ST. LOUIS -- If Jay Bouwmeester was emotionless after it came to fruition that he would be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in his 10-year career with the St. Louis Blues, facing his former teammates Thursday night surely won't faze him either, right?
Bouwmeester, who was acquired two days before the Trade Deadline in a blockbuster with the Calgary Flames in exchange for a conditional first- and fourth-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, prospect Mark Cundari and the rights to goaltender Reto Berra, will face the Flames for the first time when St. Louis (27-17-2) and Calgary (19-23-4) square off Thursday night.
"It's always different," Bouwmeester said after Thursday's morning skate. "I've had the experience of doing it in Florida, so it's not like it's the first time. Being on the road is a little different playing against the guys you were with. You make friendships, on the personal side of things, you make a lot of relationships. It's good to see everyone and all that, but once the game starts you just play the game. Guys play against each other all the time."
Bouwmeester, the No. 3 pick in 2002 by the Florida Panthers, still has friends on a Flames team that has undergone a makeover. He left the Panthers via free agency to sign a five-year, $33.4 million contract with the Flames in 2009, and now has helped the Blues make a huge turnaround in the month of April. They've gone 10-3-0 and thrust themselves into the middle of the playoff chase.
Bouwmeester, who has a goal and five assists in 12 games with the Blues, was able to get reacquainted with his former mates, but when the puck drops the Flames are the opponent.
"You know guys on every team, so when you do get moved or other guys you played against, you kind of separate it and you play the game," Bouwmeester said. "Nowadays, you usually know five or six guys on the other team. I don't look at it as anything significant."
Cundari, who has played in two games with the Flames, scored in his NHL debut on his first shot. He was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008 but could never make the Blues' roster after two-plus seasons with the Peoria Rivermen.
"There were some times when I was in Peoria where I was thinking, 'Oh man, what do I have to do to get up there? I'm playing well,'" Cundari said. "But at the same time, hey, the chance never came up. Whether it was guys not being injured or signings or whatever and hey, that's the business of the game. I'm not going to sit there and pout. I just came to work every day and tried to maximize my abilities. To me, being here has helped me as a pro mentally to get to that next level. The physical aspect of the game is there. For me, it's not just mentally learning the game and perfecting it."
It will be natural to have feelings of wanting to prove something to the old squad.
"Obviously that feeling's there, but I'm not going to let it overwhelm me," said Cundari, who has a goal and two assists in two NHL games. "I don't have to go out there, cause all sorts of havoc and show them this is what you're missing. It's not about that. It's about me starting my NHL career and making it a long one. It's not about payback or that. It's the business part of the game, and I've accepted it and happy to be part of this organization now."
Flames coach Bob Hartley went through the same scenario when facing the Colorado Avalanche, who fired him in 2003, after he was hired by the Atlanta Thrashers.
"I remember my first time back in Colorado … the first time is always kind of a special game," Hartley said. "You can make this special two ways, you can look at this as a positive challenge or kind of as a negative, whether you want to prove your new team right or you want to prove your old team wrong. For me, I always look at the positive side. I always try to prove the people that show confidence in me, I'm trying to prove them right that they made the right decision."
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