MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo . -- Alex Pietrangelo stepped onto The Barn's outdoor ice sheet Thursday and felt like a kid again.
The St. Louis Blues captain said he'd played outdoors a time or two while growing up in King City, Ontario. Pietrangelo and the rest of the defending Stanley Cup champions got the chance to experience the outdoor rink, which opened in November, at their practice facility at Centene Community Ice Center for the first time.
For many of the Blues, it was their first time skating outdoors since the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Busch Stadium.
"You didn't have to think a whole lot when you're out there, right," Pietrangelo said. "I had one growing up, so it brings back the memories.
"I think we all enjoyed it. I think the coaches enjoyed it too. This time of the year [there are] a lot of practices, a lot of hockey, a lot of travel. It's just a good chance of pace, do something different."
The Blues (22-8-6), who lead the Western Conference after completing a sweep of their four-game homestand with a 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday, used Thursday as a day to work but also to give the players some time to unwind and enjoy their work day. They started inside with skills competition before hitting the outdoor rink for some 3-on-3 action.
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"It was fun for the guys," coach Craig Berube said. "We just wanted to come out today and do more of a skills session and have some fun here, a little 3-on-3 game. That's all. It's just been a hectic schedule, a little break from the regular grind in practice. The guys have fun. You don't have to think, you just go and have fun and play. The skill stuff is really good too."
The Barn is an open venue with a roof above the ice. The Blues had scheduled a practice session in recent weeks here but canceled, so Thursday was their first time as a group working on it and said the ice passed all the tests.
"I think it's really cool to be able to come out here and have the option," center Ryan O'Reilly said. "Our practice facility is very cool and it was good. The ice was very good. Obviously it's been very cold. It felt a little fast out there. It was a good day. I heard we've been planning it for the last month or so and trying to find a day that it would work. I think we came in and knew we were going to be out here.
"It was nice. It's nice just to change. Throughout the course of a season, it's fairly long and it's nice to kind of do something different and have some fun with it."