ST. LOUIS -- Zach Sanford's childhood hockey dream will experience a plot twist on Saturday in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final between the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
Instead of playing for the team he cheered for as a kid, the Bruins, the forward will be playing for the team trying to ruin their championship hopes, the Blues.
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Sanford replaces forward Oskar Sundqvist, who is suspended one game for boarding Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk in Game 2, a 3-2 overtime victory for the Blues at TD Garden that evened the best-of-7 series.
"It's a little weird playing against your team growing up," Sanford said Friday. "I was even talking to my mom. She was at the games in Boston and she caught herself cheering for the Bruins here and there and had to fix that.
"It's pretty crazy how things work out like that, but I'm excited like I said before, and it should be fun."
The 24-year-old, who was born in Salem, Massachusetts, and moved to New Hampshire a few years later, watched Bruins games regularly, often with his father, Mike, paying particular attention to forward Glen Murray.
Video: Sanford on entering Blues' lineup for Game 3 at home
But Mike Sanford will not be there for Zach's Stanley Cup Final debut. He had a heart attack and died while Zach was at training camp in September.
"I think about him every day," Sanford said. "This one's a little different … but it's another thing hopefully I can just turn into some good energy."
Sanford, a second-round pick (No. 61) by the Washington Capitals in the 2013 NHL Draft, was acquired by the Blues on Feb. 27, 2017, in the trade that sent defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the Capitals before the NHL Trade Deadline.
Shoulder surgery and a bruised lung wiped out much of the 2017-18 season for Sanford, but he played in 60 games this season with the Blues and had 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists). He has been used sparingly in the playoffs, with no points in three games, the last coming in the first round\ against the Winnipeg Jets on April 14.
But now he'll be playing in the Final against a team that dominated his hockey dreams for close to two decades. He says he is ready, having kept himself physically sharp with hard conditioning sessions after practice and mentally ready by taking a critical view of the games from the press box.
"It's been crazy," he said. "I always dreamed of it. I never really had an idea that any of this would happen. It's been a lot of hard work and a lot of help along the way from a lot of different people.
"I owe it all to them and to my teammates here, past teammates along the way. It's been a crazy road, all over the place, but I'm pretty happy where I am now."