ST. LOUIS -- When the situation presented itself for Carlo Colaiacovo, it was a no-brainer for the veteran defenseman to go back to familiar territory.
Colaiacovo, 30, was on the ice for the morning skate Thursday with the St. Louis Blues after settling immigration paperwork, passing his physical and then making his one-year, $550,000 one-way contract official. Colaiacovo played for the Blues from 2008-12 after being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs along with Alexander Steen for Lee Stempniak.
Jordan Leopold is sidelined two months with ligament damage to his right index finger, so the Blues felt compelled to bring in a veteran presence and one that they were familiar with rather than go with a younger American Hockey League player to fill the void as a seventh defenseman.
When things intensified Monday, Colaiacovo didn't waste any time deciding what to do.
"It was just ironic. I took some time off this year to be with my wife, we’re expecting our first child this year, so I thought it was important for me to be around her during that time," said Colaiacovo, who spent last season playing for the Detroit Red Wings. "Then a couple of weeks ago, me and my agent, I gave him the go-ahead to start finding me some teams to play. We were in talks with a few teams and then out of the blue, we get a phone call from St. Louis and I just put everything on hold because the opportunity that presented itself seemed too good to be true.
"Me and my wife and my family really enjoyed our time here, and it was an easy decision for me to come back. Regardless of the opportunities that were presented to myself with the other teams, my goal is to be part of a winning team and there was no better scenario to put myself in than to come back here and be part of a team that’s competing for a Stanley Cup. To me, it was a no-brainer and I'm glad we got it done."
Colaiacovo, who will wear No. 13 -- Ian Cole wears Colaiacovo's previous number (28) for the Blues now -- said there are no expectations. He's simply here to do what's necessary after the Red Wings bought out the final year of his contract over the summer.
"I'm not putting any expectations on myself, other than coming in here and being part of a great team and doing whatever is asked of me," Colaiacovo said. "I'm here to be part of the group, I'm here to contribute in any way possible. I'm confident in myself that when given the opportunity, I can contribute in any way that's asked, and that's all that I'm going to ask from myself.
"The team is pretty good as it is and to be able to join it, it's an even bigger thrill for me to be part of a group like this. Going to come to the rink every day, work my hardest both on and off the ice, and when I get there, do the best I can and hopefully stay in there. But at the same time, I'm going to be a great teammate, a great person and a guy that's cheering us along the way … whatever that means. Hopefully it's me in the lineup every night; that's what I'm working toward and we'll go from there."
Thursday will be the first meeting between the Blues (11-2-3) and Colorado Avalanche (14-3-0) as Central Division rivals. Even after two-plus years since the big trade that saw defenseman Erik Johnson, the No. 1 pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, move to the Avalanche for forward Chris Stewart and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, the players involved still get fired up to face the respective sides that traded them away, but are glad to be in their respective new homes.
"To me, there's always a point to prove there," said Shattenkirk, who has 12 points in 16 games. "It's just a pride thing. You want to show them what they kind of missed out on. Especially now that they're a team that we're chasing, division rival. There's a new kind of motivation there. It's nice to have that as well to add to the fire."
"Any time you play them, you're definitely going to be fired up," said Stewart, who has five points in 16 games. "Now that they're in the division, there's going to be more fuel in the fire."
Johnson, who has seven points in 17 games, seemed to have put the issue to rest and is happy to be part of a winning atmosphere in Denver again.
"I had a ton of fun in St. Louis. I really enjoyed playing here," Johnson said. "It was a great place for me to start my career, and then with the trade to Colorado, there were some rough patches there, but that's part of the evolution that you go through as a player.
"Obviously I didn't want it to be as rough as it went, but sometimes that happens. But time has come full circle. I'm playing great hockey on a great hockey team and sometimes you've just got to put the extra time in. Right now, I'm just really happy to be in Colorado and having things going well for myself and the team."
The probable lineups for the matchup Thursday night:
Ryan O'Reilly - Matt Duchene - PA Parenteau
Gabriel Landeskog - Paul Stastny - Nathan MacKinnon
Jamie McGinn - John Mitchell - Maxime Talbot
Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Patrick Bordeleau
Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson
Cory Sarich - Andre Benoit
Nick Holden - Nate Guenin
Scratched: Matt Hunwick
Injured: Ryan Wilson (back), Alex Tanguay (knee)
Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Brenden Morrow - Vladimir Sobotka - Chris Stewart
Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - Vladimir Tarasenko
Derek Roy - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole - Roman Polak
Scratched: Carlo Colaiacovo, Adam Cracknell
Injured: Jordan Leopold (hand), Magnus Paajarvi (upper body)