ST. LOUIS -- At the time, Barret Jackman's first NHL game in 2002 may have felt like a blur. But it's a day the 32-year-old will never forget.
Jackman confirmed as much as he prepared to play in his 700th regular season NHL game this afternoon against the Winnipeg Jets. It's a major milestone for the veteran of 11 pro seasons, all with the St. Louis Blues
Jackman's stat line for that April 14, 2002 day against the Detroit Red Wings didn't come with any goals or assists. But looking across from his left defensive position and seeing Hall-of-Famer Al MacInnis would make any player feel in awe.
"Having played with Al my first year, I learned so much," said Jackman, who played 18:26 that night with one shot and two penalty minutes. "I was a lucky rookie defensemen that got to play with one of the greatest defensemen to ever come through here."
Jackman will reach the 700-game milestone Saturday when the Blues (38-12-6) play their last game before the 2014 Sochi Olympics against the red-hot Jets (28-26-5).
Jackman is the longest-tenured Blues defenseman and sits fourth in franchise history behind Bernie Federko (927), Brian Sutter (779) and Brett Hull (744). He was drafted 17th overall in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft by the only franchise he's ever known.
"It's amazing," Jackman said. "To actually be here this long and to see that number 700, it's come up pretty quick but it's also seemed like many years ago when I started.
"I think you almost look at every game. To this point, 700 is a nice round number, but I'm very lucky and honored to be in the NHL and to be a part of the Blues organization. Every game I put on the blue note. It's another day that I'm just grateful and excited to continue on."
To accomplish such a feat with one franchise is particularly impressive, especially for his young teammates.
"It's an amazing feat, especially to do it all with one team," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "I think you rarely see that these days. We couldn't be prouder of him. He's obviously earned it. It's been a great ride all the way up for him until this point. There's one thing that he's missing on his resume and that's our goal this year. Hopefully we can keep pushing forward and do it for him.
"He's been great to me. I probably wouldn't be where I am today without 'Jacks.' ... He's just a very admirable person and easy to look up to. He's the longest-tenured athlete in St. Louis, and fans appreciate that."
Jackman has 26 goals and 164 points in 11 seasons as well as a goal and four points in 27 Stanley Cup playoff games.
The Blues and Jets have met three times this season. St. Louis has taken two of three contests. Each game has been decided by one goal.
"Everybody's using different motivation," Maurice said. "For us, the push we have with the playoff race and every game being so critical, they're using different things but we're all trying to get our team wound up to play a real important game before the break."
Here are the projected lineups for the Jets and Blues:
Injured: Vladimir Sobotka (knee)