When the Blues acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the Avalanche last season, most evaluators saw him as a throw-in for the trade that sent Erik Johnson, the first overall pick in 2006, to Colorado in return for power-forward-in-waiting Chris Stewart. But now most scouts and coaches view the 22-year-old Shattenkirk as perhaps the best player in the deal and a key force for the Blues going forward. It is not unfair to compare the former BU star with the recently retired Brian Rafalski.... It has taken some time, but the Capitals appear to be back on track under Dale Hunter, who took over as coach on Nov. 28. After beating the Sabres 3--1 last week, they had killed off 23 straight opposition power plays at home. The key to Washington's penalty kill has been an emphasis on quick changes for the forwards and pressuring the puck in all three zones.