ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Training camp is finished, the final roster is set, and St. Louis Blues regular season hockey is back.
The Blues are in Pittsburgh to take on the defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins at 7 p.m. (pregame at 6:30 on KMOX 1120AM). You’ll see the championship banner-raising ceremony, and notice a familiar face in black and gold. Former St. Louis Blues forward Ryan Reaves. He was traded to Pittsburgh this offseason and Vladimir Tarasenko talked about how he has missed the St. Louis fan favorite.
“We know that the price is really high for people that are honest to you, and you know he has always been a great teammate,” Tarasenko says. “We started to be friends since day one here, so it will be pretty hard to miss him here, but it’s hockey. So you know players got traded so we just need to play through right now and get ready for the start of the season.”
And there are plenty of exciting new faces to learn about on the home side as well. Including power-play specialist Brayden Schenn who came to St. Louis via a trade with Philadelphia.
And two rookies Tage Thompson and Vince Dunn, who will make their NHL debuts tonight.
Blues head coach Mike Yeo talked about his strategy before Wednesday’s game, on how he’ll keep their nerves to a minimum.
“As a coach, you try to get them on the ice as early as possible,” Yeo says. “Not necessarily in the starting lineup… but that being said, we’re not going to pass over them for the first five or six shifts, we’ve got to get them in the game.”
The 20-year-old Dunn is described as an offensive-minded defenseman and was St. Louis’ second-round draft pick in 2015. Then there’s the 19-year-old Thompson. He was last year’s 26th overall draft pick, who tied for the team lead in points this preseason.
“This was a hard challenge making the team, but I think the harder part is going to be staying here,” Thompson says.
Thompson said he spent much of his summer training with his dad, Brent, who was a six-year pro in the 1990s. And he had some fatherly advice for the young forward.
“He just told me ‘Come in like you’re already on the team, be confident, be a little cocky, don’t misinterpret the word cocky, you know, act like you belong. Because as soon as you don’t you’re not going to make it,’” Thompson says.
The game will be a little sweeter for him, playing against Pittsburgh’s veteran forward Evgeni Malkin, who Thompson says he idolized growing up.
“I feel like I play a pretty similar game to him,” Thompson says. “I try to imitate him a lot and he’s someone I watched all the time growing up. I’ve been a fan my whole life, and getting a chance to line up with him and try to outplay him will be pretty fun.”
The injuries to Robby Fabbri, Alex Steen, Patrik Berglund, Zach Sanford and Jay Bouwmeester made room for the rookies. But Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo doesn’t want that to take away from what Thompson and Dunn earned.
“The way they’ve come in and played and really contributed,” Pietrangelo says. “They deserve everything they’re getting. It’s going to be on us to make sure that they keep playing this way and they are going to get an opportunity. So it’ll be fun to watch them grow.”