By LOUIE KORAC
CHICAGO -- For a guy that's used to being on the ice, newest Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester actually didn't mind taking a short hiatus following his trade from the Calgary Flames on Monday.
"On one side, you want to just kind of get there and meet the guys, get acclimated a little bit," Bouwmeester said after Thursday morning's morning skate. "For me, it was kind of good because I've got a young family. I've got a baby at home (three-month-old daughter), so it's good to kind of spend some time with her. They'll come and visit probably, but I probably won't see them too much."
Bouwmeester, who will make his debut tonight for the Blues (18-14-2) against the Chicago Blackhawks (27-5-3), will keep his ironman streak alive, which sits at 621 straight games played. He will play alongside Alex Pietrangelo after taking care of his working visa issues.
"Number one, it was good just to get back on the ice," said Bouwmeester, who has six goals and 15 points in 33 games this season. "... Everyone here has been real welcoming. It seems like a really good group. I'm pretty excited. ... We're playing a big rival tonight. To jump right into it, should be fun."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who now has a defenseman who averaged 25:09 this season at his disposal, won't ask the 29-year-old Edmonton, Alberta native to change too much.
"He knows how to play," Hitchcock said of Bouwmeester. "I think you give him a little bit of instruction on special teams and then let the 5-on-5 (game) play. He's in a position where we're not going to coach out of what he does well. I think the difference between the way we kill penalties and the way Calgary kills penalties, we're just going to have to work through it.
"Bouwmeester's at his best when he's logging all the 5-on-5 and PK minutes. The offense flows from his ability to just be so mobile. If you're a step behind defensively, he can really put a lot of pressure on you. In Calgary, there was a green light every shift. I don't think we want to restrict that because he's got great awareness on how to come back and get back into play."
With Jordan Leopold also added to the Blues' defensive mix, the team traded away veteran Wade Redden to Boston Wednesday and for the moment, it pushes Kris Russell to the press box as a healthy scratch.
"The difficult one for us (to sit out) is Russell because Russell's playing very well," Hitchcock said. "In talking to him, nobody better blink because he's gonna get in and he's gonna knock you out.
"Sure, we've got the six going tonight, but we're in a game-by-game basis and we know how good Kris was playing. It's somebody else's opportunity, but we have no reservations putting him back in the lineup. This is a tough pill for him to swallow because he's been playing as well as anybody back there right now, but he's going to be patient, wait his turn, he a good teammate like he always is. When it's his turn, I think he's going to jump all over it."
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Chris Porter has been a good soldier in the Blues' farm system. He's been back and forth between the parent club and the American Hockey League's Peoria Rivermen, he could probably tell you each notable stop along the route.
Now that he's getting a nice raise after signing a new two-year, $1.3 million extension Thursday, he might even pay for a dinner with Minnesota Wild pal Zach Parise, who will be Porter's best man when he gets married. Or will he pay?
"I'll still let him pay," Porter laughed. "He makes a little more than I do."
Porter, a 2003 ninth-round pick of the Blackhawks, won't have to worry about the AHL shuttle to St. Louis anymore after agreeing to an extension that will pay the 28-year-old $650,000 in 2013-14 and $700,000 in 2014-15.
"It's rewarding for sure," said Porter, who has a goal and an assist in 15 games playing on a one-year, two-way contract. "Nothing's ever come easy for a lot of guys. My situation getting sent down, I never looked at it as a bad thing. I went down and worked extremely hard to get back here and to be rewarded with a contract, I'm extremely excited. Hopefully I can continue to play the way I've played and help this team win."
Hitchcock has raved about Porter's play since his recall from the Rivermen and is glad to see him be rewarded.
"He's earned the right to be an NHL player," Hitchcock said. "I think he's a perfect example of a guy that's found a niche in an organization. He's got a great attitude. He goes down there and leads the team in scoring, he does anything and everything you need to do. From that standpoint, he's a perfect example of being able to stay with it, stay loyal.
"I know when we had the conversations in the summer, he had lots of options, but he trusted the coaching staff and the management in this organization and took his chances on a two-way with us again knowing that we saw things in his game that would help us when he got the opportunity. Every time he's got the opportunity to come in and play, he's effective."
Porter, who has nine goals and nine assists in 113 career games, had the option of leaving St. Louis last summer but chose to trust the system and coaching he was getting here, believing one day he'd get a shot at a full-time job with the Blues.
"It's nice to see things happen the way you want them to," Porter said. "When I signed in the summer, I thought I had a chance out of camp to make the team. As it was getting sent down, it might have been a blessing in disguise. I went down, played a lot, got a lot of confidence and came up and I felt like I played my game. It's nice to be here for another two years for sure. Hopefully we can continue to build on what we have here."
Does becoming a little deeper in the pockets change things?
"No, that doesn't change the way I play at all," Porter said. "Makes you work harder if anything."
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Dmitrij Jaskin, the Blues' second-round pick in 2011 (41st overall) who signed a three-year entry-level contract with the team Wednesday, got some rave reviews from Hitchcock following Thursday's morning skate.
"Marian Hossa ... he's the same as Hossa," Hitchcock said of the 20-year-old Jaskin. "He does the same thing, he has the same characteristics, same type of positioning, same type of mindset. He looks and plays just like Hossa. Everybody we've talked to says the same thing. He has the same ability, gets one step on you, knows where to be with the puck.
"It wouldn't be surprising if he gets some time with us when he's ready and gets up to speed. If Brandon (Saad) can play here for Chicago, who has a similar skill-set, I'm sure Dmitrij can come in and help us because Saad's helping these guys here and I think he can help us down the line here."
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Omsk, Russia native who played 51 games for the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, was fifth in the league with 99 points (46 goals, 53 assists). He will report immediately to the Rivermen but don't be surprised to see him in a Blues uniform very soon.
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The Blues, who are already without T.J. Oshie (lower-body), Jaroslav Halak (lower-body) and Jamie Langenbrunner (hip) out for the season, Scott Nichol joins the group who will not play tonight.
"He's got general soreness," Hitchcock said. "How about we leave it at that."
Hitchcock also said he's hopeful Nichol is ready by the weekend.
"He hasn't skated for two days," Hitchcock said. "We'll see how he feels tomorrow. Hopefully he's back up and running here by the weekend."
That means Porter will slide into the middle on the fourth line between Adam Cracknell, who was recalled from Peoria Tuesday, and Ryan Reaves.
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Tonight's Blues' lineup:
Andy McDonald-David Backes-Alexander Steen
Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart
David Perron-Vladimir Sobotka-Vladimir Tarasenko
Adam Cracknell-Chris Porter-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Jordan Leopold-Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman-Roman Polak
Brian Elliott gets the start in goal; Jake Allen is the backup.
Blues' healthy scratches include Russell and Ian Cole. Oshie (lower-body), Halak (lower-body), Nichol (soreness) and Langenbrunner (hip) are out with injuries.
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Chicago's projected lineup, which includes Hossa, who missed six games with a shoulder injury:
Brandon Saad-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa
Michael Frolik-Dave Bolland-Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell-Andrew Shaw-Viktor Stalberg
Brandon Bollig-Marcus Kruger-Michal Handzus
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy-Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya-Michal Rozsival
Corey Crawford starts in goal; Ray Emery is the backup.
Scratches for the Hawks include forward Jamal Mayers, winger Daniel Carcillo and defenseman Sheldon Brookbank. Forward Patrick Sharp (shoulder) remains sidelined.