KANSAS CITY - Blues defenseman Ian Cole and Louie traveled across Missouri for two days to promote the Sept. 27 preseason game between the Blues and Stars at Sprint Center. The two-day trip in Kansas City featured a youth hockey clinic, several radio / TV interviews, a visit to the pediatric wing of the University of Kansas Hospital and an autograph session at Oak Park Mall.
Below is a run down of the trip.
Thursday - 5:30 p.m.
Cole is introduced to a group of about 40 youth hockey players, who along with their parents, have gathered for a Q&A session. Questions covered a wide variety of topics, including Cole’s hockey background, the history of hockey and the obligatory “what’s it like like to play with T.J. Oshie” question.
Click here to watch Cole recall how he answered the hockey history question, which he was completely unprepared to answer.
Thursday - 6 p.m.
Louie joins the clinic just in time for the on-ice clinic. Cole, fresh off his chalk talk, hits the ice to skate with kids at Sprint Center. As expected, he spent most of the clinic taking pictures and signing autographs.
“Just promoting the Sept. 27 game, doing a little skate with the kids, taking some pictures, kissing some babies,” Cole joked. “It’s great seeing so many youth hockey players here, especially when they don’t have a professional hockey team.”
Thursday - 7 p.m.
After the skate, kids were allowed to paint the Sprint Center ice surface. Several left messages for Cole and Louie to thank them for making the visit to Kansas City, including this one.
Friday - 7:15 a.m. to noon.
Cole and Louie leave the hotel for a morning full of radio and television interviews. Visits included stops at two radio stations and two TV stations. Several of the on-air talents they met revealed several St. Louis Blues connections. At 610 Sports, host Bob Fescoe’s wife previously worked in the Blues front office. At Kansas City Live, host Michelle Davidson said she was close friends and college roommates with the wife of former Blue Jamal Mayers.
And in a bit of surprise, Academy Award winning comedian and actress Mo’Nique was a guest during the visit. Louie, while standing behind the camera, caught the attention of Mo’Nique, who invited him on the set during her interview to dance.
Friday - 2 p.m.
After interviews and a quick stop for lunch (it’s Kansas City - it HAD to be barbecue) - Cole and Louie were off to the University of Kansas Hospital to visited hospitalized children.
“These (visits) don’t get old. We’ve done a lot of them, and each one is very similar and very unique at the same time,” Cole said. “Each one is moving and heartbreaking to see some of the things these kids are going through. It’s extremely tough. Hopefully we can brighten up the day.”
Cole met one family that had two twin boys hospitalized in adjoining rooms. Upon seeing Cole, the family expressed a big interest in seeing the preseason game in September, so Cole gave them six tickets.
“The best part of doing this is seeing a kid whose mom says hasn’t smiled in a week, and all of a sudden, Louie walks in, you give him a hockey puck and he starts smiling and laughing,” Cole said. “It’s great getting to see the kids smile for the first time in awhile.”
Click here to hear Cole talk about visiting kids at KU Hospital.
Friday - 3 p.m.
The last stop is an appearance at Oak Park Mall. Most of the fans in line to meet Cole and Louie are wearing Blues gear.
At 4 p.m., that’s a wrap, and Cole said he’s looking forward to returning next month.
“It will be great to have a preseason game here,” he said. “Hopefully Kansas City catches the hockey fever and we can do some more games here in the future.”
Tickets for the Sept. 27 game vs. Dallas at Sprint Center are on sale now. Tickets start as low as $18. To learn more or to purchase tickets, visit www.sprintcenter.com.
It’s finally here – after almost three weeks of anticipation, Ryan Miller’s new mask arrived yesterday.
Here is a side-by-side picture for comparison.
As you can see, Joseph’s trumpets have been replaced by Miller’s guitars. We know Miller has been known to pick a guitar every now and then, including in a band when he played in the American Hockey League. Joseph’s music notes along the jawline of the mask have been carried over to Miller’s mask, too.
ST. LOUIS - Aiden Howard-Maul was all smiles Thursday at the Blues morning skate.
Aiden, a six-year-old who is battling a type of kidney cancer called Wilms' Tumor, watched the team's practice, met some of the players and interviewed Ken Hitchcock after the skate.
"Are you gonna win tonight?" Aiden asked.
"That's a lot of pressure, Aiden," Hitchcock said. "I sure hope so."
Aiden has already surgery to remove a kidney. He will begin chemotherapy soon.
As Americans, we’ll never do enough to thank the military men and women for their service and sacrifice. All we can do is try and hope we come close.
To give it a shot and say thank you, the Blues welcomed Cpl. Justin McLoud and SSG. Joshua Eckhoff to Tuesday’s morning skate. Both were injured while serving overseas and were presented with personalized camouflage jerseys from Blues captain David Backes.
“They’ve served our country and made great sacrifices so we can be free. They’ve given me an opportunity to play a game I love. I can’t thank them enough,” Backes said. “For them to come down to the morning skate and see smiles on their faces, it’s very rewarding for us."
McLoud and Eckhoff were given a tour of the Blues locker room, where they met the team and sat in on Ken Hitchcock's pregame press conference. In addition, they had lunch with broadcasters John Kelly and Darren Pang.
"It was definitely special,” McLoud said. “Right when I walked in, I saw those jerseys and I wanted one. (Backes) came out and had a jersey with my name on it. It made my day for sure.”
Alexander Steen is earning a new nickname: "Alexander The Great."
Steen is the first NHL player to score 10 or more goals in his team's first nine games since Buffalo's Chris Drury and Atlanta's Marian Hossa did it in the 2006-07 season.
With 10 goals, he also finds himself tied for the League-lead with Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin. As of Oct. 28, Steen has played two less games.
After his two-goal performance in Saturday's 6-1 win in Nashville, Steen played it cool with reporters.
"It's only nine games," he said. "(Ovechkin's) been doing it for years. I've been doing it for nine games."
No-big-deal it all you want, Steener, but this red-hot start isn't something Blues fans see every day.
Is there anything more exciting than Opening Night?
It all started back in 1967 with the likes of Red Berenson, Bob and Barclay Plager, Al Arbour and Glenn Hall. It continued through the years with hockey legends like Brett Hull, Adam Oates, Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger, and tonight at 7:30 p.m., it continues with the legends of tomorrow: David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Jaroslav Halak, just to name a few.
It’s a chance to start fresh, to forget about the shortcomings of the past while figuring out how to succeed now and in the future. It’s about sacrifice: blood, sweat and tears in exchange for hoisting the Stanley Cup in June.
Yeah…there’s nothing quite like Opening Night.
Ken Hitchcock has been in this situation before.
As the head coach of the Dallas Stars in 1999, he found his team trailing the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals. Hitchcock not only led the Stars to a 4-1 victory on the road in Game 6, but he led them to a Stanley Cup championship several weeks later.
So what wisdom from that experience has Hitchcock shared with the Blues?
“You have to outplay the team. You can’t expect to play at the same level and win the hockey game. It doesn’t happen,” he said. “I’ve been in this situation a number of times and come through, and it’s been the same similar landscape. We have to outplay them today. If we play at the same level, it’s not going to be good enough.
“I know we’re going to get their best push because they don’t want to go back to St. Louis,” Hitchcock said. “But I know we have it in us to outplay them.”
With the best-of-7 series tied 2-2 after four games, it’s almost like everything is back to square one.
“You learn from everything and all the mistakes that you’ve made and you learn from the things we’re doing good,” T.J. Oshie said. “Now it’s a best-of-3 and we just have to approach it like that.”
Fortunately for the Blues, two of the final three games in this series will be played at Scottrade Center. The home team has won every game thus far.
Andy McDonald said the key to winning Game 5 will be getting back to the game plan. He said the team has strayed from it when things haven’t gone well, both in this series and throughout the regular season.
“The good teams play an entire game and trust the system that’s in place and do it every shift,” McDonald said. “That’s what happens in the playoffs. There’s so many ups and downs, calls that go against you, things that happen, it becomes more and more important to stick to the game (plan).”
Head Coach Ken Hitchcock had a good handle on what went wrong in Game 4 and touched upon it during his pregame press conference today.
“We gave up the wrong odd man rushes to the wrong people and they slammed it right in our net,” Hitchcock said. “We gave up too many odd man rushes because we were forcing offense. Instead of just letting the game drive itself, we tried to push and force the issue.”
Tonight’s game could be a pivotal one in the series. If the Blues win, they’ll have a chance to wrap it up at Staples Center on Friday. If the Blues lose, they’ll face a must-win situation in a building where the Kings have won nine consecutive games.
Vladimir Tarasenko could make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut tonight when the puck drops on Game 4 at 9 p.m. at Staples Center.
Ken Hitchcock didn’t say for certain that he’d play, but Tarasenko skated with the Blues’ fourth-line in Monday’s morning skate and was sharing the left-wing role with Adam Cracknell.
“I had a talk with him yesterday and he’s excited to play,” Hitchcock said. “I think he deserves to play based on his regular season…he certainly gives us some options moving forward if the game gets as close as it does.”
Tarasenko wasn’t in the lineup for the first three games of the Blues’ first-round series with Los Angeles. For a team looking to capitalize on their scoring chances, one would figure Tarasenko will be part of the equation eventually.
“He came back a bit tentative from the injury, but when you have a player that contributes like he does and is as strong on the puck and as determined as he is and is as big as he is, he’s an asset we can use,” Hitchcock said.
Tarasenko was the NHL’s rookie of the month for January when he had nine points (five goals and four assists). Since returning from a concussion on March 16, he has seven points (two goals and five assists).
Both goals since his return were scored on March 28 against the Kings.
As Brian Elliott sat on the ice after being run into by Kings’ captain Dustin Brown in Game 2, the crowd at Scottrade Center chanted “ELL-I-OTT! ELL-I-OTT!”
Elliott got up, finished the game with 28 saves and backstopped the Blues to a 2-1 victory and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.
“It was almost like a movie,” Elliott said after arriving Friday in Los Angeles. “I wanted to tell them, ‘Give me some time, hold on here.’ When you know you have the rink behind you, it feels pretty good.”
One would expect Elliott to start tonight in Game 3, and although the rink won’t be behind him, the entire city of St. Louis certainly will be.
Elliott has stopped 58 of 60 shots in this year’s postseason, which is good for a .966 save percentage. He leads all goaltenders in the playoffs with a 0.90 goals-against average.
“He’s a huge reason that we’re in the playoffs, and then the last two games, he’s really stood on his head at the moments that we’ve needed him, giving us an opportunity to be in a position where we’re up 2-0,” said Barret Jackman, Game 2’s other hero.
“This is really a continuation of the whole month of April,” added Ken Hitchcock. “He’s a reflection of our team. We’ve been playing well for six weeks. He’s making big saves at the right time.”