Saturday, September 24, 2016

Porter back on familiar ground, hoping to land contract

Veteran winger at camp on PTO looking to land 
second sting with Blues; lineups for preseason opening games 

ST. LOUIS -- Chris Porter is on familiar ground, and the veteran wing is working to make a second stint with the Blues stick.

After spending the first five-plus seasons of his NHL career in St. Louis, Porter moved closer to home and played for the Minnesota Wild a season ago.

But Porter was left without a contract this summer and is now in Blues camp on a professional tryout looking to earn his way back onto a roster he grew quite accustomed to.

"Hockey's a strange game," Porter said. "When you leave a place, you don't think you're ever going to head back to that place. As the summer went on, I think other guys in my position were kind of getting a little nervous with contracts and stuff like that. When the opportunity came back to come here, I jumped at it. I know 'Hitch' and the coaching staff well, I know all the players here real well and think it's a good fit for me. My hockey game, it's a good fit for me as far as like knowing the guys and coaches and the system that's played."

Porter, who has 15 goals and 19 assists in 234 NHL regular season games, played in a career-high 61 games with the Wild last season and had four goals and three assists playing regularly in a familiar role as a checking fourth-line winger.

But now, it's a bit of a different situation coming into camp for the first time in his career without a contract for the 32-year-old Toronto-born wing.

Porter has always had to fight for a spot among the forward group, but this time, he's fighting for the contract that goes along with it.

"Over my career even when I've had a contract, I feel like I've had to fight for that position to be on that 14-man forward roster," Porter said. "So I think I can pull from those experiences. I don't think anything's ever been handed to me. I feel like I've had to work for it. It is different not having a contract, but in the same sense, I've got to come here and earn a spot anyway. If I do that, then the contract will come."

Porter is jockeying the a job with fellow veteran forwards Yan Stastny, Eric Nystrom and T.J. Galiardi, so it will be a tough task to see who can become the next Scottie Upshall, who came into Blues camp in 2015 and earned a contract for the 2015-16 season and has since signed on for two more years.

That's why Porter's objective is clear.

"To make the team," he said. "I think when I left here, I still could have played. It's a numbers game and I understand that. I've kind of dealt with that throughout my career. When I did get the opportunity to come back, you quickly change your mindset into earning a contract but you want to make the team as well. They had a great team here obviously going to the conference final and stuff. You want to be a part of that. I was a part of it, then I went away, so I'd like to be a part of that again."

Porter knows Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and assistants Ray Bennett, Jim Corsi and Sean Ferrell, and with Mike Yeo on board along with assistant coach Rick Wilson, who both coached Porter in Minnesota last season, there will be no stones unturned.

"It's a good fit comfortability-wise and a good opportunity, I feel like, to make the team as well," Porter said. "I know there's a lot of bodies here, but all you can control is how you play and if that's good enough, it speaks volumes. Hopefully at the end of the day, I've done enough."

* Blues open preseason Sunday -- The Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets will get the NHL preseason schedule underway with a split-squad game.

The teams will play at Scottrade Center in St. Louis at noon, and then a return game at 6 p.m. at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

KMOX 1120-AM and will bring action of the home game, and fans can listen to the road game via streaming audio:

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock will coach the team in St. Louis, and Yeo will coach the team in Columbus. Yeo will be at the game in St. Louis for the first period before getting in a plane with the team for the game in Columbus. 

Hitchcock said he and the coaching staff will be on hand to observe both games. They'll coach the game in St. Louis, then jump on the Columbus charter and travel with the Blue Jackets to be on hand for the game in Columbus.

Jake Allen is slated to start in St. Louis and play two periods. Carter Hutton will finish the game. Pheonix Copley is projected to start in Columbus and would do the same by playing the first two periods and Jordan Binnington would finish the game.

Here are the lineups for Sunday's games:

At St. Louis --  

Robby Fabbri-Paul Stastny-Jaden Schwartz

Jordan Caron-Ivan Barbashev-David Perron

Scottie Upshall-Conner Bleackley-Ryan Reaves

Chris Porter-Kenny Agostino-Samuel Blais

Petteri Lindbohm-Kevin Shattenkirk

Kevin Tansey-Mike Weber

Dmitrii Sergeev-Brad Hunt

Jake Allen and Carter Hutton

At Columbus -- 

Magnus Paajarvi-Andrew Agozzino-Ty Rattie

Yan Stastny-Kyle Brodziak-T.J. Galiardi

Eric Nystrom-Landon Ferraro-Jordan Kyrou

Mackenzie MacEachern-Adam Musil-Jacob Doty

Carl Gunnarsson-Robert Bortuzzo

Joel Edmundson-Jordan Schmaltz

Chris Butler-Scooter Vaughn

Pheonix Copley and Jordan Binnington 

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