ST. LOUIS, MO -- There's no place like home.
St. Louis native Matthew Tkachuk will be in the lineup tonight when the Calgary Flames take on the St. Louis Blues at 6:00 PM MT (SN-Flames, FAN 960).
"Looking at the schedule before the year, this is the game I really, really wanted to play in," Tkachuk stated. "The fact that I'm here and able to play at this level and to play in this game, it's special."
Tkachuk's father, Keith, spent parts of nine seasons with the Blues and after retiring, joined the organization as a scout. The family remains based in St. Louis so there will be plenty of support for Tkachuk in the stands at the Scottrade Center tonight.
"I've skated on this ice a lot more than a lot of people have. To be back here, it's definitely really cool," he smiled.
"I've got a lot of friends and family (here). It's going to be a fun game for them, I know for sure.
"For me, it's just to go out there and try to put on a good show for everybody that's coming but most importantly, help out the team."
Given the circumstances surrounding tonight's game, the spotlight is firmly on the 18-year-old, but he isn't feeling any pressure heading into tonight's game.
"I know it will be pretty cool for my parents and my family to see that but for me, I'm taking as it comes out there. I'm just going to try to enjoy it."
Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan isn't concerned about his young charge getting caught up in the build-up to tonight's match-up. The forward has shown great maturity and poise since arriving in Calgary for the Flames development camp in July and has been able block out distractions and earn a spot on the Flames opening night roster as an 18-year-old.
He just wants Tkachuk to soak up the experience.
"He's probably going to have to buy a few tickets tonight," Gulutzan chuckled. "It will be a great game for him. He deserves to play."
The Flames selected Tkachuk sixth overall in this past summer's NHL Draft after an impressive draft-eligible season with the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League.
In the regular season, he scored 30 goals and 107 points in just 57 games. In the playoffs, on route to capturing the OHL Championship, he amassed 20 goals and 40 points in 18 games.
Tkachuk was key in the Knights' Memorial Cup win, scoring the overtime winner against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the 3-2 London victory.
"He's got hockey IQ and he's competitive," Gulutzan raved. "Those are his two best attributes in my opinion. Just an ultra-competitive kid, all over the net. Every shift he wants to make a difference, like most young guys. He's going to be a real good player for us."