Halak story of Blues' early success

If the favorite to win the Central Division is the team with the best goaltending, then watch out for the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues are off to a 9-1-2 start thanks in large part to the goaltending of Jaroslav Halak, who has 8 wins (including 3 shutouts), a 1.46 goals-against average and .944 save percentage.

It's looking as if Blues general manager Doug Armstrong made the steal of the year June 17 when he traded prospects Lars Eller and Ian Schultz to Montreal in exchange for Halak.

The Canadiens made Halak available after the playoffs despite him taking the team to the Eastern Conference finals, deciding to keep Carey Price instead.

Halak, as well as backup goalie Ty Conklin, is giving the Blues a world of confidence, and it's showing in their record.

“We're playing a great team game right now,” Blues winger B.J. Crombeen told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “And I think everybody on this team believes we have the two best goalies in the league.”

All-Star Game changes:

TSN reported Monday the NHL plans to announce Wednesday a full-scale overhaul to its boring All-Star Game.

Gone will be East vs. West format as well as the foolish Young Stars game. Instead the fans still will vote in the starters, but then those starters will elect two captains who in turn will choose their teams.

The idea is clever, but somebody please explain to me how the game itself will be better. Get ready for another 11-9 nailbiter.

Iginla available?

If you believe the rumblings, the Calgary Flames might be interested in moving 33-year-old captain Jarome Iginla.

While a team such as the Los Angeles Kings could be interested, a big stumbling block figures to be Iginla's contract that pays him $7 million a year through 2012-13.

Ex-Hawk watch:

Blackhawks fans know this story. There are some in Minnesota questioning Cam Barker's skating and whether he will ever live up to his potential as the third pick in the 2004 draft.

“I think I'm a good skater,” Barker told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I think maybe my skating style gets criticized, that it looks lazy or whatnot, but it's not that I'm going half (speed). It's just the way it seems sometimes.”

The Hawks traded Barker to Minnesota last February for defensemen Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy.

Leddy has the potential to be a top-four NHL defenseman. Johnsson is out of hockey after suffering a concussion with the Hawks last March 13 in Philadelphia and leaving the team.

Johnsson never got a Stanley Cup ring.

Injury report:

Toronto will be without defenseman Dion Phaneuf for possibly six weeks with a deep cut to his left leg.

Safe for now:

Anaheim GM Bob Murray has given coach Randy Carlyle a vote of confidence.

“I've got a good coach and he has a (heck) of a record,” Murray told “He's won a Stanley Cup. He knows how to win.”

More coach talk:

Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson is annoyed with the Toronto media for suggesting his job might be in jeopardy despite a vote of confidence from GM Brian Burke.

“It suddenly switched from (Buffalo's) Lindy Ruff to me overnight, and it's always coming out of Toronto, not from the city where the coach is struggling a little bit,” Wilson said.

Fight club:

Sidney Crosby's fight with Dallas' Matt Niskanen last week was the fifth of his NHL career.

Bolland centering for Hossa, Kane

Blackhawks game day

<P><B>Blackhawks vs. Phoenix Coyotes at United Center, 7:30 p.m.</B></P>

<P><B>TV: </B>Comcast SportsNet</P>

<P><B>Radio:</B> WGN 720-AM</P>

<P><B>Game notes:</B> The Coyotes may just be the perfect tonic for the struggling Blackhawks offense. Phoenix has given up the eighth-most goals against per game (3.15). They also will be without captain Shane Doan, who is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury.</P>

<P><B>Next:</B> Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena, 7 p.m. Saturday</P>