Keith Tkachuk made his living on left wing for most of his NHL career. But last season, he found a home in the middle for St. Louis and Atlanta. Tkachuk is expected to be back in the middle again with the Blues; he’s expected to center the top line between Paul Kariya and 24-year-old Lee Stempniak, who had a breakout season in 2006-07 with a career-high 27 goals and 52 points.
Doug Weight, another St. Louis icon, will probably center the second line between Martin Rucinsky and Brad Boyes. Dan Hinote will likely center the third or fourth line and speedster Ryan Johnson will probably find himself on one of those units, too. Johnson, 31, isn’t going to score a ton of points, but he’ll be one of St. Louis’ energy guys — important for a team trying to establish an identity as a club that’s no fun to play against.
Stempniak led the team with eight power-play goals last season and should continue to be a regular on the man-advantage unit. He was a bright spot for the Blues and is expected to be even better this season. Kariya is a power-play weapon, though he only scored five extra-man goals with Nashville. Weight, who led the Blues in scoring last season, is one of the game’s elite feeders and needs 11 more assists to reach 700 for his career. Tkachuk has always had a nose for the net; he scored 10 goals on the power play with St. Louis and Atlanta.
Up and Coming
Nikolai Lemtyugov -- Drafted in the seventh round by the Blues in 2005, the 21-year-old Russian was signed to an entry-level deal in June after scoring 11 goals and 19 points in Russia last season.
Charles Linglet -- A 25-year-old Montreal product, he was re-signed as a restricted free agent this summer. Originally inked as an undrafted free agent in January, he scored 31 goals and 60 points in 73 games with Peoria of the AHL in 2006-07.
Michal Birner -- The 21-year-old Czech was drafted by the Blues in the fourth round in 2004. He played in 66 games with Peoria last season and needs to work on tidying up his minus-14 rating.
Paul Kariya -- How much does the 32-year-old have left? Apparently a lot. Kariya was quietly a huge weapon for Nashville the last two seasons, playing at nearly a point-per-game pace. He had 76 points for the Preds last season and surprised a lot of people this summer when he came to St. Louis as an unrestricted free agent. The Blues hope adding a veteran with Kariya’s still-formidable offensive skills will give their attack a boost. Kariya led the Preds in scoring in both of his seasons in Nashville. If he continues to put up points the way he did with the Predators, the Blues are going to be an exciting team to watch.
"He’s scary. Every time he was on the ice, you were worried because you knew something was going to happen, and you were just hoping your goaltender was sharp. He makes things happen on the ice, and he’s going to excite people."
1. The Blues were tied for 26th in the NHL last season with 214 goals.
2. Weight led all St. Louis forwards with an average of 18:17 of ice per game. He needs 56 points to reach 1,000 for his career.
3. Kariya, who has played 12 NHL seasons, has scored 30 or more goals seven times.