By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Defenseman Jani Hakanpaa may play his final preseason game tonight, he may stick among the final 30 that Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is looking to whittle his team down to by the end of today.
But regardless of what happens, Hakanpaa will take in his third preseason game tonight at Scottrade Center against the Dallas Stars (7 p.m., KY-98.1 FM) and have fun with it.
The Blues' 2010 fourth-round pick has had a blast in his first camp with the Blues, and instead of returning to his native Finland to resume his career, he will head to Chicago of the American Hockey League with the hope that he took in a lot with the parent club.
"It's been a learning experience for me just trying to learn all the systems from the older guys, learning small stuff, small tricks and just how to be better," said Hakanpaa, who will be paired with Taylor Chorney tonight. "It's been a really good experience for me, the first camp. This is a lot different than we have back home in Finland. It's been a lot of fun."
Hakanpaa, who has an assist in two games thus far, finished out last season playing for the Blues AHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen. He had a goal and three assists in 14 games. But prior to that, he played in Finland for Blues of the SM-Liiga.
"This is a lot faster, of course, because of the smaller rink, there are faster guys," Hakanpaa said of the North American game. "Those are probably the biggest things. You have to be faster, when you go back for pucks, you have to be more aware of things already behind you even before you get the puck."
The 6-foot-5, 218-pound Hakanpaa has gained a lot in his first camp. He was the captain of the Blues' prospects team that traveled to Traverse City, Mich. Now it's all about being able to absorb the information he's learned and growing with it.
"I just want to take in everything that I can and soak in all the information and bring it on the ice with me all the time," Hakanpaa said. "You want to follow the lead of the older guys, see how they prepare for games and take of their bodies and how they work.
"It's been a lot of fun playing these games. It's been a good opportunity for me to show what I can do on the ice. Just go out there and have fun and play my game. It's been nice playing with these guys here."
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Tonight's Blues lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Derek Roy-Chris Stewart
Dmitrij Jaskin-Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko
Chris Porter-Vladimir Sobotka-Ty Rattie
Sergey Andronov-Keith Aucoin-Cody Beach
Jordan Leopold-Alex Pietrangelo
Ian Cole-Roman Polak
Taylor Chorney-Jani Hakanpaa
Jake Allen gets the start in goal; Jordan Binnington is the backup.
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According to the Stars' website, here is the lineup expected to play tonight:
Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Erik Cole
Ray Whitney-Shawn Horcoff-Alex Chiasson
Antoine Roussel-Vernon Fiddler-Ryan Garbutt
Lane MacDermid-Chris Mueller-Colton Sceviour
Brenden Dillon-Stephane Robidas
Jordie Benn-Sergei Gonchar
Kevin Connauton-Jamie Oleksiak
Kari Lehtonen is the starting goalie; Cristopher Nilstorp is expected to be the back up.