EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Fifteen years ago Martin St. Louis was in Japan for his first NHL game, and he felt just as unfamiliar on the ice as he did off it.
Then with the Calgary Flames for season-opening overseas games against the San Jose Sharks, St. Louis took the ice at small Yoyogi Arena on Oct. 9, 1998. His teammates included Theo Fleury, Phil Housley and Jarome Iginla.
"I remember walking away from my first game thinking I could have done more," St. Louis said. "I was still a fan. I was impressed by the players I was playing with and against. Once I stopped being a fan, it helped my game."
Fast forward to Tuesday night, when many will be in awe at St. Louis, 38, who will play his 1,000th game when his Tampa Bay Lightning plays the Los Angeles Kings. It has been a remarkable run for St. Louis, who has missed only seven games in the past 10 years. Fewer than 300 players have reached the milestone.
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"I've accomplished a lot more than I could ever imagine," St. Louis said. "In terms of playing a thousand games, I never thought … that didn't even cross my mind when you're young. I feel I have more to give. Out of all the things I've done in this League, I think it's one of those that I'm going to hold up there."
St. Louis' durability is more impressive considering he is listed at 5-foot-8, 180 pounds and has been able to avoid serious injury. Those seven missed games? He got hit with the puck in practice in 2011-12 and badly injured his finger in practice in 2005-06.
St. Louis used Fleury as a model for an undersized forward in a big man's game.
"Fleury was playing at time when there were no small players," St. Louis said. "I mean you're one in a million if you made it as a small player. I always felt that if he made it, why can't I? I got a chance to play with him my first year. That was an experience in itself. Playing with your idol and try not to be in awe."
St. Louis is also one of 16 undrafted players to reach 1,000 games. He has 932 points in 999 games and has won a Stanley Cup.
"I think it's such a cool story," Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell said. "Guys like St. Louis kind of changed the game again, to be honest. He defied the odds and to be able to play against big guys. He's sees the ice so well -- because some small guys get pushed off the puck, but he's so tenacious and strong on it. He's defied those odds. He's one of the most underrated players in the game. I truly believe that.
"There's only a handful of guys in the League that are like that. There's guys that are good themselves, and then there's guys that are good and make everyone around them good. He's that player, like [Anze Kopitar] on our team. There's not many, though."
Mitchell was impressed with St. Louis' work ethic, which was on display at the morning skate as St. Louis was among the last to leave the ice after practicing his shot by himself at one end of the rink. Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper hasn't been around St. Louis long but sees the drive.
"That kid wants to win at everything he does, whether it's being in line first at the team meal. That's what he does," Cooper said. "He wants to be first in the drills. ... That's a desire. He's got that desire. The fire burns in him as strong as it did 1,000 games ago."
St. Louis joked with reporters to wait until he makes it through warm-ups Tuesday night. He has been around long enough to have some appreciation for it, though.
"I'm proud of that accomplishment," he said. "Not that many guys get to get there. There's so many variables with injuries, people believing in you, fitting in. It's an honor to be able to achieve that, especially with the way I came into this League. I think I had to knock on a few doors and try to make people believe that I could play in the League. At first it was pretty tough."
Here are the expected lineups:
Dustin Brown – Anze Kopitar – Justin Williams
Dwight King – Mike Richards – Tyler Toffoli
Daniel Carcillo – Jarret Stoll – Matt Frattin
Tanner Pearson – Linden Vey – Trevor Lewis
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr – Slava Voynov
Willie Mitchell – Alec Martinez
Scratched: Jordan Nolan, Colin Fraser
Injured: Jeff Carter (foot), Kyle Clifford (upper body), Matt Greene (undisclosed)
Notes: The biggest news at the Kings' skate was the sight of Carter and Clifford taking the ice as practice ended. Carter and Clifford have been out with foot and upper-body injuries, respectively. Carter wouldn't say whether it was his first time skating, just that it felt good to be out there.
"It's nice," Carter said. "It's been two-and-a-half weeks sitting around and waiting. It's nice to get back. It was a lonely week without all the guys here, so it was nice just to back in that kind of atmosphere."
Carter, the NHL's fourth-leading scorer last season, said he didn't have a timetable for his return.
"It's a work in progress," he said.
Scrivens was expectedly off the ice first. He will take a scoreless streak of 155:02 into his first home start since he arrived in Los Angeles.
Alex Killorn – Brett Connolly – Martin St. Louis
J.T. Brown – Valtteri Filppula – Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone – Nate Thompson – B.J. Crombeen
Ondrej Palat – Tyler Johnson – Richard Panik
Sami Salo – Victor Hedman
Radko Gudas – Matthew Carle
Eric Brewer – Dmitry Korobov
Scratched: Andrej Sustr, Pierre-Cedric Labrie
Injured: Steven Stamkos (leg), Keith Aulie (upper body), Tom Pyatt (collar bone), Brian Lee (knee), Mark Barberio (upper body)
Notes: Korobov will make his NHL debut. Cooper said Korobov is ready and he wants his big body and strength against L.A.
"He'll always get to remember that his first NHL game was the same night Marty played his 1,000th," Cooper said.
Cooper also said that Labrie could be inserted but it wasn't decided yet.