Camp opens with excitement, plenty of pace; Crombeen OK after scare
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues hit the ice Saturday morning in front of a packed house at the Ice Zone inside St. Louis Mills with pucks on sticks for the first time -- officially. And the pace for the Blue and Gold teams was predictably fast.
"It was good," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "I thought the pace was pretty good early. Guys were zipping. You could see at a certain point there that we burned some of that early energy off and things started to slow down a little bit. Some of the things we were trying to accomplish, some of the little teaching points, I thought the guys paid attention to.
"It's always that first day of practice where you're ready to go and these guys are coming off of just doing the testing and we've worked them here in the gym, too. All in all, I thought it was a pretty sharp day."
The Blue Team, led by captain David Backes, was first on the ice and there were several plays that had fans on the edge of their seats. Among them was a pinpoint shot by Jonathan Cheechoo that beat 2011 third round pick Jordan Binnington. Cheechoo is a former 50-goal scorer with the San Jose Sharks.
T.J. Oshie (74) and the Blues are geared for a big season after opening
training camp Friday.
"Looking forward to practice in training camp is an oxymoron," Backes joked. "It's good to get out there. There's work that needs to be done to make sure that we're ready to play for keeps. I don't know if you're ever looking forward to it because it's not that we're not in shape, but it's a progression when you're out there with 25 guys that are all skating hard and keeping up and moving the puck and making sure that you're getting back to where you were at the end of last year to continue your success."
Backes was so pumped to get back to work, he even said, "I'm going to be ready on the 7th (of October)," when talking about the season opener against Nashville that is actually on the 8th.
The Blues will practice this morning as well as Monday and Tuesday before the Blue Team will play in the first exhibition game at Scottrade Center against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Among the names featured on the Blue Team are Backes, Alex Steen, Jamie Langenbrunner, Kevin Shattenkirk, Carlo Colaiacovo, Matt D'Agostini, Jason Arnott and Roman Polak.
The Gold Team is expected to play the Lightning in a rematch Wednesday night in Orlando, Fla. The Gold Team features Andy McDonald, Patrik Berglund, Chris Stewart, Alex Pietrangelo, Jaroslav Halak, Barret Jackman, T.J. Oshie, among others.
"It's definitely a different feeling," Backes said. "We're going to do our work and we expect to be playing in April, May and June. That's a realistic goal for us. ... Those expectations have risen and now it's time to do the work. The expectations are there, but unless we put the product on the ice and bring that 'A' game time after time, those expectations can be whatever they want. It's time to do the work and put up and start to shut up."
* Crombeen OK -- Forward B.J. Crombeen was on the ice Fridday for the fitness testing and again Saturday sporting a black eye over his right eye after getting a scare at Wednesday's informal workout from a deflected puck.
Crombeen received 11 stiches on both sides of his eye but was otherwise OK, saying, "I was lucky. I thank my lucky stars. It could have been a lot worse."
* Roster down to 54 -- The camp roster was set at 57 players for the Blues but is now down to 54.
David Perron (concussion-like symptoms) is still sidelined. Defenseman and 2011 second-round puck Joel Edmundson suffered a high ankle sprain in a pre-game skate in Traverse City, Mich. last week and has been unavailable for camp. Now add defenseman Brock Beukeboom to the list. Beukeboom, acquired last season from Tampa Bay in the Eric Brewer trade, has a back injury.