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St. Louis Blues' center Andy McDonald (R) celebrates his goal with teammate Carlo Colaiacovo during the first period of their NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago, March 13, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young (Jim Young/Reuters)
St. Louis Blues' center Andy McDonald (R) celebrates his goal with teammate Carlo Colaiacovo during the first period of their NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago, March 13, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young (Jim Young/Reuters)

NHL Notebook

St. Louis Blues are back in the high life again Add to ...

“When we brought in those four veteran players, that was a sign to that veteran group that we were no longer trying to build from within; and that we were no longer going through that process,” said Armstrong. “When we got off not to the start we wanted, I felt that bringing in an experienced coach with 1,000 games would give them the final push – and send a message that we expect to win now, we are demanding that we win now and that we will be held accountable to win now.”

THIS AND THAT: What do five consecutive victories get you in the Western Conference playoff race? If you’re the Calgary Flames, not much more than the chance to make the final three-plus weeks of the season count for something. Right now, it’s good for 10th place in the conference standings as of Friday morning, heading into a date with the spoiler wannabes, the Edmonton Oilers. Technically, the San Jose Sharks – 2-1 shootout winners over the Nashville Predators – hold down ninth spot, because they have a game in hand. Calgary’s recent surge can be attributed to a lot of different factors, beginning with the fact that team captain Jarome Iginla is digging March madness again – and back to scoring one goal per game, the way he did in the stretch drive last year too. But don’t overlook Alex Tanguay’s contributions – 24 points in his last 20 games, a plus-15 rating over that period, the key shorthanded goal to knock the life out of the visiting Phoenix Coyotes Thursday night, a team that had been a thorn in their side seemingly forever … Sidney Crosby’s return to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ line-up got all the attention Thursday night, but the Sharks hope that Martin Havlat’s presence in their line-up for the first time in more than two months helps solidify their scoring as well. Havlat, the ex-Sen, ex-Hawk, ex-Wild winger who came over in the Dany Heatley trade, played against Nashville Thursday for the first time since tearing a hamstring, jumping over the boards, and mostly, he was on a line with Patrick Marleau and Ryan Clowe. Marleau has played much of the season as a winger on centre Joe Thornton’s line, but he was back in the middle last night. Logan Couture, meanwhile, moved up to the top line playing alongside Thornton and Joe Pavelski on a mix-and-match night where coach Todd McLellan was trying to see how chemistry on a couple of different units might evolve … Crosby was a plus-three in the Penguins’ win over the New York Rangers, but defenceman Kris Letang, who was also back for the game, was a sparkling plus-five. Must be a tribute to his skill and athleticism, but Letang has been in and out of the Pittsburgh line-up a couple of times this season, and whenever he returns, he doesn’t look as if he’s missed a minute of playing time. Only the truly talented can make the transition from sick bay to the ice look that easy … One of the Predators’ most important trade-deadline acqusitions was centre Paul Gaustad (from the Buffalo Sabres), who cost them a first-round draft choice. Gaustad left Thursday’s game vs. the Sharks with what looked like a broken or sprained right wrist. Officially, of course, it is an upper body injury … On Wednesday, the Dallas Stars began a quirky scheduling stretch in which they play six of eight games against Canadian-based NHL teams, noteworthy only because the Stars were a sparkling 9-0-1 in their first 10 games against Canadian-based NHL teams this season until they got crushed by the Winnipeg Jets, with back-up Richard Backman in goal. Playing Backman in Winnipeg, home to the legendary Randy Bachman (OK, slightly different spelling) probably seemed like an inspired decision, but the Jets rattled in five goals in just over 36 minutes and won going away. But it was the first turkey in a while for the Stars, who’d previously won six games in a row and are still holding off the Coyotes for top spot in the Pacific … How’s this for a standings anomaly? Four of the top six teams in the Western Conference (St. Louis, Detroit, Nashville and the Chicago Blackhawks) are hail from the Central Division. Four of the top six teams in the Eastern Conference standings (NY Rangers, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils) all hail from the Atlantic Division. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that the No. 5 team from those respective divisions, the Blue Jackets and the New York Islanders, are currently 15th in their respective conferences … The Flyers’ Ilya Bryzgalov saw his shutout streak extend to a franchise record 249 minutes and 43 seconds until the Islanders potted two in the third period Thursday night in a game Philadelphia won 3-2. Bryzgalov’s reaction? Priceless. ““If you thought they weren't going to score another goal on me,” deadpanned the madcap goaltender, “you were mistaken.”

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