By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Jay Bouwmeester's debut with the Blues Thursday night was one that wound up having plenty of meaning.
Not only did he earn his first point with his new team in a 4-3 shootout win at Chicago, but it was your typical ho-hum game in which the 6-foot-4, 212-pound blue liner logged 25 minutes, 6 seconds of ice time.
Bouwmeester, 29, jumped right into the foray for the Blues, and to start it off, he got into the Blues-Blackhawks rivalry.
Bouwmeester knows a thing or two about heated rivalries coming from Calgary, which has a heated rivalry with fellow Alberta province squad Edmonton.
"This is a little different," Bouwmeester said the Blues-Blackhawks rivalry. "These guys are at the top of the standings, and we've got to win some games. It's a good challenge. These kinds of games are going to bring people together."
Bouwmeester also talked about his enthusiasm of playing with Alex Pietrangelo, who will team up once again tonight when the Blues (19-14-2) host the surging Columbus Blue Jackets (16-14-7) at 7 p.m. (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).
"I know what kind of player he is," Bouwmeester said. "He's a talented, big guy that can move the puck and can skate. I'm really excited. He's right-handed, hasn't played the left side in a while. That's kind of where he'd prefer to be.
"All-in-all, it seems like a good group. I just want to fit in and help things out."
Bouwmeester, who played in his NHL-leading 622nd straight game Thursday, came in averaging 25:09 in 33 games with the Flames). He wasn't about to try altering his game.
"I think anyone that's been playing long enough, you know how to make adjustments," said Bouwmeester, playing in his 10th season. "You go over sort of a structure and in a perfect world, how everything would be, but when you get out there, there's always stuff happening so you just play the game, do the things that you do best. Whenever you play with a new partner, new teammates, (communication) helps things out a lot."
Bouwmeester, who put the Blues at the top of his list of teams he'd prefer to be traded to, got all the scoop about living in St. Louis. He liked the information he got not only about living in the Gateway City but the Blues team itself.
"Just the group of players. It's a good, young group," Bouwmeester said. "Playing against them, they're a hard team to play against. There's potential for things that shouldn't change too much over the next couple years. I know Doug Armstrong. He has a real good track record between Dallas and here.
"You kind of have to look beyond the team a little bit. Everyone I've talked to says you're going to love it. It's a great sports town, a good group. When it has that reputation, that's all you can really rely on. You never really know until you get somewhere what it's like. When people talk good about a place, you know there's something to it."
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Fourth line players never get much publicity in media outlets. They certainly never get the ice time that those top six players garner. But when they make an impact on a game like the Blues' grind unit of Adam Cracknell, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves made on Thursday night's game, it's worth noticing.
Cracknell produced his first two goals of the season, Porter added two assists and Reaves also had an assist.
The five points from the line came on only 27:59 combined ice time (Porter at 10:26, Cracknell at 9:22 and Reaves at 8:11).
"It gives the other guys confidence knowing we're going to go out there, compete, do our job and contribute any way we can," Cracknell said. "Even if it's not on the scoreboard, it's not getting scored on and create momentum for the other guys. But to contribute a couple goals and get a lot of chances and stuff like that, that's huge confidence for our line.
"We know we can make plays, but to contribute in a big win like that, I think that helps the team all-around. It helps us, too."
The trio is quite familiar with one another, having that experience together playing for the Peoria Rivermen. It certainly helped against a very potent Hawks team.
"We've known each other for quite a few years and understand each others' styles," Cracknell said. "We understand each others' strengths. We just play off that. We know each other. It does help."
Porter, who filled in at center with Scott Nichol (soreness) sidelined for the game, is comfortable playing the position.
"I've never played here, but in Peoria, I played center," Porter said. "I thought it was fine (Thursday). It was a little bit of an adjustment obviously. Points are obviously a bonus for our line, but I thought last night, we contributed offensively, kind of set the tempo with energy and physicality."
Porter even joked about playing center at the University of North Dakota, skating in the middle with the likes of T.J. Oshie and Jonathan Toews at different points.
"They made me a better player than I made them," Porter joked.
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Neither team skated with a full squad Friday morning. Only a handful of skaters or so for both sides. The Blues' projected lineup based on how they ended Thursday's victory:
Jaden Schwartz-David Backes-Alexander Steen
Andy McDonald-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
Jake Allen gets the start tonight; Brian Elliott, who stopped 33 shots in regulation/overtime and three of six shootout attempts in Thursday's 4-3 win at Chicago, is the backup.
Healthy scratches include Kris Russell and Ian Cole. Scott Nichol (soreness) took the ice this morning but was only on briefly. Other injured players include Jaroslav Halak (lower-body), Oshie (lower-body) and Jamie Langenbrunner (hip). Oshie did not skate with the team today.
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The Jackets' projected lineup:
Vinny Prospal-Artem Anisimov-Marian Gaborik
RJ Umberger-Ryan Johansen-Nick Foligno
Matt Calvert-Brandon Dubinsky-Cam Atkinson
Blake Comeau-Mark Letestu-Derek MacKenzie
James Wisniewski-Adrian Aucoin
Jack Johnson-Fedor Tyutin
Nikita Nikitin-Cody Goloubef
Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped 38 shots in Thursday's 3-1 win at Nashville, gets the call again tonight; Michael Leighton, recently acquired from Philadelphia, is the backup.
Expected Jackets scratches include Colton Gillies and Dalton Prout, who were extras on the ice this morning. Injuries include Jared Boll (lower-body) and Tim Erixon (upper-body).