ST. LOUIS -- The defending Central Division champion St. Louis Blues will face a still formidable Detroit Red Wings team Saturday, even though they will be opening a season without the great Nicklas Lidstrom for the first time since 1991.
"It's the Detroit Red Wings, so it just looks the same to us," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They just fill in the gaps.
"Everyone thought when (Steve) Yzerman left, it was going to be all over and they did just fine. I'll reserve judgment until we see how they look without him in there. To me, they know how to play the game the right way."
The Blues, looking to establish themselves as an upper-echelon team like the Red Wings have consistently done for years, don't mind not seeing the future Hall of Fame member across the ice.
"What do you say ... all-star defenseman, legend," Blues center Alex Steen said. "It's going to be weird facing off against Detroit without him out there.
"They've been so good for so many years. They impliment their system. The way they play year after year, everybody buys in."
Veteran Blues winger Andy McDonald said, "It's going to be nice, to be honest with you. He's obviously a tremendous player. I've played against him for a long time. He just does so many great things out there. He's hard to play against, he's smart."
Lidstrom finished a 20-year career (all with Detroit) with 1,142 points in 1,564 regular-season games, helping the Red Wings to four Stanley Cup championships.
"I've played many games against Detroit, and I think there's only been one game where he hasn't been there," Blues veteran defenseman Barret Jackman said. "He's obviously one of the greatest defensemen to play the game. You can put his name right there with (Al) MacInnis, (Ray) Bourque, Bobby Orr. Those names are amazing and he's, if not the best, one of the top three."
But the Red Wings, as tough as it may be, are getting used to not seeing No. 5 on the ice.
"It is a little bit strange, but at the same time, you have other stuff to think about," veteran Red Wings wing Mikael Samuelsson said. "He will be missed on and off the ice, but since the first day, we have been without him.
"Everybody knows what's going on. He will be missed, but we have other things to concentrate on. ... He's one of the best that ever played the game -- well-deserved rest for him."