NEW YORK -- Defenseman Kevin Klein was about 15 minutes away from leaving home to accompany the Nashville Predators on a flight to Vancouver on Wednesday when he received a phone call from Predators general manager David Poile to let him know he had been traded. He just didn't say where.
Within minutes Klein learned through social media that he was the newest member of the New York Rangers, a fact that was confirmed by another call from Poile.
Klein was selected by the Predators in the second round of the 2003 NHL Draft (No. 37) and came up through the organization with many of Nashville's top players, including fellow defenseman and captain Shea Weber and goaltender Pekka Rinne. Leaving that group was tough for Klein, who was sent to the Rangers in exchange for defenseman Michael Del Zotto. But he said Thursday he's excited to start a new chapter in his career.
"I didn't see it [the trade] coming," Klein said. "But I heard it was the New York Rangers and I was pretty excited to start that chapter, for sure. I was there for 10 years in that [Nashville] organization, drafted there and everything. That's all I know. So it's a sad day. But at the same time it's going to be nice to see another organization and play in a big hockey market. I know three or four of the guys, which is nice. Makes it easier to transition."
Klein does have a rapport with some of New York's players. In his final season in junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League he was traded from the Toronto St. Michael's Majors to a Guelph Storm team that featured Rangers teammates Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi. The stay-at-home defenseman is looking forward to reacquainting himself with that pair.
"We had a great run with the OHL championship," Klein said of his time in Guelph. "We didn't get it done in the Memorial Cup. But it was a great time."
The Rangers held a sparsely-attended optional skate Wednesday, but Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Klein would be playing on a pairing with John Moore, who will move to his natural position on the left side.
New York should have an ultra-motivated opponent on their hands in the St. Louis Blues, who have dropped four of six and are fresh off their worst loss of the season, a 7-1 defeat at the hands of the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.
"You need to start building better minutes early in games," Blue coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Everything is connected to skating. When we skate to check we're in good shape. When we stand still and hope we're usually caught from behind. It’s not one individual. We win as a group, we lose as a group. What we need to do first is play well as a group."
After missing the loss in Newark with the flu, forward Vladimir Tarasenko returned to the ice Thursday and should be back in the lineup. Hitchcock wouldn't reveal any details regarding his lineup, but it appears that defenseman Ian Cole will play in place of Jordan Leopold. Forward Maxim Lapierre was activated from injured reserve and could return from a lower-body injury.
Jaroslav Halak will start in net for the Blues against Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers.
Here are the projected lineups:
Alexander Steen - Jaden Schwartz - David Backes
Chris Stewart - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
Magnus Paajarvi - Vladimir Sobotka - Vladimir Tarasenko
Brenden Morrow - Derek Roy - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole - Roman Polak
Scratched: Jordan Leopold, Carlo Colaiacovo
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Benoit Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
Daniel Carcillo - Brian Boyle - Dominic Moore
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
John Moore - Kevin Klein
Scratched: Justin Falk
Injured: Derek Dorsett (broken fibula)