By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Through admission, Carlo Colaiacovo had some tense moments this summer. The future was a big blur or like a dark cloud that wouldn't go away.
Free agency will do that for a player, and the uncertainly of returning to a place where one felt really comfortable made it a tough choice for the Blues defenseman.
But with a new two-year contract in hand, Colaiacovo, 27, enters today's 7 p.m. season opener against the Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia Flyers as a mentor for a very important piece to the Blues' puzzle.
But as happy as Colaiacovo is today, there were nervous and anxious feelings during the hot, summer months. The mind was muffled at times.
There were decisions to be made. First, did the Blues want their offensive blueliner back? Did Colaiacovo want to be back? Were there enticing offers from outside the organization tempting to take?
At the end of the day, St. Louis is where the heart was most comfortable for the Toronto, Ontario native.
"It was a little bit of mixed emotions in the summer, but at the end of the day, my heart wanted to be here and knowing the feeling I get playing in front of the St. Louis fans every game really solidified my decision to come back," Colaiacovo said. "There's no place that I'd rather be than here in St. Louis and be a part of this group with this bunch of guys. There's nothing I enjoy more than playing in front of our fans. It's a fun thing to do."
The two sides came to an agreement on a two-year, $4.25 million contract.
"There's a lot of stuff that goes through your mind," said Colaiacovo, who finished his second season with the Blues scoring seven goals and collecting a career-best 32 points in 67 games. "At the end of the day, you want to be in a place that you're most comfortable and a place where you see yourself fit best. Right from Day 1, this was the team on top. I've had a really good time here since coming over from Toronto. I really got a chance to revive my career. I love being a part of this city and surrounding myself with the great people of St. Louis. I'm really glad everything worked out."
And unless there's a last-minute change, Colaiacovo will be paired up with the Blues' top pick in 2008 (No. 4 overall), Alex Pietrangelo. In such a short amount of time, the left-handed Colaiacovo will become a bit of a mentor for a guy the Blues and their fans expect great things from.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity," said Colaiacovo, who has played parts of eight seasons with Toronto and St. Louis. "He's a great player and since coming to town, I've got to spend a lot of time with him, almost every day. ... He's a great kid. It's too bad I haven't gotten a chance to play with him in preseason yet, but I'm really looking forward to the opportunity. We both feel real comfortable with each other, both are able to do a lot of good things out there."
Colaiacovo and Pietrangelo would make up the Blues' third pairing on defense against the Flyers (1-0-0), and while one may look at it as a gamble of sorts because the two do not have a lot of ice time together, Blues coach Davis Payne is all about chemistry. These two seemed to have gelled from the moment they stepped on the ice together.
"We have pretty good chemistry. We get along really well," said Pietrangelo, who earned a spot on the opening day roster this season. "Those things are what trends on the ice. We have great communication with each other, play the same style and know where each other is going to be at. We've only had two practices together, but I think tomorrow will be a good start for us to see how we do."
Both are offensive players, so it'll be imperative to understand when one pinches in on a rush and when one needs to hold back.
Having an understanding of one another gives the duo a decisive edge.
"We know how each other play," Pietrangelo said. "It's not like we just got here and it's our first year. We have some familiarity with each other. In that sense, it may be a little bit easier, but at the same time, we want to be paired up as much as possible so we get to know each other together playing on the ice.
"We've become really close. That certainly helps. It really helps to play with a guy that's got the experience like he does."
For Colaiacovo, who has a one-track mind of getting the Blues not only to the playoffs but making a deep run, he understands this is a franchise-type player he's playing with. Whatever is necessary to improve the growth, Colaiacovo is on board with the task.
"For him, the biggest thing is he's just got to keep the game simple and let the game come to him," Colaiacovo said of Pietrangelo. "It's a fast game out there. When your time is ready, he'll get his chance. That's what I'm going to help him get through. Knowing he has a guy like me to talk to on an every day basis I think really makes him feel comfortable.
"I'm here to help him. I've been in his position. I want to see him do his best."