ST. LOUIS --
When No. 16 of the Islanders steps out onto the ice tonight, there may not be many Blues fans that remember, but Marty Reasoner
was the franchise's No. 1 pick (No. 14) way back in the 1996 Entry Draft.
Reasoner, who played parts of three seasons with the Blues totaling 95 games (17 goals, 30 assists), is on his sixth franchise after signing a one-year deal to play on Long Island this past summer.
"It's a story of survival, trying to hang on," Reasoner said. "When I came in coming out of college, I was scoring a lot of points. I was an offensive guy. Even here, I was put in that role a little bit on and off. I had short spurts of success. It was definitely a big learning experience, learning to become a pro and how to play. It's that evolution of a player: you start out one way and you get chewed up and spit out totally different. I look at myself now and that was like I was a different person."
Reasoner credited current Blues director of hockey operations Al MacInnis
and team color analyst Kelly Chase
as being most influential on his career, and mentioned players like current assistant coach Scott Mellanby
, Pierre Turgeon
and Scott Young
as players he enjoyed here.
"Starting as a young guy, it was an exciting time," Reasoner said. "We had some pretty good teams and some pretty good memories. I learned a lot as a player. At times it seems like a long time, but other times it seems like it was yesterday. It was definitely a fun time, and it's good to see this organization come full circle and back to its winning ways. It's definitely a great sports town.
"There's a lot of range of emotions as far as it being your first team, good memories. It's definitely a special place. It's always fun to come back and play and relive old times. There's not much of that team left. There's been a lot of turnover. I don't know if that's just me being around too long, or there's been that much turnover. It was definitely a great time, played with some great players and learned a lot from some very good players in this League."
Sticking with the Blues reunion theme, current Islanders senior advisor to the general manager and assistant coach Doug Weight
is back in St. Louis as well.
Weight, who spent parts of six seasons and two stints with the Blues, playing in 364 of his 1,238 games (75 goals, 220 assists), retired after the 2010-11 season, his 19th in the game.
"It's been fun, it's been educational, and I've learned a lot in helping (general manager) Garth (Snow) on the managerial side and certainly being on the bench. These coaches have been good to me, and it's been very educational," Weight said. "To be around the game, and what we're trying to build here, it's exhilarating. It's never going to feel like when you're walking out of the tunnel, going on the ice and competing, but certainly the next best thing."
Weight was traded twice by the Blues, once to Carolina near the trade deadline in 2006 before resigning here in the offseason, and again in 2007 to Anaheim, netting the Blues Andy McDonald
"They seemed to have found their ground and the way they have to play," Weight said of the Blues. "Of course they've had some great goaltending and that's been a key for them. But they're battling and they're committed ... it's going to be great to see the fans and it's going to be a great atmosphere tonight."
The Islanders, eight points in back of Toronto in the Eastern Conference, know their challenge is great tonight despite a 4-0-1 run in their last five on the road.
The Blues are tied with Detroit for most home wins (24) and are 16-0-3 in their last 19 games at Scottrade Center. Their last regulation home loss was Dec. 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks
"We're up against a real good hockey team tonight," coach Jack Capuano
said. "We're going to have to be at our best.
"It's a challenge and it's a good challenge. It gives us a chance for our team to see where we're at to play against a big, physical team. A team that's got good size, good goaltending, special teams. They've really done well on home ice. They're a stingy team, there's no question. They play solid defensively. The territorial edge will be key in tonight's game for sure."