ST. LOUIS - Kevin Shattenkirk has waited six months for this.
For the Blues defenseman, an offseason wasn't enough time to wash away the bitter taste of defeat at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, who ended the Blues' best playoff run in 30 years last May.
The Blues fell two games short of an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, which would have been their first since 1970.
Tonight, Shattenkirk and the Blues will meet the Sharks again for the first time since that heart-breaking 5-2 loss in Game 6. It offers a chance for redemption - and while a regular season victory won't erase the memory of a loss in the Conference Final, a win tonight would still be somewhat satisfying.
"It's a big matchup," Shattenkirk said of tonight's game vs. San Jose. "They're still one of the teams that we have to worry about in this conference, and they didn't lose many guys from last year. They have a very solid forward group, a group that makes it very hard on guys like me to play my style of game. There's not going to be a lot of room out there, and I'm sure there's going to be some of that bad taste in our mouth from last year."
"It was a disappointing end to our season," forward Kyle Brodziak said. "It's a new year this year, but I don't think anyone's forgotten what happened last year."
Video: Blues look to avenge playoff loss to Sharks
The Sharks haven't changed much. Their lineup still boasts a deep group of forwards led by Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelsi and Logan Couture. Their defense is equally up to the task with Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and goalie Martin Jones - who backstopped the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final last year - is tied for third overall in the League with eight wins.
The Blues, though, have changed. Gone is the big, physical team that went toe-to-toe with San Jose last year, and in it's place is a younger, faster team still trying to adapt to a new style of play and new leadership.
But Tuesday's strong 4-1 win against Buffalo indicates that things might be coming together for this group, which is finding its identity.
"We're pushing," Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Pushing to get better defensively, pushing to get better offensively, keep up our high level of compete. Lots of good stuff (at practice Wednesday) and it's players understanding about improving daily and they're really putting focus into it right now.
As far facing the Sharks after last season's loss in the Western Conference Final?
"There's bad feeling on our part. It didn't make it for a happy summer for a lot of us," Hitchcock said. "You want to win, you want some measure of revenge. "
Video: John Kelly chats with Kyle Brodziak