Blues making bold moves for Game 2

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Blues making bold moves for Game 2

ST. LOUIS -- The drama from this mornings skate came entirely from the St. Louis side, where Blues coach Ken Hitchcock turned over his roster, for three separate reasons, one more fascinating than the other two.The big one was making third-line wing Chris Stewart a healthy scratch for the first time all year in exchange for Matt DAgostini, a response not only to Stewarts intermittent work in Game 1 but over the course of an up-and-down year. Stewart was clearly surprised by the move, referring at one point to its hard to do a lot in a few minutes of playing time, but Hitchcock was not sparing in his analysis of the Stewart move.We need more from him, Hitchcock said. We need more from that position, more tenacity, more determination, more second and third effort from that position.But he went on from there to describe the decision in terms of the evolution of a career. Hes had an off year. That doesnt mean he cant come back. But if youre talking about a second-line player, you can afford to be a little patient. We expect him to come back and give more. You cant keep talking about it.Stewart, for his part, was visibly shaken by the move, even though he said he expected something might be up Friday."There's obviously more to give, he said. Also, you do need the opportunity. I didn't get the most ice time in the world last game, but it's up to me to earn it. I've got to go out there with the ice time I do get and show them that I deserve more. You look at our team and our depth, there's guys that demanded the ice time and I wasn't one of them. That's why am I where I am right now."Yeah. I thought I ended the regular season on a high note. Every game matters. So, he's going to put the best 12 guys at forward that he thinks are going to get the job done. That's a tough job to do and he has to do it. Somebody has to be the bad guy."It's a pretty bad feeling, but like I said, this is the time of year that it's no time to pout or be down on yourself. We're all professionals here, and we're all a team. It's one game at a time.""Obviously when you lose a game, there is going to be changes. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out. I kind of got the idea that if there was going to be changes, I was a possibility that I could be coming out. Not to my surprise, I was out this morning.But given his successes in Colorado as a first-liner and his struggles this year, Hitchcock chose a dramatic moment to send his message.The other changes were more tactical B.J. Crombeen for Ryan Reaves on fourth-line wing, a bit of a surprise, and Carlo Colaiacovo for Kent Huskins as Alex Pietrangelos partner on the second defense pairing. The Blues struggled to make full sense of San Joses third-line-fourth-line exchanges, and though Reaves was effective as a disruptor, Crombeen can do many of the same things and more still. Both he and DAgostini will flank Scott Nichol on the Blues fourth line, while Jamie Langenbrunner gets bumped to the third line with Jason Arnott and Vladimir Sobotka.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

The mere thought of Joe Thornton wearing a Kings sweater may be enough to cause some Sharks fans to lose their lunch.

But it might be a possibility.

According to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen, the Kings consider Thornton to be a “priority” should be hit the open market as a free agent. While the two sides are currently allowed to express mutual interest, NHL rules forbid them from discussing terms of any deal until Saturday at 9 a.m. PT.

Rosen points to a number of individuals in the Kings' organization that have ties to Thornton, including general manager Rob Blake, who played on the Sharks with Thornton from 2008-10. Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager in Boston and currently serves as the Kings’ senior advisor to the general manager. Glen Murray, a former teammate and frequent linemate of Thornton’s with the Bruins for three-and-a-half seasons, is in Kings player development.

The Kings, under new management since replacing Dean Lombardi with Blake, and head coach Darryl Sutter with John Stevens, have put a priority on finding players this offseason that can get pucks to dangerous scoring areas. 

Adding one of the best passers in the history of the NHL would surely help in that regard. Thornton sits 13th in the NHL all-time with 1,007 assists.

Rosen writes: “Los Angeles has been a dominant possession team without being a high scoring team for the better part of the last six-plus seasons, and it was articulated earlier in the off-season that the team needed to do a better job of taking advantage of that possession discrepancy. In trying to find players with the ability to turn possession into actual production, the team has placed an emphasis on finding players capable of distributing the puck into high-danger in the attacking zone. There might not be another player in the NHL – let alone unrestricted free agents – who is as gifted of a passer of Thornton, which places the team’s needs in concert with the future Hall of Famer’s skill set.”

As reported here previously Thornton, who turns 38 on Sunday, is seeking a deal of three years. That might not be agreeable to the Sharks, who are likely to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term and expensive contract extensions that would kick in with the 2018-19 season.

Of course, Thornton could also be using the Kings as leverage to get a new deal in San Jose, where he would prefer to remain.

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.

Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.

Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.

Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.

Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.