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At the Rink: Oilers at Blues

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has been known as someone who will lean on veterans rather than rookies.

However, when the Blues open the regular season Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers (8 p.m. ET; SN360), they'll have three rookies in the lineup on which Hitchcock heavily will rely.

The play during training camp of rookie defensemen Joel Edmundson and Colton Parayko couldn't be overlooked, and they will form the third defense pairing against the Oilers.

Defensemen Petteri Lindbohm and Robert Bortuzzo had been expected to be the third pairing heading into the 2015-16 season.

"None of us anticipated this, including Lindbohm," Hitchcock said. "[Lindbohm] went down to the minors and didn't deserve to, but the philosophy organizational-wise is if you're not playing on a regular basis in Game 1 here, you're going to play in the minors. We had three kids earn the job to play in the National Hockey League. We'll play two, and at the end of October we'll make a decision on how they're doing knowing full well we've got a boatload of guys playing in Chicago [American Hockey League]. We've got two guys we anticipated playing who played all of last year in the National Hockey League. These two kids just played better and we want to go with it."

What does Hitchcock want to see from his two rookie defenders?

"Same as we saw in exhibition," Hitchcock said.

Forward Robby Fabbri, the Blues' first-round pick (No. 21) in the 2014 NHL Draft, will make his NHL debut Thursday. He is a close friend of Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, the top pick of the 2015 draft who also will play his first NHL game Thursday.

"We're just going to come in and try and help the team as much as we can in whatever role we're put in," Fabbri said. "We just want to establish ourselves early. Opening night's the way to do it."

Edmundson, the Blues' second-round pick (No. 46) in the 2011 draft, was the last to find out he would be in the lineup. He got word from associate coach Brad Shaw after practice Wednesday.

"Nerves have been here all camp," Edmundson said. "But I think it's changed to excitement now. All during camp it was hard to sleep and whatnot. That was just all nerves, so now it's all excitement and I can't wait to get it going."

Parayko, a 2012 third-round pick (No. 86), said the fact the Blues playing two rookies together won't be an issue. They spent time playing together last season in the AHL.

"I think we're both pretty excited to play tonight," Parayko said. "... I think we're both going to be ready to play. Nerves are going to be high but we're going to have to learn off each other. We have to make sure we're working as a unit.

"... This is very exciting. It's something you look forward to as a kid. It's something you dream of. Tough to put into words almost."

Here are the projected lineups:


Taylor Hall - Connor McDavid - Anton Slepyshev

Benoit Pouliot - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Teddy Purcell

Lauri Korpikoski - Anton Lander - Nail Yakupov

Matt Hendricks - Mark Letestu - Luke Gazdic

Griffin Reinhart - Eric Gryba

Oscar Klefbom - Justin Schultz

Andrej Sekera - Mark Fayne

Cam Talbot

Anders Nilsson

Injured: Jordan Eberle (shoulder)

Scratched: Rob Klinkhammer, Brandon Davidson, Andrew Ference


Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko

Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Jaden Schwartz

Dmitrij Jaskin - David Backes - Troy Brouwer

Steve Ott - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Joel Edmundson - Colton Parayko

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Injured: Patrik Berglund (shoulder)

Scratched: Scott Gomez, Scottie Upshall, Robert Bortuzzo

Status Report: Bortuzzo, who had been slowed because of a lower-body injury during training camp, is fully healthy, according to Hitchcock. ... Slepyshev, a 2013 third-round pick (No. 88), will make his NHL debut.

Who's Hot: Tarasenko had two goals and two assists in three games against the Oilers last season. ... Hall has 12 points in 14 games against St. Louis.

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