By LOU KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The goal of the 3-on-3 overtime that will be implemented in the NHL this season is to have the players competing on the ice fighting for that second point rather than have a skills competition decide it.
The Blues have been involved in two such games, both selected by the NHL as experimental games regardless of the final outcome in the preseason games, and they've taken a total of 1 minute, 39 seconds to decide the outcomes.
After losing 39 seconds into OT at Columbus last week, Troy Brouwer ended Saturday's 3-1 loss at Chicago with a goal one minute into the 3-on-3 competition.
So far, the results seem to be mixed, but it appears it's going to take the players some time to get used to all the real estate on the ice.
"It's a good way to end games, let's put it that way," Brouwer said. "I think it's ... I don't know if I'm necessarily for it, but that's the way they're going with it and we do it. I'm sure it'll end some more games that would usually take to the shootout. I don't know what the AHL's numbers were, but I remember hearing the first 12 games in the NHL, the 3-on-3 trial, 11 of them were decided in 3-on-3. If their idea is to take the shootout out, then it's working.
"We're still learning how to play the 3-on-3 game. You can obviously tell the two games we played the 3-on-3, a turnover is what's resulted in a 2-on-1 or 3-on-1 back the other way. You're going to have to do a lot more puck possession I wouldn't be surprised if you saw teams throwing a puck all the way back to the goalie to try and keep possession while they change. It makes changing and a little bit more strategy involved in it. There's a lot of new elements as players, we're still trying to learn, trying to figure out just like any other team."
For younger players like Robby Fabbri, who set Brouwer up for the game-winner in Chicago off a 2-on-1, they tend to be more favorable towards it.
"It's definitely fun," Fabbri said. "It's tough to stay with your guy and wonder who's going to get an odd break one way. ... A lot of the guys talk about little things to do, but you've got to be able to play it and know how to react and certain plays to do and stuff like that."
David Backes, the third member on the ice when the Blues went against Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, was part of the selection committee that implemented the rule.
"It's a gut-check," Backes said. "They get into our zone after about 25 or 30 seconds and you've got to empty the tank just to try and get possession back. We were able to do that and get the 2-on-1. ... You've got to have more on the line and play against other players that you're not so familiar with.
"... I'm going to probably like it when we win and probably not going to like it if we don't come out on the good side. I think it's going to end a lot more games playing ice hockey rather than playing a shootout. That's what the goal of the rule is and I think it'll have its intended purpose."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock got the opportunity to witness the 3-on-3 for the first time. Hitchcock was in St. Louis coaching the split squad group against Columbus and not in Columbus where the 3-on-3 was played.
"I think there's real strategy here," Hitchcock said. "I think the teams that do well 3-on-3 quite frankly are teams that play a really unselfish game. I think if you play a really unselfish game and you protect the next guy, you're going to be very successful. But if you play a selfish game or you force the issue when you don't have to, you're going to end up losing a lot of these games."
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Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, who was originally in the lineup today when the Blues take on the Dallas Stars, has been ruled out after sustaining a groin pull in practice on Monday.
"It's day to day, moment to moment, but we opted not to take him with us," Hitchcock said of Gunnarsson. "He was going to play today, but we pulled him out."
Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and center Jori Lehtera will make their preseason debuts on Thursday.
"Hopefully we get a look at Bortuzzo and see where he fits; whether it's with (Petteri Lindbohm) or (Joel) Edmundson," Hitchcock said. "Unfortunately for Lindy, Borts hasn't been around. Now he's going to be here for Thursday. We'll get a good read then.
"(Bortuzzo's) playing next Thursday (in the season-opener). He could have played today, but we're putting him through a real tough test right now. ... That'll give us a final read on him, but we're assuming he's going to pass that test here as soon as I can see it."
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When center Kyle Brodziak hit the free agent market, he was looking for the best fit after spending the past six seasons with the Central Division rival Minnesota Wild.
The Blues had seen enough of Brodziak, who was part of the Wild that eliminated the Blues in the Western Conference First Round past season, to gauge a good evaluation on him and sign him to a one-year contract at an affordable $900,000.
"Just the chance to win the Stanley Cup," Brodziak said of his interest in St. Louis. "Going into the summer being an unrestricted free agent, one thing that I had in mind was hopefully getting to get an opportunity to go to a team that I felt had a good chance at winning. When the Blues came knocking, it was something that got me very excited.
"It's definitely tough leaving Minnesota. I'm thankful to the organization for the opportunity that they gave me. I met a lot of great people there obviously, and teammates and trainers and everybody. You move on, but you're going to miss guys like that, the friendships you've built over the years. But it's exciting also for me to sort of get a fresh start, be on a team that I always didn't enjoy playing against."
Brodziak is penciled in as the fourth-line center with Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves. This, after Brodziak and Ott had their share of flare-ups during the playoff series last season.
"I'm excited to play with him," Ott said of Brodziak. "We know how smart of a player he is. I think both of us are very conscious on the ice and really want to be hard to play against but meaning so with coverages and being more of a total line, creating ice time, creating spots for these other stud guys who can continue to push their game. We want to be that checking, hard to play against line to shut things down. When you have a smart player like 'Brodz,' our line's going to be very successful."
Alexander Steen called Brodziak one of the toughest players to play against and is glad to have him on his side. It's the type of game the 31-year-old Brodziak, who had nine goals and 20 points in 73 regular season games last season, needs to bring with him on a nightly basis.
"I definitely have to play like that," Brodziak said. "I enjoy playing like that. I know I have to go out and work hard. I've got to try and be a big body out there. There's a lot of big bodies on this team and I think that's what makes the team one of the most difficult to play against. They're all big, strong, physical, mobile and structured. Those are a lot of intangibles that you need to win in this league. Hopefully I can just do my part and be an important piece to the puzzle.
"I'm starting to fit in. It'll take a while. I didn't really know what to expect coming in. I was in Minnesota for a long time, but it's been a good ride so far and I'm enjoying it."
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The Blues will play their final road preseason game today at 7:30 p.m. at American Airlines Center.
Here is the projected lineup:
Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko
Dmitrij Jaskin-Jaden Schwartz-David Backes
Robby Fabbri-Scott Gomez-Troy Brouwer
Scottie Upshall-Steve Ott-Ryan Reaves
Petteri Lindbohm-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Kevin Shattenkirk
Andre Benoit-Colton Parayko
Brian Elliott will start and play the whole game in goal. Pheonix Copley will be the backup.
"We still have two games left, but this is going to be the best evaluation we've had because they're two players away from their roster," Hitchcock said of the Stars. "The one they're dressing tonight looks like two players are out and that will give us a great evaluation on some of our younger defensemen, who are going to be under some good pressure, so that will give us a good read on where we're at with guys.
"We haven't been able to look at the veteran guys back there collectively (on defense). We're going to get a look at a lot of veteran guys on Thursday and then we'll get a better read."
Per Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning-News, the Stars' lineup:
Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark-Jason Spezza-Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel-Cody Eakin-Patrick Eaves
Remi Elie-Radek Faksa-Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski-John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya-Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka-Jordie Benn
Antti Niemi is in goal and play the entire game. Jack Campbell will be the backup.