By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Old faces in new places. That's the theme for both the Blues and Colorado Avalanche, who meet here tonight at Scottrade Center.
The blockbuster trade barely has had time to settle in that blew the hockey world up in the wee hours of Saturday morning, and three days later, it's time for the players to face their former squads.
The trade that culminated with the Blues send defenseman Erik Johnson, center Jay McClement and a conditional 2011 or 2012 first-round draft pick to Colorado for power forward Chris Stewart, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and a conditional 2011 or 2012 second-round draft pick come back to St. Louis will get its first real reviews tonight at 7 (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).
For Stewart and Shattenkirk, both first-round picks like Johnson, it's a chance to settle into the trade here rather than making the visit to Denver. The ease of it all will be more beneficial for the new Blues.
"It's going to be a good game tonight," Stewart said. "There's going to be a lot of emotions out there.
"Definitely a little nervous. I played with those guys the last three, four years. I came up with all the younger guys the last five years. They're kind of like my family over there. There's not going to be any friends on the ice tonight."
Said Shattenkirk, "It'll be nice to play here and have the loud crowd going and the support's kind of around you versus the other team when you're in the opposing building. The fans in Colorado were great to me, but it definitely will be refreshing to play at home."
It doesn't mean that there won't be any extra motivation for either player.
"I think there's definitely something to prove there," the Shattenkirk 22-year-old said. "You always want to make sure that you're showing everyone they maybe made the wrong decision. But at the same time, I have a lot of respect for the organization and all the guys there who I was pretty much dealing with for the last three years or so."
Stewart, 23, will likely use his 6-foot-2, 228-pound frame with a little extra oomph tonight.
"Trades are part of the business," he said. "You're going to compete no matter what, but for sure, you know you're going to get up for this one a little more than any other game."
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As for Johnson and McClement, the emotions will be a little different tonight. Literally days after being in the home locker room for four and six years, respectively, they made the turn into the visiting room after the shocking trade.
Neither holds any grudges, but both will definitely feel the emotions of what it will be like playing against the franchise that basically gave up on them.
"I want to make them regret trading Erik Johnson. There's no doubt about that and I say that with the utmost respect in the world for them," said Johnson, the top overall pick of 2006. "I respect (Blues general manager) Doug Armstrong, I respect (president) John Davidson, everybody I met here in this city. At the end of the day, I want them to be kicking themselves for trading me.
"I definitely want (Armstrong) at the end of the day saying, 'Why'd I trade Erik Johnson?' Don't get me wrong, they got two great players over there. Shattenkirk and Stewart are great players. I know Shatty real well and Stewart gave us fits when I was with the Blues. At the end of the day, I want to make Doug Armstrong regret trading me."
Johnson's former teammates truly understand his feelings and expect nothing less.
"That's the greatest attitude to have when you're in a situation like that," Colaiacovo said. "He's a young kid. He's got a great career ahead of him. I think he just has to find it within himself to prove everybody wrong. That's the type of mentality you have to have. I think if he has any other mentality than that, he's hurting himself."
Said Avalanche center Paul Stastny, "Anytime you get traded, I think you always want to get back at the other team and show them what they're missing. ... I think it always seems like guys play with an extra step when you're going against your former team and I'm sure all four guys will be doing that tonight."
McClement, the Blues' second-round pick (57th overall) in 2001, feels like making his new team glad they traded for him.
"For me, it's not about proving them wrong," McClement said of the Blues. "It's about proving these guys right and proving myself here. I think of myself as a proven player here and fit into their future here.
"I feel pretty lucky to have been here for six years. I don't have any hard feelings or anything like that. Everyone's going to move on at some point in their career, so I feel pretty lucky. I have nothing but good memories here. It's a great organization, good people, I had a lot of great friends here."
Armstrong, who along with Colorado GM Greg Sherman made the deal happen after ongoing talks, said the night should be interesting.
"It's going to be emotional, probably more emotional for Jay McClement," Armstrong said. "He was here the longest. He's got a lot of friends in there. He's married now. This is his home and his community. For Erik Johnson, the emotions will obviously flood back.
"I think for our two new players, it's not like playing in the Pepsi Center, so it won't be as emotional, but they'll see some new teammates. ... When the competition starts, the friendships go out the door and you play to win, and I expect nothing less from Jay McClement and Erik Johnson when they come in here, and I expect nothing else from the two players that are coming here. We're going to play to win, they're going to play to win. It's going to be a heck of a hockey game and I know our fans are going to show the appreciation for Erik and Jay they deserve."
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The Blues (27-22-9) are coming off an exasperating 5-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday and must quickly regroup to stay in the playoff hunt.
The projected lineup includes:
Andy McDonald-David Backes-Chris Stewart
Alex Steen-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie
Brad Winchester-Vladimir Sobotka-Brad Boyes
B.J. Crombeen-Philip McRae-Matt D'Agostini
On McRae, Blues coach Davis Payne said, "I feel he gives us some flexibility, gives us an option there in the middle. Real strong on faceoffs. The situations are defined by each opponent, but a guy who's been up here and shown that he can play at pace, shown that he can make plays and defend and take faceoffs.
"Each situation's a little bit different, and we'll wait and see whether that determines for tonight or in Vancouver. But we expect to use him."
Cam Janssen will be a healthy scratch.
The d-pairings could see a mix as well:
Barret Jackman-Alex Pietrangelo
Nikita Nikitin-Roman Polak
Carlo Colaiacovo-Kevin Shattenkirk
Tyson Strachan, recalled earlier in the day from Peoria, will sit out.
Ty Conklin, who is 3-4-1 with a 3.08 GAA and .881 save percentage against the Avalanche, will get the start.
Starting netminder Jaroslav Halak, who is eligible to come off injured reserve today, will not be activated and Armstrong will address his situation, as well as that of David Perron, tonight.
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The Avs (25-27-7) know all about injuries, as they've suffered a ton, just like the Blues. They're in a brutal stretch and in the midst of a 0-9-1 stretch of games.
Matt Duchene (hand) is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing two games.
The projected lineup includes:
Ryan Stoa-Paul Stastny-David Jones
Brandon Yip-Matt Duchene-Milan Hejduk
Kevin Porter-Jay McClement-Daniel Winnik
Ryan O'Reilly-Philippe Dupuis-Cody McLeod
Ryan Wilson-Erik Johnson
John-Michael Liles-Ryan O'Byrne
Matt Hunwick-Jonas Holos
Peter Budaj, 9-5-0 against the Blues with a 2.46 GAA and .911 save percentage, is expected to start.