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At the Rink: Blues at Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com

DENVER -- Paul Stastny found it necessary to follow his St. Louis Blues teammates in order to find the visitors’ locker room at Pepsi Center on Saturday.

"I didn't know which entrance to go in, I didn't know where the change rooms were," said Stastny.

The 28-year-old will play against the Colorado Avalanche for the first time since leaving in free agency and signing a four-year, $28 million contract with the Blues.

"A lot of guys go through this in their careers at least once," he said. "I'm excited, it'll be fun. I have a lot of family and friends here, so it should be a good time. I'll just try to have fun with it and enjoy it."

Stastny spent eight years with the Avalanche and two years at the University of Denver, so he's certainly familiar with the city.

"Coming back to Denver is always nice," said Stastny, who is eighth in Quebec Colorado franchise history with 458 points (160 goals, 298 assists) in 538 games. "I know the surroundings really well and I got to hang out with some of the boys last night. I was here for 10 years so this is where I started and it'll always be a piece of home for me.

"To me, I always had two homes, St. Louis and Denver. My childhood was St. Louis and from college on it was Denver. They're both great cities with great fans. It's cool that my parents get to see me more often; I don't have to call them as much."

Stastny had dinner Friday with former teammates Tyson Barrie, Matt Duchene, Erik Johnson and Gabriel Landeskog.

"It was just good to see those guys," he said. "I'm close friends with those guys and it was nice to hang out and just talk about anything but hockey."

It will be strictly business on the ice.

"He's a St. Louis Blue and it's a division opponent, so we're going to play him hard just like everybody else," Landeskog said. "You don't want to give him anything to talk to me about, to trash talk me after the game. He's quiet, but he'd give it to me after the game. I'm excited to play against him."

Stastny missed eight games early in the season because of a shoulder injury and wasn't healthy when the Blues defeated the Avalanche 3-2 in St. Louis on Nov. 1. He's been playing well recently and has four goals and one assist in a four-game point streak. He has seven goals and five assists in 21 games this season.

"Getting hurt early on set me back a little bit, but lately I'm getting comfortable in my own skin with the system," he said.

Duchene skated with Stastny in the Denver area before training camp and said it was strange seeing him with a blue helmet and blue gloves.

"We're used to it now," Duchene said. "You have to look out for your personal life first. Its business and it was an understandable move for him."

"I enjoyed coaching Paul,” said Avalanche coach Patrick Roy. “He was a player that played hard for us. I'm certainly happy for him for where he is and I'm happy for the way we replaced him."

The Avalanche filled the void at center by moving Nathan MacKinnon from right wing, and signing free agent Jarome Iginla to a three-year, $16 million contract.

"They are doing a good job for our team," Roy said. "This is the reality of hockey today. You're going to see guys leaving."

Here are the projected lineups:

BLUES

Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Patrik Berglund - Paul Stastny - Joakim Lindstrom

Steve Ott - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Chris Butler - Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman - Ian Cole

Jake Allen

Martin Brodeur

Scratched: Petteri Lindbohm, Magnus Paajarvi, Chris Porter

Injured: Brian Elliott (knee), Carl Gunnarsson (concussion)

AVALANCHE

Alex Tanguay - Matt Duchene - Jarome Iginla

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Ryan O'Reilly

Cody McLeod - Maxime Talbot - Daniel Briere

Dennis Everberg - Marc-Andre Cliche - Borna Rendulic

Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson

Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie

Nick Holden - Zach Redmond

Calvin Pickard

Reto Berra

Scratched: None

Injured: Patrick Bordeleau (back surgery), Jamie McGinn (back surgery), John Mitchell (leg), Ben Street (hand), Brad Stuart (hamstring), Semyon Varlamov (groin), Ryan Wilson (shoulder), Jesse Winchester (concussion)

Status report: Gunnarson has resumed skating but will miss his third game in a row since being injured Dec. 6 against the New York Islanders ... Cliche will center the Avalanche's fourth line after missing five games because of an oblique injury ... Bordeleau, Mitchell and Stuart are expected to play at some point during Colorado's three-game road trip that begins Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Who's hot: Tarasenko has three goals and two assists in his past four games... Shattenkirk has one goal and five assists in the past four games ... Iginla has three goals in his past three games.

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