By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Robby Fabbri passed all tests in hisfirst NHL game when he played Monday night in Dallas.
Tonight when the Blues (0-1-1) play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets (3-0-0) at Scottrade Center (7 p.m., KMOX 1120-AM), it will be Ivan Barbashev's turn.
Barbashev, the Blues' second round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, will make his NHL debut playing alongside David Backes and T.J. Oshie.
Fabbri, the team's first round pick this past summer, got in 17-plus minutes of work and got the praise of coach Ken Hitchcock, earning more time here in St. Louis as opposed to being sent to his junior team, the Guelph Storm. Barbashev is looking for the same.
If has nerves, the 18-year-old's not showing any.
"I'm good now. I'm not feeling nervous," Barbashev said after the morning skate. "I'm ready for this game. ... I'm going to play 100 percent and we're going to try to win this game. I'm really excited to play this game. I'll be ready for sure."
Backes and Oshie have been Barbashev's linemates since camp opened last week.
"They've helped me a lot," Barbashev said. "Sometimes I don't understand a couple of drills. I thank them because it's really helpful to me."
Both Backes and Oshie have been in Barbashev's place once. Now it's their turn to help him get acclimated.
"I've been in his shoes, but I was four years older and it was an intimidating, daunting task," Backes said. "Four years younger, I don't know how I would have handled it. He's done an admirable job so far. There's going to be nerves. The first period, he's probably not going to know what the heck is going on, but by the second and third period, his skills and abilities will set in. We'll keep trying to talk to him and trying to make him feel comfortable."
"Keep it simple and play hard, have fun, enjoy it," Oshie said. "His brain's probably going to be racing a little bit out there, but 'Backs' and I will do as good as we can to settle him down, just make him play his game. He's a good player. He got drafted high for a reason. We've just got to make sure that he feels comfortable and he can play his game.
"He's very skilled. He moves around the ice really good. He sees the ice pretty well. You can tell he's a little tentative, maybe a little nervous, so we're just going to tell him to go with his instincts."
Hitchcock's message to younger or first-year players is always the same.
"Just go play," Hitchcock said. "He's a really good player. He's a really impressive player because he's a Russian player that plays a North American game and he's built to play on this surface and it's impressive. He's doing all the hard things you want. He's really strong on the puck, he's got great quickness in small spaces. He's going to be a really, really good player.
"(Communication has) been better because it's been with 'Backs' and 'Osh,' but you've got to play against somebody from another sweater and we'll see how it is today. We expect he'll have a little bit of jitters today because it's his first game. He's a confident guy, but he's not cocky. He's very sincere and he really picks things up quick. I am really, really impressed."
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One change in the Blues lineup has Magnus Paajarvi stepping in tonight in place of Alexander Steen, who will not play after getting "banged up" in the scrimmage Wednesday.
Steen is listed as day-to-day.
"He got banged up in the scrimmage yesterday so we just (pulled) him out," Hitchcock said of Steen. "We'll get back to him next week once we finish the evaluation, but we're not taking any chances on the veteran guys. We just kept him out and it gives us a chance to look at Paajarvi even more. Magnus will play in this game; he'll probably play Saturday night. We'll take a good, hard look at him."
It was supposed to be the debut for both Steen and Paul Stastny, who have been paired up since the start of camp. Steen will have to wait another day to play with his good friend Joakim Lindstrom, who will be on right wing with Stastny at center and Paajarvi on left wing.
"When a guy gets pulled out, you're always concerned, but right now, it's day to day," Hitchcock said of Steen. "If it goes any deeper, I'll let you know, but I don't think we're too worried about it. I think we're at the point right now with our veteran guys where anybody that's got even an ailment, we're just going to pull them out."
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Stastny, Backes, Oshie, Barbashev, Colin Fraser, Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester will all make their preseason debuts tonight, and while getting in the necessary work during camp is needed, playing a game is what the players crave.
"It's been a lot of practicing and finally into a game," Backes said. "But some of the younger kids getting their feet wet for the first time too with Barbashev. Heck of a player. It'll be great to see how he performs with some people in the stands. It's great to be back in front of these fans. They've been waiting a long time for some more hockey and here they go.
"He's extremely skilled. He can make plays all over the ice. There's a few days where you're just kind of sitting back and watching for something else to happen. Just finally had a talk with him and said, 'Listen, you're an NHL draft pick for a reason. You're at an NHL camp for a reason, because you're a good player. Start playing and stop thinking out here and things will just work out with Osh and I. If you're doing something, we'll read off of you. If it doesn't work out, we'll cover up for each other.' I think that sank in for that scrimmage yesterday. He did a fine job."
Oshie said this is the time to get out of the bad summer habits.
"Hopefully we can limit our summertime mistakes pretty early in the game tonight and just roll off each other backside and talk to each other a lot," Oshie said. "I'm excited to get out there. Hopefully we can feed off each other a little better than we have been in the past."
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Fraser, a veteran who's played six full seasons (eight in all) with the Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings, signed a two-way contract in hopes of landing a job in St. Louis.
"My style of play, I think, fits the mold, the way the Blues play," Fraser said. "The battles that the Kings had against St. Louis, talk about big, physical teams and the way we matched up, it's very similar. That's the best opportunity for me to stay in the NHL, is to play with a team that kind of fits my mold and my style of hockey; a two-way style, physical game and being hard.
"... This team is always at the top of the league. They're a hard team to play against. I'm not just saying that to blow smoke. They really are. Good depth throughout the whole lineup. It's exciting to be a part of."
Fraser, 29, understands landing a job here will be tough, but he hopes to add some of his Stanley Cup pedigree (he's been a part of three of them since 2010).
"I hope so," Fraser said. "That's why I'm here. I hope maybe I can bring something different ... I don't know, not that they're missing anything. Just something different. I'm a vocal guy, a positive guy and I just try to provide energy. I haven't played in the league the last six years for my goal-scoring abilities, but I'm a physical player. You kind of know what you're getting out of me every night, whether you like it or not. It's pretty consistent. There's a lot of competition at camp and that's fun too because competition brings out the best in everybody.
"It's kind of wild to think about (winning the Stanley Cup) like that. A lot of it's timing, the right place at the right time. A little bit of luck involved, I guess. I don't know ... I'll take it any way I can get it. I didn't play every game in 2010 with Chicago, I didn't play every game last year, but at the end of the day, I was still there and part of the team."
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The Blues' lineup:
Ivan Barbashev-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Peter Mueller-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Magnus Paajarvi-Paul Stastny-Joakim Lindstrom
Vannick Veilleux-Colin Fraser-Cody Beach
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Chris Butler-Nate Prosser
Petteri Lindbohm-Ian Cole
Brian Elliott will start in goal. Niklas Lundstrom will be the backup.
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The Blue Jackets' lineup, as posted by the Columbus Dispatch:
Scott Hartnell-Mark Letestu-Nick Foligno
Marko Dano-Michael Chaput-Simon Hjaalmarsson
Ryan Craig-Lukas Sedlak-Jerry D’Amigo
Dana Tyrell-Nick Moutrey-Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin-Dalton Prout
Frederic St.Denis-Cody Goloubef
Thomas Larkin-Jaime Sifers
Curtis McElhinney will start in goal. Anton Forsberg will be the backup.