ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The St. Louis Blues are less than a week away from the season opener in Chicago, and the excitement, tension and optimism is building.

Two members of the KMOX sports team sat down to go over the biggest story lines to watch going into the Blues’ final preseason game on Saturday at 7 p.m. against the Chicago Blackhawks. Here are just a few of the topics Tom Ackerman and Alex Ferrario hit on during their conversation:

Alex Steen is back, early – Shoulder surgery in June had initially scheduled Steen’s return for November, but Steen returned to the ice Wednesday night in Kansas City against the Washington Capitals.

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Vladimir Tarasenko will be a beast – He’s the new poster boy of the NHL. Tarasenko scored a goal in his first preseason appearance last night and will look to continue keep raising his scoring totals from last season. He scored 40 goals in 2015-16, and 37 goals the year prior.

“Tarasenko only cares about bringing a cup to St. Louis. The loss in the Western Conference Finals and the disappointments he’s gone though before that, I think he can start to taste it a little bit more.” — Alex Ferrario

Speed will lead the way – The transition game will have to be at the forefront of the Blues attack this year. Which shouldn’t be too difficult with Jake Allen in net, and defenders like new captain Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Colton Parayko, who might be the fastest of all St. Louis defensemen. Don’t expect to see the same body checking style of Blues hockey led by former captain David Backes.

The Blues are looking more like a speed-over-strength team, which has been the direction of the NHL this decade. Not to say they will give up the fore checking game, but goals will have to come from fast-paced passing between the top three lines.

Getty/Justin K Aller

Getty/Justin K Aller

Jaden Schwartz injury not a big deal – The Blues played 49 games without him last year and still made the playoffs. The good news is that it should only keep him out the first two weeks of the season. And since it’s an upper body injury he will be able keep his legs under him on the ice.

Schwartz will need to be ready right away when he gets back, because he will be expected to fill spots on the special teams that were occupied by offseason departures Backes and Troy Brouwer.

Carter Hutton is a solid back up – The Blues expect to use Jake Allen this season as a true No. 1 in net, as compared to the 1-A, 1-B approach we’ve seen in recent years. But if things go wrong unexpectedly with Allen in net, Hutton is a legit NHL goalie.

In Nashville he was behind one of the leagues best in Pekka Rinne and looking at his preseason performance thus far, Hutton has been stellar. He saved 38 of 40 shots in the overtime lose to Washington, who led the league in points last season.

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Third line center and final roster spots – The Blues last preseason game against Chicago will obviously weight heavily on the decision of who stays in St. Louis and who starts the year with the Chicago Wolves. And the men to watch will be Landon Ferraro and Magnus Paajarvi.

Catch the entire interview between Alex Ferrario and Tom Ackerman on Thursday night during KMOX’s Sports Open Line.

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