NEWARK, N.J. -- St. Louis Blues
forward Jamie Langenbrunner
said he has no idea what type of reception he'll receive on Thursday when he makes his first appearance at Prudential Center since being dealt by New Jersey Devils
But he does admit to being a tad nervous.
"It feels a little weird coming back for the team you played for, and obviously I was here for a lot of years, but it's good to come back," Langenbrunner told the media following his team's practice on Thursday morning. "It's a little weird walking through the [visitor's] door instead of the other one."
Not only was the ex-Devils captain a key member of New Jersey's Stanley Cup run in 2003, leading the League with 11 goals and 18 points in 24 playoff games, but Langenbrunner was also a popular member of the team's "ZZ Pop" line alongside current captain Zach Parise
and Travis Zajac
. He said he went out to dinner with Parise on Wednesday before speaking to a few former teammates on Thursday.
Langenbrunner played 564 regular-season games in New Jersey spanning seven-plus seasons from 2001-02 to 2010-11, producing 142 goals, 243 assists and 385 points. Jason Arnott
, who spent parts of four-plus seasons in New Jersey and was dealt to the Washington Capitals
at the trade deadline last year, will sit out Thursday's game with a sore shoulder.
"I think of all of all the good things that happened while I was here," Langenbrunner said. "The friendships you made and successes you had. I really enjoyed my time in New Jersey and am proud to have played for this organization."
Langenbrunner was traded to the Dallas Stars
last Jan. 6 before signing a one-year deal with the Blues over the summer.
"It's been great and I've really enjoyed my time [in St. Louis]," Langenbrunner said. "I didn't know a whole lot about it, to be honest with you. I played in [New Jersey] so long that you don't pay too much attention to the team's out west, but I've really enjoyed it. Obviously, since [Ken Hitchcock] has come in, we've given ourselves a chance.
"He's brought experience and calm to the bench. He brings a simplified way of playing the game and everyone has brought into that and has enjoyed playing for him."
The feeling is mutual.
"Langer and [Jason Arnott
] have been valuable pieces for what we need," Hitchcock said. "In those competitive games, Jamie has been a very competitive player. The harder the opposition plays, he recognizes that and his experience and competitiveness just takes over; he dials it up and it drags other people into the fight. I think when you have a young team that suddenly finds the opposition dialing up the checking, they might get overwhelmed, but Jamie and Arnott have helped us plow through it."
Forward T.J. Oshie
has also benefitted from Langenbrunner's presence.
"I think he brings that hard work ethic," he said. "Langer never takes a shift off, he doesn't complain about anything. He doesn't complain about ice time and just goes out there and plays hard when he gets his minutes. I think that's an inspiration to us younger guys to keep playing hard."
In other news, Jaroslav Halak
will get the start in goal and Brian Elliott
will get the nod at home against Colorado on Saturday.
Also, the Blues recalled 21-year-old Russian forward Evgeny Grachev
from their American Hockey affiliate in Peoria on Wednesday. Grachev has played in 24 games for the Blues this season, notching 1 goal and 4 points. In 13 games for the Rivermen, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Grachev had 2 goals and 5 points.
Grachev was acquired by the Blues from the New York Rangers
in exchange for a 2011 third-round draft choice (Steven Fogarty
) last June.
"He was really good when we had him from a checking standpoint, but in Peoria, we wanted him to be more assertive offensively and he was," Hitchcock said. "Rather then being a guy who deferred to other people, we wanted him to kind of put the puck in his hip pocket and drive to the net and he did that. He's a trusted defensive player, but we think there's a lot more he can do offensively if he uses his body to take the puck to the net."
Here's the projected lineup for the Blues:
- David Backes
- T.J. Oshie
- Patrik Berglund
- Chris Stewart
- Vladimir Sobotka
- Evgeny Grachev
- Scott Nichol
- Ryan Reaves
- Alex Pietrangelo
- Roman Polak
- Kevin Shattenkirk
will get the start in net and Brian Elliott
will serve as backup.