Friday, April 27, 2012


Pietrangelo hopeful of Norris Trophy opportunity; Blues need to get to Quick

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- There might be a hint of disappointment from Alex Pietrangelo but nothing a Stanley Cup title wouldn't fix.

Even though he felt like it was a longshot, when the NHL announced on Thursday the three finalists for the Norris Trophy did not include Pietrangelo's name, the Blues' defenseman was somewhat disappointed.

The three nominees included Nashville's Shea Weber, Boston's Zdeno Chara and Ottawa's Erik Karlsson.

It would have been nice to have been mentioned in that category with those three, but hopefully somewhere down the road, I get another opportunity," Pietrangelo said. "... It's an honor just to be mentioned in that group of players, certainly a lot of good players in the league. It's a good sign as a young player."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock voiced his opinion on Pietrangelo as a solid choice on Thursday, and Pietrangelo received positive support from his teammates Friday.

"Yeah, the guys were pretty respectful around here, saying good things to me," said Pietrangelo, who finished the season with career highs in goals [12], assists [39] and points [51]. "Most of it was somewhere down the road there's going to be opportunities to be in that group. Obviously my family is going to be supportive and everybody back home is going to be wishing well for me whether I had a good season or not. Like I said, hopefully down the road, I get another opportunity."

* Playoff grind, Hitchcock style -- Hitchcock is not one to shy away from quotes to remember, especially from those that left a favorable mark on hockey.

On the whiteboard inside the Blues' locker room at St. Louis Mills read the following quote from Denis Potvin, who was a four-time Stanley Cup champion defenseman with the New York Islanders:

In the playoffs, talent is really secondary to a willingness to grind.

Hitchcock's response: "It is a grind. It is a grind. There's players that make their living doing this, but then I think it's also the skill players that have to get on board with this.

"I think playoffs become more and more difficult for your top players," Hitchcock added. "They always do. There's a bigger price to pay, there's more scrutiny, there's more focus on them and they have to find a way to fight through it. I think that's what [Potvin] is saying, no matter what you're skill level is, it does become a grind after a while and you're just going to have to get through it."

* Get a beat on Quick -- It's no secret for the Blues that finding ways to beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick will help win the Western Conference Semifinals.

Quick, who was 4-1 with a 1.59 goals-against average and .953 save percentage in helping eliminate Presidents' Trophy-winning Vancouver and was named a Vezina Trophy finalist Thursday, was stout against the Blues this season, going 2-1-0 with a 0.33 GAA and .989 save percentage and two shutouts.

"He's a fantastic goalie," veteran center Jason Arnott said of Quick. "We have to shoot pucks, create traffic and do all the normal things you have to do to score goals."

Added winger Alex Steen: "Quick's a good goaltender and the teams, if you look at us are pretty similar. Both have good goaltending, solid defensively, physical teams, hard checking. It's going to be a good series.

"For us, we just need to get in [Quick's] eyes, make sure it's uncomfortable for him."

Quick, who is 3-8-1 with a 2.45 GAA and .915 save percentage in 12 career starts against the Blues, said he expects the Blues to come hard and come often.

"They're a hard working team," Quick said of the Blues. "They like to get it in deep, like to grind you, tire you out. They want to make our defensemen play hard minutes in our own end.

"They've got a lot of big bodies that like to go to the front and take away the goalies' eyes. They're going to make you compete in front of your net. We're expecting it to be tough."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock gives Quick high accolades and said he's one of the unique goalies.

"Compete level. He never quits on a puck. He's like an old-school goalie," Hitchcock said. "He reminds me a little bit of [New Jersey's] Marty Brodeur because he just never quits on a puck. He's competitive side to side, he gets to pucks you don't think.

"The last game [between the teams on March 22], we had three empty nets and we eased up thinking he wouldn't be able to get to it ... he got across and made the save. I told the players, when you get a chance to bury it, you've got to put it through the back of the twine because he's going to get to pucks that you don't think he can get to. I mean he lost his stick five times in the final game -- Game 5 in Vancouver. He lost his stick five times and kept competing, and then found his own stick. That's a competitive guy."

* Did you know -- This will be the third career meeting between the Blues and Kings in a playoff series. The Blues won the previous two [1969 and 1998], winning each series by 4-0 sweeps. ... Tonight's game [6:30 p.m.] can be seen on NBCSN and KMOX 1120-AM. All games can be heard on KMOX or an alternative station pending conflicts with the Cardinals. Game 2 is Monday at 8 p.m. [CNBC], Game 3 is Thursday at 9 p.m. in Los Angeles [NBCSN] and Game 4 is also in LA at 2 p.m. on NBC. ... The Blues come into tonight's game without a goal against the Kings in 96 minutes, 22 seconds. Jamie Langenbrunner scored in the second period of a 1-0 win here on Feb. 3. The Kings' drought against the Blues is longer at 130:49. Their last regulation goal came from Willie Mitchell in the third period of a 3-2 win here on Nov. 22.

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