Monday, January 27, 2014

(1-28-14) BLUES NOTEBOOK

Ryan Miller update; Blues to get revenge 
against Devils; Halak to start; Steen OK to go

By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Rumors that the Buffalo Sabres will move goalie Ryan Miller between now and the March 5 trade deadline appear to have plenty of merit. But to say a move is imminent is premature, including one that could potentially involve the Blues.

Miller, 33, is an unrestricted free agent this summer and could improve the Blues' chances if dealt to St. Louis, but with Miller being a $6.25 million cap hit, it would take more than just moving a goalie (Jaroslav Halak) to make a deal work. The Blues would need to move another higher salary player in order to get under the $64.3 million cap.

Halak and Elliott are both unrestricted free agents as well, and since signing him to a four-year contract when they acquired him from the Montreal Canadiens, Halak has yet to have a full playoff under his belt in St. Louis. The Blues could very well go into the postseason and see what Halak has to offer.

Halak suffered a high ankle sprain in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against San Jose two seasons ago on a collision with teammate Barret Jackman, and of course, he suffered a pair of groin injuries in the lockout-shortened season last year. Elliott played the bulk of the playoff games the past two seasons but was beaten by Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings both seasons.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is normally tight-lipped regarding any sorts of talks (trade, free agency, etc) and there have been no indications that he and new Sabres GM Tim Murray have had any kind of discussions regarding Miller.

If the Blues are engaged in any discussions regarding Miller, Armstrong would likely want assurances that Miller, 13-20-3 with a 2.61 goals-against average and .926 save percentage this season, will sign an extension before making a deal.

If he hasn't done so already, Miller will at some point sit down with his GM and discuss which direction the Sabres are going in and if an extension for the only team he has ever known is in the cards for Miller.

* Devil revenge -- The Blues (35-11-5) won't have to wait long to avenge their worst loss of the season when the New Jersey Devils (invade Scottrade Center for a Tuesday night game. It was the Devils that handed the Blues a 7-1 pasting in New Jersey one week ago, which was the Blues' lone loss on their recent four-game trip. There won't be a revenge-minded attitude towards the game.

"No, it's a 'play-better' factor," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "You can have all the revenge you want; we've got to play better. They just ate us up when we didn't manage the puck well. If we manage the puck well, we'll be fine. We got a lot better against the Rangers with it, very successful in the second and third period, and then really played well in the second and third against the Islanders when we did it. New Jersey's such a good counter-attack team. They're so good at making you pay for mistakes because they can make plays and score off the rush. We need to have one of the best puck management games we've had in a long time if we expect to beat them."

* Halak goes again -- Halak, 3-0-0 with a 1.63 goals against average and a .947 save percentage in his past three starts, will get a third consecutive start Tuesday and fourth in five games.

Halak came on in relief of Brian Elliott in the loss to the Devils last week and is 5-1-0 since returning from a lengthy bout with the flu.

"We're just going to ride the hot one and see how far we can go with it," Hitchcock said.

* Steen sits, will play vs. Devils -- Alexander Steen (broken toe) took Monday off as a maintenance day and will be available to play Tuesday, according to Hitchcock. In practice Monday, fourth-line right wing Ryan Reaves took Steen's spot on the top line with David Backes and Jaden Schwartz.

"I'm sure it's not a long-term thing, but it was fun," Reaves joked. "It was a little different having to go first and make sure you don't screw up the drill rather than watching the boys screw it up first. It was a little different.

"I was trying to run plays for (Backes), making sure I was in the right spots and making sure he was in the right spots where I wanted him."

When told Reaves said his presence on the top line is not long term, Hitchcock replied: "I would say that's really accurate."

* Forward lineup -- With Magnus Paajarvi coming back into the lineup Tuesday after being a healthy scratch Saturday, Hitchcock hadn't decided which forward will be a healthy scratch Tuesday. Chris Stewart played only 5 minutes 32 seconds of Saturday's win and was on the ice for two Islanders goals, and he was taking shifts on the fourth line with Maxim Lapierre and Brenden Morrow. Stewart has just one assist in the past eight games but Hitchcock said he'll remain in the lineup Tuesday.

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