronto paid still overshadow the fact that Kessel is a pretty darn good (three straight years of 30-plus goals) player and still only 24 years of age.

Even if he doesn't maintain this current pace he's been the most dangerous offensive player in the NHL this season and one of the biggest reasons the Maple Leafs are off to their best start in a decade, and that's worthy of a top-grade for the first month.

Other players and teams earning A's for the month of October

Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings) -- had one of the best months of any goaltender in the NHL, including three consecutive shutouts; James Neal (Pittsburgh Penguins) -- for a Penguins team that continues to deal with injuries, Neal has been their best overall player and looks to be the young goal-scoring winger they've been searching for for years; Nikolai Khabibulin (Edmonton Oilers) -- He leads the NHL in save percentage and goals against average for what has been, so far, the toughest team in the NHL to score against; and the Dallas Stars -- winners of eight of their first 11 games, thanks in large part to the play of Kari Lehtonen.

Ottawa Senators: For the first two weeks of the season the Ottawa Senators looked to be every bit as awful as they were expected to be.

Over the next two weeks? They won six games in a row and end the month two game over .500. Even through the awful stretch to start the season the Senators were impressive with their determination to never quit in a game, regardless of the score, resulting in acouple of late come-from-behind victories (against Minnesota and the Rangers).

They've been outscored 27-15 over the first two periods but have outscored their opponents 21-18 in the third period. It's not likely they'll be able to continue to rely on huge third period comebacks to get wins, and they're going to have to start getting some better starts in games so they're not constantly trying to play catch up, but a 7-5 record at this point is more than could have (or should have) been expected.

Other players and teams earning B's for the month of October

Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators) -- He's been the best player on a Nashville team that is losing the possession battle just about every single night and is facing more shots than any other goaltender in the league. He's keeping the Predators in it while they search for some offense; Jaromir Jagr (Philadelphia Flyers) -- Three years away from the NHL and at 39 years of age Jagr opened the season and showed everybody that he can still play at the highest level with a point-per-game pace for the Flyers.

Detroit Red Wings: The A-plus honor student that brings home the rare and unexpected C. You know they can do better, and you expect them to do better. (And they will do better.) But after starting the season 5-0 the Red Wings dropped four in a row by a combined margin of 16-4. That streak includes a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of the Washington Capitals, a game that was followed by a 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets for their first victory of the season. Their defense definitely took a hit when Brian Rafalski retired over the summer, and they're not the defensive stalwart they were a few years ago, but they should be better than they've looked over the first month.

Other players and teams earning C's for the month of October

Montreal Canadiens -- Injuries to their defense, as well as top forward Michael Cammalleri, didn't help, but a rather uninspiring start for the Canadiens that only started to turn around when an assistant coach was forced to take the fall.

Ville Leino, Buffalo Sabres: Terry Pegula spent a ton of money this summer in an effort to make the Sabres a Stanley Cup contender, and one of his biggest investments, Ville Leino, has been a complete non-factor through the first month of the season. In 10 games the 28-year-old Leino has scored just one goal to go with one assist and has recorded just five shots on goal, or one every other game. He's definitely talented, but based on what he's actually produced at the NHL level the six-year, $27 million contract was, at the very least, one hell of a gamble. And so far it's a losing one.

Other plays and teams earning D's for the month of October

 Jaroslav Halak (St. Louis Blues) -- And he's probably right on the line between D and F. Let's just say this: the only goaltender in the NHL that has a worse save percentage entering November is Ottawa's backup, Alex Auld.

Columbus Blue Jackets: An offseason with such excitement and a season that seemed to have so much promise was opened with … the worst start in franchise history and the worst record in the NHL. There is obviously time to turn it around -- and I still believe the Jackets can -- and the two big offseason acquisitions have been limited so far, which isn't helping things. James Wisniewski was suspended for the first eight games of the regular season, while Jeff Carter, acquired from the Flyers, was limited to just five games in October due to a foot injury, scoring zero goals. Still … the worst start in franchise history?

Other players and teams earning F's for the month of October

The Boston Bruins -- Defending champs with the second-worst record in the league.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 30, 2011 2:44 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 10:33 pm
 

Weekend wrap: Bruins' slow start staggers on

By Brian Stubits

Before the season, there was a lot of lip service given to the Stanley Cup hangover. While I could see the thinking behind it, I wasn't sure I believed it would really have a negligible effect.

While it could be pure coincidence, I'm beginning to believe in the power -- or more appropriately pain -- of the hangover. That's because the Boston Bruins are 3-7 to start the season after being swept in a home-and-home by the not-long-ago struggling Canadiens (by the way, that's three straight wins since the Habs axed assistant Perry Pearn). For those keeping track at home, that's good enough to be last in not only the Northeast Division, but the Eastern Conference.

“Honestly, this is so frustrating,” defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said after Saturday's 4-2 loss in Montreal. “I don’t know. It’s like we can’t buy a break right now and we just keep getting deeper. We need to turn this around.”

Maybe this is a team that used up all of its breaks last season.

But I didn't see this hangover coming this harsh to start the season. I mean, this is the kind I'd get in college when I'd sleep through breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I was a believer in Boston last season, picking them to win the Cup before the playoffs began. I'm a sucker for plus/minus stats for teams, and nobody was better than Boston in that category a season ago. I took that as a sign of quality balance and partly the product of Tim Thomas' career year.

Thomas hasn't been the problem this year, even if he's not living up to the standard of a year ago. But nobody, and I repeat nobody, expected that season again. It was record-setting as far as save percentage goes, the best in NHL history. That's tough to repeat.

No, instead it's been the offense. It's a group that doesn't seem to possess any elite scorers, but as the playoffs showed, there are numerous guys who are good enough. They have just 22 goals in 10 games. Defensively, there 25 goals allowed is the second lowest total in the East behind only Buffalo.

Claude Julien has tried to fix the issue. There has been line mixing. The team's best player has been sophomore Tyler Seguin, who has four goals and six points. Only five players have at least five points through 10 games.

For his part, GM Peter Chiarelli is not panicking yet. Why would he? This current roster is almost exactly the same as the one that won the championship a few months ago. Obviously it is good enough. But Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com reported that Chiarelli might be working the phones already, trying to perhaps find a player to come in and inject some life into Boston.

“I’m always working the phones, but I am a little more diligent these days," Chiarelli told ESPN.com on Thursday.

This is the part where we normally remind you that we're only 10 games into the season. There is still a lot of time for the B's to wake up and defend their Cup in earnest. But it's also worth noting that the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference are looking better this season.

They can't afford to sleep in too long until the headache goes away.

Any be-Leafers now?

When do you start believing in what the Toronto Maple Leafs are doing? Ron Wilson's crew is 7-3-1 begin the year. The last three games, including Saturday's OT win over the Penguins, have been with starting goaltender James Reimer injured. They did get tripped up by the Sens on Sunday night in a great game.

We chuckled at the uber optimism Leafs fans were feeling with the quick start and statements such as Phil Kessel is headed for Wayne Gretzky numbers. Now there is a bigger sample size of 10 games and Kessel has 10 goals with eight assists. It's still a small sample size, however it's easier to take big projections. Don't expect Gretzky numbers, but it could be a monster season nonetheless.

Speaking of monsters, Jonas Gustavsson has fared certainly well enough in Reimer's absence. With Reimer sidelined for a little bit, this was Gustavsson's chance to show he could handle the backup duties himself. So far so good. He was good enough on Saturday for Ron Wilson -- one of the few coaches on Twitter -- to pronoune him the starter for Sunday night's game against Ottawa, a loss.

"Great win. Monster was huge and gets start tomorrow. Komo keeps getting better. Dion and Phil are the best at their positions in NHL!"

If nothing else, let's just say it's time to take Toronto a little more seriously.

Streaking Senators

Raise your hand if you saw the Senators winning six games by Thanksgiving before the season began.

Forget Thanksgiving, the Sens have won six games in their last six outings after a great comeback win over the Rangers on Saturday and then a solid win over the Maple Leafs on Sunday. Things seem to be coming together quickly.

It doesn't come as much of a surprise, but Jason Spezza has been his usual spectacular self. He has 15 points through 12 games (7-8=15). But also joining him in the better-than-a-point-per-game pace are Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson, who has an NHL-high 12 assists.

Before the season, a lot of folks had the Senators as the preseason favorites for the Nail Yakupov (top draft prospect) sweepstakes. While they still could be, they are at least giving the fans some fun along the way.

A Star is born

Has anybody noticed what Kari Lehtonen is doing in Dallas? Judging by the attendance, the majority of the Metroplex hasn't.

The Stars are 8-3-0 after Saturday's 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. In those 11 games, Lehtonen is 8-1. He carries a goals against average of 1.75. He has been simply stellar for a team now being led not by Brad Richards, but instead by a bevy of young guns and veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray.

Lehtonen is at that magical age in sports when they are supposedly at their peak, 27. After playing in 69 games a season ago, he looks ready to carry the load again this season.

Just another quality goalie from Finland. Ho hum.

As for the attendance? Well Saturday night only 11.740 were announced to be in the stands to witness the win. I understood the reasons for low attendance numbers earlier this season, baseball's Rangers were fighting for the World Series and, well, the Stars lost their big star in the offseason. But with this kind of start and the Rangers now done, I hoped to see more than 11,740 in the crowd. Baby steps, I guess. Baby steps. If the Stars keep winning, they will come.

Night Caps

The Washington Capitals took on the Vancouver Canucks in the Saturday night cap and it didn't last long for Tomas Vokoun. The Capitals goalie gave up three first-period goals, two of them being on Canucks power plays, and was pulled by coach Bruce Boudreau to start the second.

The reason? Boudreau wanted to give the team a spark. Well, his Caps did come back to the tie game, but it all got away from them again in a 7-4 loss. (On a side note, a four-goal performance won't do much to change the Canucks fans' feelings about Roberto Luongo either.)

Some are seeing it as a deal. Boudreau said Vokoun wasn't particularly sharp. Vokoun said he felt fine.

But I'd like to point out that Vokoun had played every game since Michal Neuvirth was given the opening-night start. If nothing else, Vokoun deserved a break.

We're going streaking!

As already mentioned, the Ottawa Senators now have a six-game winning streak going. But they're not alone.

The San Jose Sharks have also won five in a row. More impressively, all five of those games were on the road, including Saturday's shootout win over the Islanders and a win on Friday over the Red Wings.

Speaking of Detroit, it has lost four games in row since beginning the year 5-0. Maybe that 7-1 beatdown at the hands of the Capitals sent them into a funk?

The Islanders are also in an early tailspin. Make that five losses in a row for them after Saturday's loss to San Jose.

Last but certainly not least, the Edmonton Oilers are very quietly in first place in the Northwest Division, surpassing the Colorado Avalanche. That's because the Oilers have won five games in a row after weekend wins over the Avalanche on Friday and Blues on Sunday. The Kids in the Hall are getting a lot of attention for that, but Nikolai Khabibuln has been spectacular.

Quote of the weekend

Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen was very happy with his team's 3-2 comeback win over the Sabres on Saturday night. He took it as a chance to talk a little, umm, anatomy.

Let's just say he appreciated the marbles his team showed by scoring twice in the final four minutes for the win.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 21, 2011 1:32 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 5:57 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Will Trotz lose it? Wings-Caps

By Brian Stubits

The Barry Trotz tour of tantrums continues with a stop in Calgary on Saturday to conclude the Predators' first Western Canada swing of the season.

If you haven't been paying attention to the Predators for the past week, you've been missing out. Not so much with their play -- Nashville enters Calgary on a four-game losing streak and a minus-7 on the season -- but from Trotz, the well-renowned head coach for the Preds. He has been less-than pleased about his team's recent performance and hasn't been afraid to tell everybody.

After the Predators lost to the Oilers 3-1, Trotz was clearly upset, saying the team had to "start from scratch." But the majority of the sound bite came from Jarred Smithson, who undoubtedly echoed Trotz's frustration.

"It’s not one guy, it’s not two guys, it’s the whole group. Pekka [Rinne] is the exception. He’s the only guy playing his balls off right now and if it wasn’t for him, we don’t have any points. I don’t know what to say about tonight, it was terrible.”

Oh, but the fun was only just beginning. Because Thursday night brought about a 5-1 loss to the Canucks in Vancouver and more Trotz frustration. A lot more. (Quotes courtesy of Twitter feed from Joshua Cooper of the Tennessean)

His assessment of rookie Mattias Ekholm? "I thought he was horrible, just horrible." Ouch.

How about his feelings on his younger players having to go up against the likes of the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler and the rest of the Canucks? “You’re going to have to line up against the best in the league, if you’re scared of that, get a dog.”

Finally, he took the time to thank Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. Seriously. "“I want to thank Alain Vigneault for not playing his top two lines the last 10 minutes.”

Making matters worse before they face Calgary, it looks like they will be without star defenseman and Norris candidate Shea Weber after the hit he laid on Jannik Hansen of the Canucks. That won't help the struggling offense get any better.

The Predators better hope they show up with a better effort in Calgary or it might be a lot of bag skates coming their way.

Somebody's got to lose

There are only two remaining unbeaten teams in the NHL, and they will meet on Saturday. Hopefully they will both be perfect as that makes for one delicious matchup.

The Capitals are sitting at 6-0-0 for the first time in franchise history of their 5-2 win over the Flyers on Thursday. So they enter the battle against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday in Washington unblemished.

The Red Wings will have to go through the winless Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night first, but considering the struggling Jackets will be without Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski, you have to like Detroit's chances.

One thing to keep an eye on, Detroit is the only team in the league not to have played five games entering Friday. They're last game came a week ago Saturday against the Wild. So the legs are as fresh as they can get.

Brotherly love

The Carolina Hurricanes have a pretty famous hockey brother on their team. Captain Eric Staal gets chances to reunite with siblings whenever he plays against the Penguins (Jordan) and Rangers (Marc) while his youngest brother (Jared) is in the Hurricanes farm system.

But Friday night will bring about another sibling rivalry for the 'Canes. When they take on the Blues in St. Louis, Anthony Stewart will go up against his brother Chris Stewart. It marks the first time the brothers will play in an NHL game against each other.

"I'm excited," Chris said. "I felt like it's been a long time and a long time overdue. We went for dinner [Wednesday] night, and I'm sure we'll go for dinner again tonight. I look forward to tomorrow."

"It's a big day for our family. They're going to be watching," Anthony said. "They're not going to make it in, but they're definitely excited and the buddies back home are texting us asking if we're going to fight. We'll be fighting on the score sheet. That's probably about it."

Here's their shot

Let's just assume the Red Wings take care of the Blue Jackets on Friday night. Seems like a pretty safe bet. So they will be 0-6-1 headed into Saturday, their final game without Wisniewski. They will have a very winnable game in Ottawa against the Senators.

Ottawa is a league-worst minus-11 on the season, tied with Winnipeg at the bottom of the league. The Sens have given up 31 goals in seven games, that's more than four per game.

If they can't get the win in Ottawa, then you really have to wonder how long it will be. After playing the Senators, Columbus will play Detroit (4-0-0) at home, go to Buffalo (5-1-0) and Chicago (4-1-1), play the Ducks (4-1-0) and Maple Leafs (4-1-1), visit Philadelphia (4-1-1) then host Chicago again. Finally, they'll get a reprieve and face the Jets at home.

Columbus could sure use one or both of the games this weekend.

Mile(stone) marker

San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton will play in his 1,000th career game this weekend when his team plays the Devils Friday night in New Jersey. Then on Saturday he'll play No. 1,001 in Boston, the city where he began his career.

Thornton was a member of the Bruins from 1997 until the 2005-06 season when he was sent to the Sharks for Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart.

To show how good he's been throughout his career, here's a stat courtesy of fellow Eye On Hockey blogger Adam Gretz (@agretz on Twitter): Only five players have at least two 90-assists seasons: Joe Thornton is one of them. The others: [Wayne] Gretzky, [Mario] Lemieux, [Bobby] Orr, and Adam Oates.

"It goes by incredibly fast," Thornton said. "As a young guy everybody says enjoy it because it goes by very quickly. It sure does. Now I'm the older guy telling the younger guys."

Of course with all his accomplishments, including the Art Ross and Hart trophies in 2005-06, he's missing the biggest one, the Stanley Cup. That's the goal this season, but the Sharks are slow out of the gate.

"We're obviously 1-3 in the standings but I feel we've played pretty well," he said. "Just stay positive and start getting some points."

Quick start

Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick has himself quite a little streak going. He has recorded back-to-back shutouts, one against the Blues, the other vs. the Coyotes on Thursday night.

Assuming he gets the start on Saturday back home in Los Angeles, he'll get a stern test from the Dallas Stars, who are off to a quick start themselves.

They come into the weekend in Tinsel town with a 5-1-0 record and will not only face Quick's Kings, but first must go through the 4-1-0 Ducks on Friday. Throw in the Sharks' potential and the Pacific Division might be on its way to being a monster this season.

There will be some good hockey in Southern California this weekend, so enjoy.

Southeast Winnipeg

The most awkward divisional alignment begins this weekend when the Jets will host the Hurricanes. It is Winnipeg's first taste as a member of the Southeast Division, an arrangement that is just a touch unnatural, something that will be remedied before next season.

Hockey night indeed

It's always worthwhile when the Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens do battle. They played the first game of the season (get the honor thanks to Boston's pregame Cup ceremony) and will have Part II on Saturday in Montreal.

Let's play two

We'll also have a pair of division leaders doing battle for the second time in three days. The surprising Colorado Avalanche, a perfect 5-0 on the road this season, will be in Chicago to face the Blackhawks on Saturday night. Chicago won the opening game of the home-and-home series, beating the Avs 3-1 on Thursday.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 18, 2011 4:01 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:38 pm
 

Nashville's power outage on offense

BT1

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: a look at how the Nashville Predators are being dominated on the shot charts.

By: Adam Gretz

The Nashville Predators lost to the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 on Monday night. It was a game that saw them generate just 12 shots on goal, with only eight of them coming in even strength situations. Against any team that would be a shockingly low series of numbers.

Against a young, inexperienced team like the Oilers, a team with serious question marks on its defense (and without its best defenseman, Ryan Whitney) and with a second-year goaltender, Devan Dubnyk, occupying the crease, it's downright stunning.

And it's been a problem all season for the Predators.

A few things to consider:

1) The Predators have been out-shot in every single game they've played this season, and in five games have managed just 115 shots on goal, an average of just 23 per-game, the second worst mark in the league. Calgary is the only team averaging fewer.

2) Only 84 of those shots have come in even strength situations, while Nashville has scored just six of its 14 goals during 5-on-5 play. The Predators have been out-shot 139-84 in even strength situations so far, and been out-scored 9-6.

Here's a game-by-game breakdown that illustrates just how much the ice has been tilted against the Predators so far.

(Shots Att = Shots on goal+missed shots+shots blocked; SOG = Shots on goal; ES SOG = Even strength Shots on goal)

Nashville's Negative Shot Differential
Opponent NSH Shots Att. NSH SOG NSH ES SOG OPP Shots Att. OPP SOG OPP ES SOG
Columbus Blue Jackets 45 31 27 70 34 31
St. Louis Blues 35 16 9 68 33 27
Phoenix Coyotes 36 25 16 57 31 30
New Jersey Devils 48 31 24 67 41 32
Edmonton Oilers 27 12 8 57 25 19
Totals 191 115 84 319 164 139

Yes, in two games this season the Predators failed to record at least 10 shots on goal at even strength.

Basically, the Predators are being dominated when it comes to offensive zone time, as their opponents are keeping them bottled up in their own end of the ice, as shown by the fact their opponents have managed to attempt 319 shots to Nashville's 191.  And that's not exactly a who's who list of the NHL's power house offenses. If you're a Predators fan, thank goodness for Pekka Rinne, because he's facing a shooting gallery every time he steps on the ice, and according to some of the post-game comments on Monday, he's the only player that's getting any praise in the music city.

He's also probably the only reason they've managed to win the two games they did win.

Here's what Predators forward Jerred Smithson said following Monday's loss, via Joshua Cooper of the Tennesseean:
“Just embarrassing. We just got out-worked. It was right from the drop of the puck. If it wasn’t for Peks it could have been 5-1. It seems like I’ve been saying that every time now, but it’s the honest truth, we rely on this guy way too much. We don’t work, we don’t skate, we don’t forecheck, we have a hardworking team that doesn’t work hard and I don’t know, it’s beyond frustrating right now. I’ve never been a part of something like this. It’s gotta change right now, or we’re going to be on the outside looking in – December we’ll be out of this, we have to change it right now.”
He also went on to add "It’s not one guy, it’s not two guys, it’s the whole group. Pekka is the exception. He’s the only guy playing his balls off right now and if it wasn’t for him, we don’t have any points. I don’t know what to say about tonight, it was terrible.”

It doesn't get any more brutally honest than that.

Whatever optimism there was coming into this season after the first playoff series win in franchise history a year ago has seemingly been rocked with this start. This group has been built around its two All-Star defensemen (Shea Weber and Ryan Suter) and Rinne, while managing to grind out just enough goals to win games 3-2 or 2-1 with a collection of forwards that are castoffs from other teams or young, homegrown players (of which the Predators have a ton) that are still relatively cheap (by NHL standards).

It's a strategy that has led them to the postseason in six of the past seven seasons, and earned general manager David Poile and his staff plenty of worthy praise for putting together a playoff team on one of the NHL's smallest budgets. But there's also been some concern, as Dirk Hoag of On The Forecheck address before the season, as to whether or not the current makeup of the roster will ever score enough to allow the team to become a true Stanley Cup contender.

Right now they're not only not scoring, they can't even get into the offensive zone.

Following Monday's game coach Barry Trotz said the Predators were going to "start from scratch." As it stands right now, the Predators don't have the personnel to play a vastly different brand of hockey. Their strengths are still on the blue line and in net and offense will continue to be a struggle, but if they don't reverse this trend of being manhandled when it comes to puck possession they're going to need Rinne to go from a Vezina finalist to an MVP.

And perhaps a miracle worker.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 17, 2011 2:37 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 2:49 pm
 

Andy McDonald sidelined with another concussion

Am1By: Adam Gretz

Since joining the St. Louis Blues during the 2007-08 season Andy McDonald has been one of their most productive players when he's been in the lineup, something that's proven to be a problem over the past three seasons. After being limited to just 58 games last season due to a concussion, he suffered another head injury during St. Louis' 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday.

After initially being examined by the trainers and cleared to return to the game on Thursday, he started to experience headaches. It was announced by the team on Monday that he will now have to be placed on injured reserve due to a concussion that he apparently suffered at the end of the second period when he was hit by Dallas' Vernon Fiddler.

In three games this season he's scored no goals and been credited with two assists.

Here's what general manager Doug Armstrong had to say on Saturday, via Norm Sanders of the News Democrat:
"He came back and passed all the protocols necessary to play the game," Armstrong said. "He was complaining of some headaches and not quite feeling right, so we thought we'd send him back to St. Louis.

"There's a definite protocol that teams follow now and he saw the physician on hand. Andy said he felt good and felt ready to go. All the proper hurdles were covered and he said he was ready to play.

Concussions have been a problem for the Blues over the past two seasons, as this will be the second one for McDonald over that stretch. David Perron, one of their promising young forwards, has not played in a game since last November due to his recovery from a concussion of his own.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 14, 2011 2:37 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 4:05 pm
 

Daily Skate: Mark Messier to run in NYC Marathon

By Brian Stubits

RUN, MARK, RUN!: Rangers (and Oilers, of course) icon Mark Messier announced on Thursday that he will be running in the next New York City marathon on Nov. 6. He's doing it to benefit two charities, the New York Police & Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund as well as the Tomorrows Children's Fund. Messier says he has no goals -- that's a first! -- and would just like to finish. (NHL.com)

WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' DIVISIONS: This might be the most interesting realignment prosposal I have seen to date. This idea calls for the banishment of divisions from hockey, that way you don't have teams being forced to play so ofen in other time zones, a la Dallas, Detroit and Nashville. (Hockey News)

MINI PAVEL: The Red Wings had a classic giveaway for Thursday night's game against the Canucks, handing out Pavel Datsyuk bobbleheads. "Awesome," Datsyuk said about his appearance. "Lots of tan. Looks like me in summertime." Nice keepsake for Red Wings fans. (Detroit Free Press)

HOMETOWN HERO: While Jaromir Jagr didn't return to his original team in Kladno, Czech Republic to play this summer, he is making a very big impression on his old club. To help save the struggling team, Jagr purchased a 70 percent ownership stake in the team, leaving the locals a happy group. (J.J.'s Knights)

TORONTO TROUBLE: Cody Franson was openly sharing his frustration last week that he is the seventh defenseman for the Maple Leafs after they acquired him from Nashville in the offseason. Coach Ron Wilson's response? “He plays the next game and the rest is up to him,” Wilson said of Franson’s status with the team. “He put a lot of pressure on himself talking this week. Now he’s got to perform.” (Globe and Mail)

TOUGH SPOT: The St. Louis Cardinals are currently doing battle with the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS, leaving Blues tough guy Barret Jackman in a tough spot. He played a little with Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan when Morgan was still giving hockey a shot. "He was one of those guys you loved to hate because he had so much energy," (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

OVER THE HILL: Chicago Blackhawks veteran Sean O'Donnell just turned 40 on Thursday and for a short while was on the roster the same time as 18-year-old Brandon Saad. Here's a look at the differences in generations from each of their favorite TV shows to hockey heroes. (ESPN Chicago)

NEW TRADITION: The Islanders are putting a new twist on an old hockey tradition. The idea launched by captain Mark Streit, the Isles are now lining up to create a human tunnel for the announcement of the Three Stars of the game. Here's the rendition after Thursday's rout of the Lightning, including a John Tavares imposter.

Photo: Detroit Red Wings Twitpic

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.


Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:56 am
Edited on: October 13, 2011 1:30 pm
 

Report: Hulsizer close to agreement to buy Blues

By Brian Stubits

Matthew Hulsizer appears to be on the verge of owning an NHL franchise. Again.

Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Chicago businessman could sign a purchase agreement as early as Thursday to buy the St. Louis Blues.

Hulsizer, you might remember, seemed to have a done deal after a long courtship of the Phoenix Coyotes. Eventually he gave up, however, when a watchdog group in Arizona threatened to sue the city of Glendale over the plan to use bonds as part of the deal. So since then, Hulsizer, intent on owning an NHL team, turned his attention to the Blues.

Current owner Dave Checketts put the team up for sale in March. In that time there was flirtation with a few prospective owners including Hulsizer, Calgary businessman Max Chambers and current minority owner Tom Stillman. After Chambers said his $167 million offer was rejected, Hulsizer seemed to re-emerge in the picture.

The plan/hope for Checketts was to have this taken care of by opening day, but such goals never seem to be met. And the completion of a deal is still probably a few weeks away, but Hulsizer might have an expedited process. Because of his pursuit of the Coyotes, he was already approved unanimously by the Board of Governors to become an owner.

Hulsizer, a big hockey fan, has long desired to own a franchise. You have to hope, if you're a Blues fan, that that means he'll bring with him a strong enthusiasm and desire to win. Nobody is expecting a Terry Pegula-in-Buffalo scenario, but somebody that could bring a little life and hope to the organization would certainly be welcomed.

According to Rutherford's report, the sale would also include the lease to Scottrade Center, St. Louis' AHL affiliate in Peoria, Ill., and the Peabody Opera House, which Checketts would most likely stay in the ownership group to operate.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 7, 2011 10:02 am
Edited on: October 7, 2011 10:05 am
 

Daily Skate: Deal or no deal to buy the Blues?

By Brian Stubits

There are 12 teams getting their season under way tonight in the NHL. Two of them will come early in Europe as the Kings-Rangers and Sabres-Ducks battle at 1 ET. Then tonight there are four more games back in North America, including the Rick Nash/Jeff Carter era beginning in Columbus. Scoreboard

DEAL OR NO DEAL? It recently came out from Jeremy Rutherford at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Matthew Hulsizer, the Chicago man who nearly bought the Coyotes, has reached a verbal agreement to purchase the Blues. But Andy Strickland at True Hockey says not so fast, there is a lot of work that needs to be done, but at least things are promising.

EARLY RETURN: Nothing like a small sample size. Yes, the Flyers played solid defense on Thursday in beating the defending champion Bruins in Boston, but Ryan Bright says the plan of GM Paul Holmgren that saw sweeping changes this offseason already looks good. It very well could be, but remember; Matt Cooke is on pace for 164 goals, too. Time will truly tell. (Philadelphia Sports Daily)

HIS WAY OF HELPING: Ilya Kovalchuk is doing his part to raise money for the Yaroslavle Victims Families Fund. He is going to give away signed 8x10 photographs of himself to anybody who donates $17 dollars or more. To make a donation, contact PuckAgency, LLC at info@puckagency.com to say you want to donate. A response e-mail will be sent to you with instructions on what to do. (Fire and Ice Blog)

TWITTER TRASHTALKING: Speaking of good causes, the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers are encouraging fans to engage in a Twitter battle for Friday's game in Sweden. The Kings have announced that for ever #GoLAKings hashtag, that follower will be entered in a contest for a free round-trip flight and the Kings will donate to the Children's Hospital in L.A. for 5,000. Safe to assume the Rangers have a similar plan. (Pro Hockey Talk)

HERE TO STAY: Last season, ballyhooed Hurricanes prospect Zac Dalpe got just a taste of the NHL, playing in just 15 games a season ago, scoring three goals and an assists. But this year he hopes to stay from beginning to end in Carolina and the 'Canes would love it if he could bring home a second straight Calder Trophy to Carolina. (News and Observer)

QUICK STARTS: The Colorado Avalanche will have No. 2 overall draft pick Gabriel Landeskog on the roster, getting meaningful minutes this season. So that begs the question: who are the best rookies in Avalance/Nordiques history? Here is a list of the Top 10. (Denver Post)

NEW AND IMPROVED: Things are finally feeling they are headed in the right direction in Columbus. The team has some Stars, the financial future seems fixed and there's real excitement for the team. Aaron Portzline previews the season that lies ahead, including one interesting cereal box. (Columbus Dispatch)

HE CAN BE YOUR HERO: Meant to include this in yesterday's Skate, but here is Kris Versteeg of the Florida Panthers being put on the spot at a preseason fundraiser after a bidding war (jacked up by GM Dale Tallon) buys a song from the crooner. Credit to Versteeg, who doesn't hesitate or shy away from a, um, rendition of Enrique Iglesias's Hero. The song starts right around the 2-minute mark.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com