By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Nate Prosser approached today like another normal work day.
Get dressed, come to the rink, prepare for another gameday skate and be ready for when his name is called upon for a game lineup.
But just after 11 a.m. today, Prosser was pulled off the ice, not knowing what was about to happen ... and then a shocker: he was claimed on waivers by the Minnesota Wild, the Blues' opponent today and the team that he played for the past three full seasons (five in total).
The 28-year-old Prosser, a native of Elk River, Minn., was signed to a one-year, two-way contract ($700,000 NHL, $250,000 AHL) by the Blues over the summer after he couldn't come to terms with the Wild. Prosser was said to be seeking a one-way contract with the Wild.
Prosser, who has 126 games of regular season experience with Minnesota (including 53 last season), was having a nice training camp with the Blues and coach Ken Hitchcock praised his play whenever asked about him.
But with the glutton of NHL-ready defensemen on the Blues' roster currently, Prosser was likely bound for the Chicago Wolves.
"I'm literally at a loss for words," Prosser said moments after finding out he was claimed. "This whole situation ... the way the summer went down, the camp here, whole new organization, whole new team and then to be put on waivers, it's the first time I've ever been put on waivers. I really didn't know the situation at all. I get pulled off the ice and they tell me the team I've been playing for the last few years claims me. I was like, 'What am I supposed to think?' It's bizzare and exciting and a funny business all wrapped into one."
Prosser, who played in two games (both against the Columbus Blue Jackets) during the preseason, was fond of his short stay in St. Louis. He'll switch sides tonight when the Blues (1-3-1) host the Wild (2-1-1) and travel back with Minnesota after the game.
"I loved it. I loved the guys, loved the coaches, loved the staff," Prosser said. "Everything went well. I put my best foot forward and that's all I wanted to do, is do what was in my control and play well. I had a great time here. I loved the city and being with the guys here. It's just kind of the way it goes.
"I just kind of wanted to come here and put on a good skate this morning, at practice, and just wanted to keep impressing this organization, keep playing well day in and day out. I didn't know if I was going to be playing Saturday or not. I was preparing to. Pulled off the ice and whole new eyes, whole new team ... crazy."
Prosser, whose wife and two daughters remained in Minnesota, has a house in the area and won't have to make any lifestyle changes.
"I put house on the market in August," Prosser said. "My head is spinning like a top right now.
"I'm going to be at the game tonight, obviously. ... I'm familiar with the coaches, the style of play, the players. I know all the guys in that locker room. It's not going to be like I have to go around the locker room and go, 'Hey I'm Nate.' I know everyone. A lot of smiles will be had tonight when I go in and see the guys. Pretty funny business the way this has all happened."
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Tonight will mark the debut for Blues forward Jaden Schwartz, who signed a two-year, $4.7 million contract on Saturday.
Schwartz, who will play on a line with fellow 2010 first round pick Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera, had three practices and one session Wednesday by himself to prepare for a game.
"I'm excited to play," Schwartz said. "I'll have the butterflies tonight. It's my first game in along time so I'll be excited. Ready to go. I don't know what to expect really yet, but hopefully my legs feel pretty good and I'm just going to try and play the game I've played for a while. I'm going to try what I did last year and improve on a few things as well.
"It did come pretty quick. I thought I might even play Tuesday, but they figured I should get a few practices in under me. It did come quick and I'm excited and looking forward to kind of the pregame ritual."
Schwartz, who has been working with power skating coach Brent Bobyck in his native Saskatchewan, doesn't feel like he'll miss too much.
"It's prepared me as far as skating and puck-handling," Schwartz said. "As far as getting hit, being in a more physical game, didn't quite get me ready for that. That part's going to be different. Getting checked off the puck and things like that, but as far as skating, my legs feel good coming into practices here. I'm not sore or anything. It definitely kept me ready that way."
There is familiarity of playing with Tarasenko, but tonight will mark the first time Schwartz will play with Lehtera.
"I've been watching him a little bit the last couple days," Schwartz said of Lehtera. "This is the first time I've skated with him on a line. I actually haven't done any line drills. I've been watching. They work hard, they drive the net when they have to. Obviously they're smart players and they do a lot of good things. They can make a play when it's there. Tonight will be good to get in a game and to try to make some plays with them. I'll know more after tonight."
Schwartz will also debut for the first time the No. 17 he chose to honor his late sister Mandi, who passed away in 2011 from acute myeloid leukemia.
"I'm excited. I've been looking forward to it all summer to put it on," said Schwartz, who had been wearing No. 9. "It's preseason, but at the same time, it'll mean a lot. I know my family's excited to see it. It's got a special meaning, so I'm excited to wear it."
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Tonight's Blues lineup:
Patrik Berglund-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Robby Fabbri
Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Paul Bissonnette-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole-Alex Pietrangelo
Petteri Lindbohm-Jordan Leopold
Jake Allen will start in goal. Brian Elliott will be the backup.