ST. LOUIS -- Chris Wideman was like any other kid in recent memory trying to make a go of it in St. Louis hockey.
The rookie Wideman, a defenseman with the Ottawa Senators who will return home tonight to face his childhood team he grew up following, was a rink rat that faced the odds of becoming one of those guys that make it in the NHL.
Wideman, from Richmond Heights, has fulfilled that dream and will now fulfill the chance to play for real on the ice at Scottrade Center when the Senators (18-15-6) face the Blues (23-14-4).
"Should be a big crowd tonight, a lot of family and friends," said Wideman, whose father Gary and mother Julie were in Chicago and drove home following the game Sunday to be here for his homecoming. "I'm pretty excited about it. ... It should be a good night. A lot of people were able to come up with their own tickets luckily.
"A lot of my buddies here are Blues fans. Hopefully they'll be cheering for us tonight. If not, I think they'll be cheering for me and it should be fun for them and obviously fun for me."
Wideman, 25, became a Blues fan when he was young. His parents were season ticket holders. He and younger brother Alex were immediately enamored.
"Big Blues fan growing up," said the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Wideman, who has four goals in 28 games. "Big Brett Hull fan. It's who I grew up idolizing, it's pretty special to be able to play here tonight.
"I went quite a bit. I was able to get to a bunch as a kid. I think that's how I fell in love with the game. ... The Presidents' Trophy team when I was eight, nine, 10 years old and falling in love with the game and it seemed like every night I watched, Brett Hull was scoring. That really stuck with me."
Wideman, who played prep hockey at Chaminade and for the St. Louis Bandits with Kelly Chase, is one a number of a growing list of players to make it to the NHL out of St. Louis.
"I played a little forward, a little 'D.' I wore (No.) 16 as long as I could," Wideman said. "I obviously idolized (Hull). I was a (Chris) Pronger fan, a (Al) MacInnis fan but Brett Hull was the guy for sure.
"I was fortunate to play for a lot of ex-NHL players, a lot of ex-Blues players. Just seeing those guys and the way they coached us as kids and really developed us as young players, that's really been the biggest thing; just that foundation they built for us growing up."
Wideman grew up playing at the Webster Groves Ice Rink and at the Hardees IcePlex and came behind former Blues and current NHLers Paul Stastny, Ben Bishop and Chris Butler.
"I looked up to the Stastny brothers (including Yan Stastny) and Chris Butler, Ben Bishop growing up," Wideman said. "Those were all guys that paved the way for guys like me and my brother (Alex) and guys behind us. They're guys we looked up to and who we're fortunate to be friends with now. It's a pretty special community.
"I grew up playing at Webster; played at Webster, played a year at Chesterfield and then played Triple-A until I left for the USHL. I played for the Bandits for a playoff season and spent some time with him. Played high school at Chaminade. Got around a bit."
Wideman's brother Alex is currently playing for the Evansville (Ind.) IceMen of the East Coast Hockey League, Ottawa's ECHL affiliate, and will give it his best at becoming the next St. Louis kid to make it.
Wideman is proud of the way the game is growing here.
"It's unbelievable," he said. "Coming back in the summers and playing with some of the younger guys, there's like six or seven kids playing on the national team in Ann Arbor. I think there was one, Philip McRae was my age that played. It's unbelievable to see. There's a lot of guys playing college and hopefully a few first round draft picks this year. I'm excited to see it and it's getting bigger every year."
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The Blues, who begin the second half of their season tonight, will make one lineup change.
Center Kyle Brodziak will come out in favor of Scottie Upshall and it moves Dmitrij Jaskin into the middle on the fourth line.
Coach Ken Hitchcock said Brodziak, who has played three games since returning from a skate cut injury above his right knee, needs some extra conditioning.
"We're in recovery-mode and energy-mode and we just think he needs some conditioning right now," Hitchcock said of Brodziak. "He's not up to speed, where he was before the injury and I think it's starting to show. The energy was there (after returning from the injury), but as he's starting to play more and more, it looks like he's tiring pretty easy during the games, so we're going to kind of work with him here in the next three or four days and hopefully get him up to speed again."
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The Blues' probable lineup:
Robby Fabbri-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Magnus Paajarvi-David Backes-Patrik Berglund
Scottie Upshall-Dmitrij Jaskin-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko
Brian Elliott will start in goal. Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Kyle Brodziak and Robert Bortuzzo. Jaden Schwartz (ankle) and Steve Ott (hamstring) are on injured-reserve.
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The Senators' projected lineup:
Zack Smith-Kyle Turris-Mark Stone
Mike Hoffman-Mika Zibanejad-Bobby Ryan
Max McCormick-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Alex Chiasson
Shane Prince-Curtis Lazar-Chris Neil
Fredrik Claesson-Erik Karlsson
Patrick Wiercioch-Mark Borowiecki
Marc Methot-Chris Wideman
Andrew Hammond will start in goal. Craig Anderson will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Jared Cowen and Dave Dziurzynski. Cody Ceci (upper body), Milan Michalek (finger), Clarke MacArthur (concussion) and Chris Phillips (back) are out with injuries.