By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- After tearing the labrum in his left shoulder in February and surgery in May, Scott Nichol is ready and anxious for some ice time.
The veteran center will get it tonight as Nichol was cleared by doctors to play and will be in the lineup tonight when the Blues (3-2-0) take on the Minnesota Wild (3-1-0) at Xcel Energy Center at 7 p.m. (game can be heard here: http://www.iheart.com/#/live/1209/?autoplay=true).
Nichol, signed to a one-year, $700,000 contract over the summer, has been practicing on a regular basis with the Blues since the middle part of August but had not seen any game action.
"The shoulder feels good," Nichol said this morning. "It's a good test for today to get my legs under me in the first game and get used to some of the systems."
Nichol got clearance from his doctor in San Jose, as well as communication with the Blues' medical staff.
"This was kind of the precaution," Nichol said. "I got the (surgery) done on May 26th and that's four months. They say it could take up to six months max so it's right in that area. We had this timeframe all along.
"My goal is to get in these last three (preseason games) and get up to speed. If I get the last three, I get to catch everybody else. ... I need to play. I need the timing back, face-offs, penalty kill, get used to our system here. It's real good practice."
Blues coach Davis Payne has been anxious to see Nichol in game action.
"Looking forward to seeing him," Payne said. "He's good to go, cleared and at a point where with that surgery, there's a certain amount of healing, there's a timeframe behind that and we're past it. He feels great. He's ready to go."
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Brendan Shanahan has certainly made his message heard and felt and we're not even through the preseason yet.
The former Blue and currently the NHL's Senior Vice President of Player Safety has laid the law down on a number of players -- including former Blue Brad Boyes -- for what the league has termed illegal hits per Rule 48.
"There's a message being sent right now," Blues enforcer Ryan Reaves said. "They're not going to tolerate those dirty hits, and I don't think that dirty hits should be tolerated. Running guys from behind shouldn't be a part of hockey.
"As far as me, I try to stay away from that anyways. I don't get too many boarding calls or any of those dirty hits. They're going to happen. I think (the league) needs to look at the intent more than anything. So far it's just been a message sent. Hopefully guys will be learning."
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski, a repeat offender of the rule, was suspended the remainder of the preseason and eight regular season games following a hit on Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck on Saturday. It was Shanahan's most severe ruling yet.
Reaves was asked if players will change their game at all as a result of the new crackdown.
"It's tough," Reaves said. "Hockey's such a fast sport. It's kind of a reaction thing and when you've got a split second to react, it's tough to slow down when you're going that quick.
"I think guys will be a little cautious when somebody's skating with the puck towards the boards. I think they'll slow down a little bit, maybe think twice before running them if the player's got his back turned. ... But you can't change your style. If that deterred me from playing my style, I'd be out of here in a second."
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The Blues will play the following lineup tonight:
Andy McDonald-David Backes-Jamie Langenbrunner
Evgeny Grachev-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart
Alex Steen-Vladimir Sobotka-Matt D'Agostini
Chris Porter-Scott Nichol-B.J. Crombeen
Carlo Colaiacovo-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Nikita Nikitin-Roman Polak
Jaroslav Halak will be in goal; Ben Bishop is the backup.
Not playing: Jason Arnott (upper-body), T.J. Oshie, Philip McRae, Reaves, Adam Cracknell, Kent Huskins, Ian Cole and Brian Elliott. Payne said Tuesday Arnott being sidelined is nothing that will keep him out for any length of time.
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The Wild, which defeated the Blues 1-0 here at Scottrade Center last Thursday, will feature many of its regulars as opposed to the lineup here in St. Louis:
Devin Setoguchi-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley
Guillaume Latendresse-Casey Wellman-Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Darroll Powe-Kyle Brodziak-Cal Clutterbuck
Colton Gillies-Eric Nystrom-Brett Bulmer
Greg Zanon-Marek Zidlicky
Clayton Stoner-Kyle Spurgeon
Nick Schultz-Marco Scandella
Niklas Backstrom will be in goal, with Josh Harding as the backup.