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Russell set for St. Louis debut

by Louie Korac
Newly acquired defenseman Kris Russell was on the ice Saturday morning and will make his Blues debut tonight.

Russell, acquired from Columbus on Friday for defenseman Nikita Nikitin, will wear No. 4 tonight -- ironically Tampa Bay defenseman Eric Brewer's number  when he was the captain in St. Louis -- and will be paired with Roman Polak.

"I heard rumors that I was coming to St. Louis," Russell said. "It was a stressful night for me (Thursday) wondering what was happening."

Russell, who has two goals and an assist in 12 games with the Jackets this season, will be reunited with Ken Hitchcock, who coached Russell in Columbus.

"He's actually the only guy I know here. I don't know one guy here," Russell joked. "... You just be yourself. There are a lot of good players in this league. (Jackets) assistant coach Danny Hinote had great things to say about St. Louis. I trained with Chris Mason and he's been here. He had nothing but the best to say about the city and franchise. I'm excited. It's a getting-to-know period.

"(Hitchcock is) a guy that gave me the opportunity to play. I was really fortunate for that. I think he really helped me with my defensive side of the game. Coming out of juniors, I was strictly offense, always up ice and a little lackluster in my own end. But Hitch said you have to be a good two-way player. I feel like I've come a long way."

The Blues will sit Ian Cole, who's played well in his two games since his recall. Hitchcock said it's nothing personal.

"Whether this was Kris Russell or Billy Smith, it wouldn't have mattered," Hitchcock said. "To me, I just know what it is to be a new player. You want to make him a part of it. ... The one thing that Kris Russell brings to us is transition on that left side. I think that we have the transition on the right side. If we can help ourselves on the left side and be better, that's really going to help us.

"That's not to say Ian Cole becomes a seventh guy either. That's not it for sure. To me, it's all about winning the next hockey game and whoever gives you the best chance goes. ... I want to make Kris a part of it. Whoever's the seventh, probably will be sitting out, and to me, that depends strictly on performance."
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