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Alex Pietrangelo named Blues captain

Defenseman was alternate for St. Louis last season

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- Alex Pietrangelo was named captain of the St. Louis Blues on Thursday.

"Humbling is a good word," the defenseman said. "I'm excited, I'm nervous, I think every emotion you can come up with. There's a lot of guys that have really worn the 'C' and this group of guys that have worn the 'C' have carried themselves in a way that I want to carry myself.

"I'm extremely honored to be able to be the 21st captain of the Blues. I don't take the honor lightly and I will do everything I can to represent the organization, and especially my teammates, in the best way possible. I'm also extremely excited to carry on a great tradition. I've only known the St. Louis Blues organization and I'm extremely thankful they have given me the opportunity."

The 26-year-old replaces forward David Backes, who was Blues captain from 2011-16 before signing a five-year, $30 million contract with the Boston Bruins as a free agent on July 1.

Tweet from @StLouisBlues: From one St. Louis 'C' to another... #stlblues

Pietrangelo, the No. 4 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, has 51 goals and 255 points in 459 regular-season games. He finished fourth in Norris Trophy voting in 2011-12, when he had 12 goals and 51 points.

Forwards Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko, and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk were named alternate captains.

Pietrangelo was presented with a jersey bearing the "C" by former Blues captains Bob Plager, Al MacInnis and Bernie Federko at a press conference at Scottrade Center.

Pietrangelo, who was an alternate captain since 2013, had seven goals and 37 points in 73 games last season, helping St. Louis advance to the Western Conference Final, when it lost to the San Jose Sharks in six games.

"When we had to make this decision, he was at the front of the line, and every time I thought about him, and (coach) Ken [Hitchcock] and I talked about it, he stayed at the front of the line," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "He's 26 years old, he's an elite player in our game, he logs a lot of minutes, he's well-spoken, he can [get along in] the locker room with married guys to single guys, older guys, younger guys. That's very important for a captain to be able to get the pulse of everyone, and we just thought where we are, what we've done this summer of transferring ownership of this team to that mid-to-younger-20 group, he's the natural leader for that."

Video: Darren Pang on the Blues' new captain

Pietrangelo said Backes taught him "honestly and commitment" and prepared him for this transition once it became clear Backes would be leaving after 10 seasons with St. Louis.

"I've had the opportunity to learn from one of my best friends and one of the best leaders I've seen with David," Pietrangelo said. "He's kind of groomed me into this role. More of the same of what he brought, but we're different people. I've learned from him and I'm kind of excited to kind of put my stamp on the team.

"I'm not going to change who I am as a person, I'm not going to change who I am as a player. ... On the ice, I'm going to continue to try and lead by example. When there's ups and downs to a season, your teammates need someone to look to. I'm going to be that guy."

Hitchcock said Pietrangelo, who has led the Blues in minutes played the past six seasons, was able to learn a lot from Backes.

"It's really significant here because of who he's following," Hitchcock said. "There's a lot of star players and a lot of star personalities and a lot of character, but it's a really big deal in hockey because as [Chris] Pronger said on the video, 'The captain sets the complete tone for everything you do as a team.' If you've got a good captain, there's a very good chance in a very short period of time you're going to have a really good team. If your message from the captain is mixed, you're going to struggle all the time. I've seen it on both ends.

"That's why we're so happy for [Pietrangelo] for two reasons. Selfishly, because he's learned so much from David to do things the right way, and secondly, he's such a high-character quality person himself, you just know he's going to give you everything every night and that's a really good security blanket for us as a staff."

Tweet from @StLouisBlues: Petro knows baseball. #stlblues

Seven members of the Hockey Hall of Fame have been Blues captain: Al Arbour (1967-70), Federko (1988-89), Scott Stevens (1990-91), Brett Hull (1992-95), Wayne Gretzky (1996), Pronger (1997-2002) and MacInnis (2002-04). Other notable players were Red Berenson (1970-71, 1977-78), Plager (1970-76) and Brian Sutter (1979-88).

Pietrangelo will play for Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey 2016. The eight-team tournament takes place at Air Canada Centre in Toronto beginning Sept. 17.

There are six NHL teams which do not have a captain: the Carolina Hurricanes, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets.

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