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Seven questions with ... Keith Tkachuk

by Larry Wigge
In Keith Tkachuk's first season with the St. Louis Blues after coming over in a trade with the Phoenix Coyotes, the Blues went to the 2001 Western Conference Finals before losing to the Colorado Avalanche. He was part of the team's good times -- part of St. Louis' 25 consecutive seasons in the playoffs -- and bad times -- the Blues haven't been to the playoffs since the work stoppage ended and finished last in the League in 2005-06.

After a brief stop in Atlanta during the 2006-07 season, Tkachuk is back in St. Louis, and part of a new wave of good times.

On the night the Blues clinched their first playoff berth since 2004, Tkachuk had two goals and an assist in a 3-1 victory against Columbus on April 10. Afterward, Tkachuk spoke of what it meant to him to stay in St. Louis and other topics with

Here are our seven questions with Keith Tkachuk:

1. As late as Feb. 12 the Blues were last in the Western Conference and you were facing a decision of whether to waive your no-trade clause again. How does it feel to stay and see this improbable finish, climbing over six teams and making the playoffs for the first time since 2004?

Keith Tkachuk: "It's a special moment. It could have very easily gone the other way for me. I know that. But if I was somewhere else, I know one thing -- I would be still be happy for the guys. But this ... to do it here, where I wanted to do it, in a place where I love to play, it's the happiest I've been to being a Blue. I mean ... it's just unbelievable to be a part of this. The playoffs is what it's all about, and now we've got a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. That's all I wanted to do. And what's great is, to a man, we don't feel like we're done yet."

2. We hear you were called off the ice on the day of the trade deadline and asked if you'd waive your no-trade clause, and again a couple of hours later as you were driving home. Was it really that close?

Tkachuk: "We had discussions -- lots of them. I won't lie. My phone was busy that day. So it must have been close. But we were playing well and management didn't want to disrupt the way we were playing. I was prepared for anything, but I'm ecstatic I'm still here. I got my wish ... to stay here. My family has grown up in this city. We love it here. I didn't want to leave feeling that I left a job unfinished."

3. What is it about this team that enabled you to prevail against stiff odds?

Tkachuk: "Nobody gave us a chance at the beginning of the season. Then we lost something like 400 (actually 427) man-games to injury -- losing key players like Erik Johnson, Andy McDonald, Paul Kariya and Eric Brewer. There's something about being counted out ... and then proving everyone wrong. But this team has a good mix of leadership and experience plus energy from our young players. And coach Andy Murray has kept us in the moment, talking only about the next game and what we can do to win it."

4. The kids have gotten a lot of credit for that energy. How has that worked?

Tkachuk: "I felt that energy even before training camp. I've been to a lot of training camps, but after skating with most of the guys here for several weeks and seeing the skill and energy we now have, I don't think I've felt as excited to start a season in a long, long time. The kids they've brought in the last couple of years all have a lot of skill and, most important, a lot of character."

5. Is the mix of old and new players a good one for the intensity the kids will see in the playoffs?

Tkachuk: "Personally speaking, I feel like I'm at home with my kids. A lot of them are close to my kids' age. It brings a lot of energy to me and helps me in the long run. Even in practice they make you keep up to them."

6. So do you think these kids can handle what's in store for in the playoffs?

Tkachuk: "They have no idea what they're in for with the tenacity, the sacrifices you have to make all over the ice as a team, the want that they'll see in the playoffs. But I'll give them credit -- we've all been in that desperation playoff mode for several months now and the kids have been great."

7. Chris Mason and a few other veterans have talked about a belief system, about being able to look each other in the eyes and believe that the guy standing next to you is going to bust his butt to win. Is that the kind of closeness that has you excited about the playoffs?

Tkachuk: "Let's face it -- we could have easily mailed it in. We had so many different players in the lineup because we had so many injuries. But we played well ... together ... as a team. That's what this group is all about -- closeness. And 'Mase' has been our rock. You don't win without great goaltending -- and he's given us a chance to win every night."

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