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Blues open camp with intense practices

Fabbri returns, Schenn gets comfortable and prospects get big opportunity

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

HAZELWOOD, Mo - Head Coach Mike Yeo took over his first training camp with the Blues on Friday at the Ice Zone at St. Louis Outlet Mall, and by all accounts, Day 1 was intense, uptempo and fast-paced.

"The first day is always tough," said Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo. "You try to prepare yourself but you can never really replicate that intensity until you get out there. (Coach Yeo) said it was going to be tough, he said it was going to be uptempo. It's the same way we want to play, so no better way to prepare yourself for games than by practicing the same way."

"You can see that we're not wasting any time," Yeo said. "Right from the start, we've got a lot of pace to our practice. We want to play fast, we want to be aggressive off the attacks and tough to defend. That mentality has to continue to build for us.

Video: Blues begin training camp at Ice Zone

"System-wise, we've got a plan in place that every day we'll be touching different parts of our game and checking things off to make sure all aspects are covered. We've got the plan in place and it's a good first step today."

In addition to a demanding first practice, here are some other observations from the first day of training camp:

Fabbri is healthy and ready to go

After suffering a torn ACL in early February, Blues forward Robby Fabbri had to work hard on his recovery to be back on the ice for the first day of training camp.

Fabbri's dedication actually had him slightly ahead of schedule in the offseason, and he was champing at the bit to get things started on Friday.

"It took me a little bit to get used to the competing again. It's been awhile," Fabbri said. "I feel like I've got confidence in my knee for going into corners and in on battles and stuff like that. It was a good skate for me today."

Fabbri was skating at center Friday, indicating that the Blues might be considering moving him to the middle.

"He's not a huge guy in comparison to some of the centers around the League, but he's going to have to prove he can do the dirty work, defend, keep the puck out of his net, but more importantly get to the offensive side of his game," Yeo said.

Opportunity knocks for top prospects

Several of the Blues' top prospects are getting big opportunities to show off their stuff early on in camp.

Samuel Blais, who was drafted by the Blues in 2014 and has shown great offensive potential, was skating on a line with Vladimir Tarasenko and Paul Stastny on Friday. Tage Thompson, who turned in a stellar performance in Traverse City, was skating with Robby Fabbri and Magnus Paajarvi while defenseman Jake Walman was paired with Robert Bortuzzo on defense.

"I think you've seen a number of young kids out there, and we want to surround them with good players," Yeo said. "It gives them a chance to show what they can do. We're not giving them anything. The guys that are there have earned it on their play based on what they've done in the past, but also what they're capable of… We like to think we're giving them all their best chance right now."

So could getting a chance with some of the NHL's top players be a good thing for a young prospect? Or could it be too intimidating?

"It depends on the character and the personality and that's what you look for," Yeo said. "Some guys rise up, some guys defer because the nerves get to them too much, and some guys really take advantage of that opportunity. That's what we're looking for right now."

Schenn feeling 'comfortable'

Newcomer Brayden Schenn was anxious to get going, and he was on the ice today centering Alexander Steen and Jaden Schwartz.

Schenn is a versatile player, having played both wings and center during his six seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers.

"It's been good, the guys have been awesome and super welcoming," Schenn said of his first few days in St. Louis. "Coming to an organization where you don't know a whole lot of people, guys have made me feel comfortable in the beginning. It's good to get Day 1 out of the way.

"They have a good group here already so I don't think I need to try to do anything special," Schenn added. "Just try to fit in."

Defensive shakeup?

Each of the Blues' top six defenseman returned this summer, giving the Blues a solidified defense that one might expect would look the same on the first day of training camp.

But that wasn't the case.

Instead, Colton Parayko was paired with Jay Bouwmeester. Pietrangelo, on the other hand, was skating with Joel Edmundson.

Will Yeo commit to shaking up his defense pairs to start the season?

Not yet.

"Nothing is a commitment right now," Yeo said. "(Training Camp) is a perfect opportunity to try some things and experiment. Like you've seen with our young players, it's a good opportunity for us to try some things. Once we get into the games, we'll see some different looks, too."

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