Just the prospect of playing in St. Louis had Scott Mayfield excited on Saturday morning, but when Doug Weight told Mayfield he'd be in the lineup, the St. Louis native couldn't stop smiling.
"It's pretty special," Mayfield said with a big grin. "It's cool to just get out and look around. I've been to plenty of games here, so now playing is pretty nice."
Mayfield grew up in St. Louis, so Saturday is his first NHL game in his hometown and also his first game ever at Scottrade Center. The 24-year-old was a healthy scratch in the Islanders' last two games and didn't find out he was playing until morning skate, but Weight wanted him to have the opportunity.
"It's the right thing to do," Interim Coach Doug Weight said. "He's been playing great. It's not a choice of the heart - you want to make those at times to support your team - but total trust in Scotty. He's played really well and taken a step this year as a pro."
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Mayfield is one of 12 NHL players from St. Louis - including former Islander and Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine - but said he sees the hockey culture developing in his hometown.
"It was great. Some of the Blues alumni kind of stayed around and built the hockey culture around here," Mayfield said. "It's getting big, first round last year in the draft had a lot of kids and there's a lot more kids coming out of here. I had a lot of fun. I played high school hockey, played minor hockey, it was good."
Mayfield said Chris Pronger was one of his idols growing up, which could explain his physical, edgy play. He also has affinity for Al MacInnis, who was renowned for his booming shot.
"I liked that big style of hockey," Mayfield said.
The 24-year-old figures he'll have 25-30 people in the stands cheering him on and plans to enjoy the experience.
"You always mark this one on the calendar," Mayfield said. "I'm excited."