By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Maxim Lapierre has seen the rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks from a different perspective as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
Blackhawks fans will say the biggest rival was the Detroit Red Wings, but from a players' perspective, it was the Canucks. And the hatred was clear from both sides.
But now playing for the Blues, Lapierre, who signed a two-year contract over the summer, feels like this has the makings of becoming one.
"It was a big rivalry when we were in Vancouver, but it seems like it's going to be even bigger here now," Lapierre said. "I think we know what our plan is this year. We want to win and there's no better way to prove it to the league by beating the Stanley Cup champions.
"Tonight, you go in there like it's a playoff game. You want to block every shot, you want to hit everybody. We know it's going to be a special energy. I just can't wait to play."
There's always a buzz when the defending champs are in town, and especially when it's a team the Blues will be chasing not only for the final reward but also within the division.
"They won last year because they had the most committed 200-foot players," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Blackhawks. "That's why they won. Their skill guys were committed, their workers were committed, their whole team was committed to play 200 feet and they won because of it. ... When your best players are committed to play 200 feet, it's a winning combination. They had it, then they got away from it and now they've got it again. That's a challenge for anyone that plays them. They play a sound game."
Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane has heard of the history of the Blues-Blackhawks rivalries of the late 1980's and early 1990's and understands why people want to see it again.
"Now it seems like everyone kind of wants the St. Louis-Chicago rivalry to come back and to be our biggest rivalry now," Kane said. "You hear different things here and there (of the past history). I've always liked the history of the game of hockey so you know these guys were pretty big rivals back in the day, 20-30 years ago, whatever it was. Hopefully that comes back.
"It's always a fun game when you play these guys. You know it's going to be physical. You can see that rivalry heat up as time goes on."
The days of the Norris Division always brought out the best in the two teams, from Ed Belfour's tirade following a Blues' sweep in 1993 to the 1991 regular season game dubbed as the "St. Patrick's Day Massacre" where 12 players were ejected following a third-period brawl that started with the Blues' Glen Featherstone and the Blackhawks' Jeremy Roenick.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who was coach of the Blues from 1996-2004, can see that type of intensity resurfacing again.
"I can see the rivalries picking up within our own division knowing that you're going to be playing these teams regularly," Quenneville said. "Then you're going to have to beat them in the playoffs to move along here. Once you get that one playoff series and then here you're going again the next season and all of the sudden you're playing them in the following playoff, it's going to create some different intensity that we've seen.
"It's been a lot of years since you've had to win your own division. I think those rivalries from the past when it was the Norris Division were very memorable, very competitive, very tough. I can see the rivalry between Chicago and St. Louis carry over from year to year and getting back to that history quickly and it extends right into the stands and the fans. It's very passionate groups in both areas. I thought you could feel it the last couple years, but I would imagine this year it's probably going to go to a new level."
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The Blues' probable lineup
Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Brenden Morrow-Derek Roy-Chris Stewart
Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko
Vladimir Sobotka-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Jordan Leopold-Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman-Roman Polak
Jaroslav Halak will start in goal; Brian Elliott is the backup.
The Blues have no injured players. Healthy scratches include left wing Magnus Paajarvi, right wing Adam Cracknell and defenseman Ian Cole.
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The Blackhawks' probable lineup
Bryan Bickell-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp-Michal Handzus-Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad-Andrew Shaw-Jimmy Hayes
Brandon Bollig-Marcus Kruger-Joakim Nordstrom
Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy-Sheldon Brookbank
Corey Crawford will start in goal; Nikolai Khabibulin is the backup.
The Hawks have no injuries. Healthy scratches include right wing Ben Smith and defensemen Michal Roszival and Michael Kostka.