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Camp Begins with 'High Tempo' Skate

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - The era of reckless hockey has begun.

But what, exactly, did Ken Hitchcock mean earlier this summer when he said the Blues would be more reckless?

“If you watched practice today, you saw it,” Hitchcock said. “We’re trying to bring numbers both offensively and defensively to a greater degree. It’s where the game is at, it’s where the game is going to go and we want to lead the charge in that way. With the players we’ve got here, especially these younger guys, I think they’ve shown the ability to do that. I think it’s going to be really good.

“We’ve got to practice it, we can’t just talk about it,” he said. “We’ve got to do it every day and I think it’s going to help us.”

The Blues, which currently feature a 61-man roster, began training camp at Scottrade Center on Friday with a 10 a.m. skate. The team is divided into two groups that each practiced for an hour, then participated in a 45-minute scrimmage. The day wrapped up with the final a 2:30 p.m. scrimmage.

“It was a hard day for (the players). The tempo was extremely high and it was challenging for them,” Hitchcock said. “They talked about their level of fitness on the bench and how some guys were very tired… We think we’ve got another tempo we can play at, so we’re going to push that forward every second day. Tomorrow will be a teaching day, there’s a lot of structure in tomorrow’s session, and a lot of tempo in Day 3.

“Hopefully we can pick it up.”

3-ON-3 AT A GLANCE

Beginning with the preseason, the NHL will begin a new five-minute overtime format of 3-on-3 hockey. If games are still tied following the 3-on-3, the game will be decided in a shootout.

As camp opened Friday, the Blues coaching staff wanted to get a closer look at the new format and held six sessions of 3-on-3 play during the team scrimmages.

“There’s a lot of space,” said Blues forward Alexander Steen. “You’ve got to play a little bit more creative, a little more patient in certain situations and be ready to go when the puck gets turned over. The goalie has to be very aware and break up plays if he can. (The goalie) can fire the puck and spring two guys (for a break). It will be a fun dialogue getting accustomed to this new 3-on-3 system, but we tried it today and it was a lot of fun.”

Added Hitchcock, “There were five goals (in the six sessions of 3-on-3) scored in the scrimmages today, and all five were scored on the rush. I think that’s where it’s at.”

In the Coaching Blueprint series, which ran this week on stlouisblues.com, the Blues coaching staff discussed the new overtime format at length. The coaches discussed the fact that not much video of format exists anywhere, so it was important to get an extended look at it in camp.

Although preseason games tied after regulation will feature the new format, select preseason games will also feature a five-minute 3-on-3 regardless of the final score at the end of regulation, giving all teams an opportunity to evaluate it before the regular season begins. The Blues will try the new format on Sept. 22 at Columbus, Sept. 26 at Chicago and Oct. 1 vs. Chicago.

“I really like the decision because it’s dangerous both ways,” Vladimir Tarasenko said. “Even if you don’t score one way, you have a breakaway the other way. It’s really good stuff and I think it’s interesting. It’s more opportunities (for you), and there’s more opportunities to make mistakes. You need to think really hard before you try to make a play.”

BLUE NOTES

Tarasenko and Alexander Steen are getting a good look in camp as possible linemates this season. The pair has developed solid chemistry from playing together last season. “It was exceptional,” Hitchcock said of the Tarasenko / Steen combination on Day 1. “(Me) not getting in the middle of that is smart.”

Newcomers Troy Brouwer and Kyle Brodziak participated in their first full team practice today. “This is all new to them. It’s not just new drills, it’s new teammates, it’s new surroundings,” Hitchcock said. “I thought they were a little conservative at the start but really got going…. As you get into Day 4 and exhibition games, I think you’ll really see them show up. They’re big bodies, strong on the puck, and hopefully learning their way here.”

Paul Stastny missed the first day of camp with what Hitchcock called personal reasons. He's hopefully to have him back in camp soon.

Training camp is free and open to the public on Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 19 and 20). Practices begin at 10 a.m. each day, while Saturday also features the Blues Hall of Fame Plaza unveiling at 9:30 a.m. outside Scottrade Center. Click here to download a printable camp roster.

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