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Blues, Preds set to get reacquainted

Saturday, 10.08.2011 / 2:53 PM
Louie Korac  - NHL.com Correspondent
ST. LOUIS -- One of the last teams to make their season debut, the St.  Louis Blues will finally take the ice in their opener, hosting the Nashville Predators at 8 p.m. ET.

The Blues, who finished 38-33-11 -- good for 87 points -- will face a divisional opponent they're pretty familiar with.

Prior to last season, the Predators had taken five straight. The Blues won four of the last five matchups between the teams, and generally speaking, the head-to-head matchups typically result in one- or two-goal games.

"They're similar teams. They play with a good pace, good structure," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "They're willing to play that way and stick with their game for long periods of time. You look at the matchups, both goaltenders play pretty well and it makes for close games. We anticipate another one tonight."

Predators coach Barry Trotz agreed.

"They're both teams that have the same DNA in a lot of ways," Trotz said. "They both try to play well with the puck, and there's a responsibility. They both play a forechecking game. Usually they have good, young penalty kills. They match up hard and play hard."

One gets a sense that with all the work the Blues players put in over the summer, a flood of emotions will be unleashed tonight.

"You had a feeling when guys came to the rink this morning, you sense that feeling of excitement, that feeling of guys are ready to get going," St. Louis defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "It's about time. It's been a long summer for us. There's a lot to think about, a lot to get ready for.

"We've had a great camp so far and it's just a matter of getting it started tonight. We're going to be prepared for a pretty electric atmosphere out there and we want to give the best we can and come out with a win."

Payne said that the Blues can't get too amped up early in the game. They have to channel the energy the right way.

"We have to be aware of the emotion and the energy that can put you in a spot where you burn off that energy in the first 10 minutes and you haven't accomplished anything and you haven't pushed your opponent out far enough of the game, " Payne said, "and all of the sudden they bend but don't break and come back at you. We've got to come with an approach where we manage the puck consistently early, we make sure it's a 200-foot game.

"If we just stick to the things we're asking of ourselves and the way we want to play, that's a blueprint for success. We're not going to ask for much more. We're going to channel the energy, we're going to control it and we're going to use it in the right way."

The Blues are eager to see for the first time a lineup that features scoring depth. That depth includes a third line consisting of Jason Arnott -- a former Predator -- centering Alex Steen and Matt D'Agostini.

"We can definitely put the puck in the net and that's the key to our team," said D'Agostini, who netted a career-high 21 goals a season ago. "We've got four lines that can put the puck in the net and be effective in our own little way. Steener's going to be flying around out there and Arnie's sound and smart and knows where to be. I'll just try to do my part and try to play in the offensive zone as much as possible."

The Blues will honor the fallen victims of the Russian airplane crash that claimed the lives of former players Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev, along with former Preds Josef Vasicek, Karlis Skrastins and Robert Dietrich. Also, former Preds defenseman Wade Belak, who died on Aug. 31, will be honored.

At 8:12 p.m. ET, a one-minute video tribute of the fallen players will take place, followed by a moment of silence.
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