By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Jamie Langenbrunner remembers when he was a kid in Minnesota and wanting to be like Mike Modano someday.
Little did the Cloquet, Minnesota native know one day that he would be drafted by the same organization that Mike Modano played for but also be a teammate and friend.
So when news filtered throughout the hockey world that Modano was calling it a career after 22 seasons in the league, it touched Langenbrunner in a special, yet bittersweet way.
"It's always sad to see those guys call it quits," Langenbrunner said Thursday morning. "He was such a great player in the NHL, but especially for an American kid, obviously, he's the benchmark. ... I still consider him a friend. Secondly, congratulations ... helluva career, 22 years. He did it all ... won a Stanley Cup. He turned a franchise in Dallas into something pretty special there for a long time. He did it by playing hard, changing his game and being a part of a team."
Langenbrunner, Modano's teammate in Dallas for seven-plus seasons, said Modano was like a big brother who took in those starting out.
"For me getting drafted by the Stars, it was a surreal experience sitting in the locker room next to him and later on in my career living next to him for a while, riding to the rink with him," Langenbrunner said. "He's a special person and obviously a special player.
"On the ice, you see the jersey flying behind him as he skated. It was almost like he had fans on his back. Other guys are pretty fast, but for some reason, when he skated, it was a whole new level. Off the ice, his demeanor ... he was very laid back, joking around, a fun guy to be around, a guy that always was making people laugh with things he said."
Modano, a Livonia, Michigan native, wraps up a career that saw him play in 1,499 games, score 561 goals, add another 813 assists for 1,374 points. He represented the United States at the World Juniors, World Championships, Winter Olympics and World Cup of Hockey and was an eight-time NHL all-star.
He also brought the Stanley Cup to Dallas in 1999 and Langenbrunner remembers how that was the pinnacle of his goals.
"The thing I'll remember is the joy when we won the Cup in Dallas," Langenbrunner said. "When he lifted that Cup, you could tell the relief he finally felt from capturing all the stuff he'd been through from both organizations. To finally get there, it was a pretty special time."
Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, a New Rochelle, New York native, said that Modano is the greatest American player.
"Without a doubt, he's was the first major American to come in ... especially in our generation," Shattenkirk said. "It's amazing that he was able to come in and be a top player for many years.
"It seems like he's happy with his decision and I'm happy for him. He put Americans on the map in that sense."
Langenbrunner said don't discount Modano returning to the game some day.
"I'm sure he's going to be doing something, either with the Stars organization or somewhere," he said. "I think he's got a lot to give, helping younger players or on the management/ownership side of things. He's a pretty smart man that's been around a lot of things. and I can see him getting involved with that pretty strongly."
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The Blues (2-0-0), who downed the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in Orlando Wednesday, will play their third game in as many nights today at 7 p.m. against the Minnesota Wild (KMOX 1120-AM).
"Now that we've got a season schedule going here ... a game, day off, a game day off ... I think it allows guys to start getting ready. Guys are getting into a good mental mindset to really come to the rink and get ready to go."
Tonight will mark the debuts of Alex Steen, Jason Arnott, Andy McDonald, T.J. Oshie and Jaroslav Halak among others.
Here's tonight's lineup:
Alex Steen-Jason Arnott-Jonathan Cheechoo
Andy McDonald-Philip McRae-Matt D'Agostini
Chris Porter-Anthony Nigro-T.J. Oshie
Anthony Peluso-Ryan Tesink-Tyler Shattock
Carlo Colaiacovo-Roman Polak
Brett Ponich-Kevin Shattenkirk
Danny Syvret-David Shields
Jaroslav Halak gets the start; Brian Elliott is the backup.
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The Wild is 1-0-0 and will use the following lineup:
Colton Gillies-Eric Nystrom-Brad Staubitz
Kris Foucault-Zack Phillips-Brett Bulmer
Jeff Taffe-Warren Peters-Jed Ortmeyer
Jarold Palmer-Taylor Peters-Carson McMillan
Marco Scandella-Nate Prosser
Justin Falk-Jordan Hendry
Tyler Cuma-Chay Genoway
Niklas Backstrom and Matt Hackett will be the goaltenders.