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Flyers must be patient against Hitchcock's Blues
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Craig Berube played for Ken Hitchcock in Kamloops as a junior player.

As an NHL player he knew Hitchcock and knew him even better when Hitch was here coaching the Flyers while Berube was handling the Phantoms.

On Saturday, the Flyers will face the No. 1 club in the NHL in the St. Louis Blues at the Wells Fargo Center.

It’s the first time the Flyers will meet Hitchcock as the Blues coach.

Berube says nothing has changed about Hitchcock, the kind of club he builds, or the system he employs. It’s all about defensive structure.

“They’ve been a very good team a couple of years, good size, a physical team, pretty solid all-around,” Berube said.

Ten Blues players have better than 30 points, yet none rank among the top 30 in league scoring leaders. Meanwhile, trade deadline pickup Ryan Miller has been outstanding in net with a 7-1-1 record, 1.92 goals-against average and .923 save percentage since joining St. Louis.

While the Flyers, who have won four straight, have 30 goals from their defense, the Blues have 36, led by Alex Pietrangelo.

“We can’t have anyone not showing up and not competing hard tomorrow,” Berube said. “We need a 60-minute effort. His teams are always good defensively, they work hard, [they are] sound with their system, they play physical.”

Unlike the Penguins or Blackhawks, the Blues don’t play an up-tempo, skating game. No shinny hockey. The Blues will check and check much like New Jersey and try to frustrate the Flyers into making turnovers and taking bad penalties.

“Chicago and Pittsburgh are maybe more of an attack team,” Berube said. “They [Blues] have some real good defensemen who can move the puck and get up in the rush.

“They’re dangerous. They’re going to be physical on the forecheck. What they do differently is they really check. There’s not a lot of room out there. You got to stay patient and wait for your chances, but you got to earn them.”

Flyers goalie Steve Mason won his Calder Trophy under Hitchcock when he coached in Columbus.

“He’s a great coach, knows the game inside-out, one of the most knowledgeable [men] I ever played for,” Mason recalled. “We had a tough go in my second year in Columbus and unfortunately he’s the one who took the fall for it.

“They can throw any line at you and you have to worry who is on the ice. They don’t have that one player who will put up points every single night. They have a committee of players that compete every single game.”

Alex Steen leads the Blues with 30 goals while T.J. Oshie has 54 points. Many consider centerman David Backes (23 goals, 49 points), however, the Blues’ best all-around player.

“It’s going to be very gritty, tough defense, very physical,” said Jakub Voracek, who also played for Hitchcock in Columbus. “He was my first coach in the NHL and I had a good experience with him.”

Voracek said that Hitchcock’s influence was all over Team Canada at the Sochi Winter Olympics in how Canada won the gold medal -- defense. Hitchcock was an assistant coach.

“They won because they play defense,” Voracek said. “That’s how you win those championships. Have a very solid defense and play physical ... We got to be patient.”