The St. Louis Blues were the team that gained the attention of the hockey media this week (...up until Wednesday, that is) for an actual, honest-to-goodness, self-imposed news story that can be discussed and debated. That news story never gained much traction beyond the initial move.
Blues head coach Davis Payne was given his walking papers last Sunday and replaced with veteran head coach Ken Hitchcock, most recently of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blues had a middling record - flirting with .500, but unlike the Eastern conference, .500 doesn't get you anywhere near a playoff spot. The Blues were 13th in the Western Conference standings at the time of Davis' demise.
The Blues are 1-0-1 so far since Ken took over, shutting out the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night, and falling in Overtime to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. For more on the Blues, hop over to St. Louis Game TIme for their coverage.
Another side-story for tonight is defenseman and former Blues captain Eric Brewer's first game back in St. Louis since his acquisition by the Bolts last winter. Erik Erlendsson at the Tampa Tribune has a pretty good piece on Eric and his return, and his status as the de facto captain of the Lightning blue line.
Victor Hedman remains out with his undisclosed upper-body injury, in his stead on the top pairing with Brewer is Matt Gilroy. Matt's averaging over 20 minutes of ice time a game during the month of November (four games played). In the aforementioned Brewer article, Gilroy credits Eric with helping improve his own game:
"He keeps it very simple and doesn't make mistakes and that's a very hard thing to do,'' Gilroy said. "And that's what I've been taught here to keep it very simple and don't make mistakes, and he is a guy that can do that. He gets it done and I'm still learning and getting preached at every day, simple, simple, simple but watching a guy like that who has done it his whole career helps out a lot.''
And that's a truth to defense in general - keep it simple, get the basics down. It once you've mastered that, then you can start finding room for extra offensive antics. Gilroy has the skill-set to take advantage of things when he's ready, but the immediate situation is a trial-by-fire. Giving Matt top-line minutes in a system he was having trouble grasping in October seems like a hasty move - but it's a hasty move out of necessity with Hedman out, and Mattias Ohlund limping along on his rebound from having both knees operated on.
Meanwhile... Ryan Malone may return tonight, or at least there had been discussion of such. Ryan had his own undisclosed upper-body injury that kept him out of Wednesday's action against the Flyers.
We go live with our game thread at 7:30 tonight.
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