Teammates reflect on Jackman; Pietrangelo, Bouwmeester back in camp; Gretzky
makes appearance at practice; Fabbri, Steen practice in full; Monday lineup
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- News trickled quickly into the Blues' locker room that one of their favorite teammates was saying goodbye to hockey.
And for guys like Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alexander Steen and others who have had their hockey lives and off-the-ice lives impacted by Barret Jackman will have a deep appreciation on Tuesday when Jackman formally announces he's retiring from the NHL.
A 2 p.m. press conference is set for Scottrade Center for Jackman to officially hand up his skates after 13-plus seasons, including 12-plus for the Blues the last one he played in 2015-16 with the Nashville Predators.
Jackman, 35, who had the last year of his contract bought out by the Predators, has not been able to land a contract anywhere else and was at Scottrade Center last week during training camp. He had kept mum publicly about his plans but will retire as a Blue.
Jackman finishes his career with 876 regular season games played, which ranks second all-time behind Bernie Federko (927) in Blues history, and another 53 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He won the Calder Trophy in 2003 as the NHL rookie of the year after the Blues drafted him with the 17th pick in the 1999 NHL Draft.
"The biggest thing about 'Jax' is he's always enjoying himself. It's always, 'Have fun and enjoy it because time's going to fly.' I always took that and he's right. Here we are now. Eight years later and time does go fast. Now that he's done, he's looking back on how quickly it went. I think a lot of us are privileged to play with him and having him take us under his wing."
Jackman did not have his contract renewed by the Blues after the 2014-15 season and he signed a two-year, $4 million deal with the Predators in the summer of 2015.
"He meant a lot to me," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said of Jackman. "I think when I finally get to that point and I look back on things, he's going to be someone who I'll remember as my greatest role model when I was here and someone who I still think about to this day when I'm carrying myself around town. It's a 'What would 'Jax' do' type of thing. Especially as a defenseman and being able to play with him and learning from him on the ice, but most importantly, on the ice kind of what he does philanthropically and how he is as a family man and all that stuff kind of makes 'Jax' such a special person.
"... I think the fact that it's going to be the right place though is what makes it sweet. Whenever you kind of think of Barret, you associate him with the Blues. I think for his peace of mind, it was something that he really wanted to do. He's someone who's earned it. He's a guy who's a staple here in the community for so long and will continue to be in his alumni days."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said it will feel like a bittersweet day for Jackman's teammates and feels Jackman will be good for the game, if he chooses to stay in it in some capacity.
"It's a big day for people celebrating a great player's career, but sometimes as a player, it doesn't feel like a great day," Hitchcock said. "It feels like something's ending and it's a little unnerving for players or anyone making that decision because you're now entering the unknown. He was such an important part ... the player aside, Barret was such an important part in holding people on the team, on the ice, in the organization accountable. You have no choice. His mental, physical toughness, his ability to play through injuries, his ability to play through tough situations, he was here for everything. He was here for the good days, he was here for the bad days and back to the good days again. We all know what type of player he was, but he was way bigger than that here because he made sure that everybody was held accountable. because you still saw him limp in and play games or you saw him go down and show up the next day ready to go again. You had no choice but to follow that lead. He was a quiet leader that did it in a way that you really appreciated it. To me, he's another example of prople that are ... they're not here very much anymore. Those types of players, those types of personalities, they're just not around very much anymore and I miss that. I miss personalities like that on your team.
"It's hard waking up and not knowing what to do. You've got to find yourself again. I think a lot of these guys wind up staying in the game some way, which is a good thing because their expertise and their ability to see things is really helpful. It wouldn't surprise me. Barret's a really good team person. It wouldn't surprise me if he's part of the organization at some period of time or whatever organization he wants to be part of because he's got lots to offer. I think anyone that's played defense in the National Hockey League knows what's real and what's not. He's had a long, distinguished career. He's going to be able to help anybody he wants to."
Goalie Carter Hutton was Jackman's teammate in Nashville and noticed his leadership qualities immediately. Hutton said Jackman sold him on St. Louis.
"Unbelievable. Great teammate," Hutton said. "I thought in Nashville we had a lot of young d-men and a lot of young guys on our team and he came in and right away, made a big impact on our team. He was a big part of our success last year. Nashville had some big games last year, a couple Game 7s. 'Jax' was a huge leader for us and I think for me, became a great friend. And me coming here, he was a guy I reached out to a lot. He helped me out where to be and what to do and I continue to have a great friendship with him.
"He told me I was going to love it (in St. Louis). He always spoke so highly of St. Louis. More and more he spoke of how he loved it here and guys hung around because it was such a great city. Coming in that gave me a lot of confidence."
At Jackman's press conference will be Blues chairman Tom Stillman, general manager Doug Armstrong and former teammates Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger. Present Blues players will also be there.
"Longevity's probably a good one. Class is probably the best one," Pietrangelo said describing Jackman's career. "If you know 'Jax' and the way he carries himself day in, day out, it's what you want to do to be a pro. He loves being around the guys, loves being on the rink. Him, his wife and his family, they're just great. Great people. I always talk about how important it is to have good people away from the rink and off the ice and 'Jax' is the pinnacle of that. He's the guy that's always opening his doors. Not only to me, but to the other young guys. I know he had a big impact on 'Osh' (T.J. Oshie) and 'Bergy' (Patrik Berglund) when they first came up. To have that guy be here as long as he did really set the foundation for what a lot of us are trying to carry on now."
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Speaking of Pietrangelo, he and fellow defenseman Jay Bouwmeester were back on the ice with the Blues on Monday, a day earlier than Armstrong said they were asked to come back.
The Blues skated for roughly 30 minutes, and the two defensemen, fresh off helping Team Canada win the World Cup of Hockey last week, took a 20-25 minute session.
"We talked yesterday. They called and said they wanted to skate today, so that's a day up that we really didn't look for them until tomorrow, but they wanted to get a good 20-, 25-minute skate in today and get ready for the big practice tomorrow," Hitchcock said. "Our whole focus is, touch wood, that we're going to be relatively healthy for tomorrow. That'll be the first time we really start to focus on the team part side of things. We've got between the two games and the five practices, we're going to be in real good shape."
Petrangelo was glad to be back.
"It feels like you're back at home," he said. "Obviously being away for a month knowing the guys have started, you missed it, but I'm back here and it feels like home again and you feel comfortable again.
"... Moving forward, I think it will be easy for us to adjust."
Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester have now been part of the past two big tournaments involving Canada; they also were part of the team that took the gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
"Obviously the gold and the Olympics kicks in, but obviously this has been such a worldwind," Pietrangelo said. "You play there and then you come back and now we're here.
"There will be time to reflect when I get some down time. It was a quick turnaround. You leave the next day; here we go again."
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Wayne Gretzky made a cameo appearance at the Blues' practice facility on Monday, taking in the the last of the team's practice.
Gretzky, who played in St. Louis in the 1995-96 season and had 21 points in 18 games, was in Minnesota over the weekend taking in the Ryder Cup, where his son-in-law (Dustin Johnson) was part of the United States team.
As Hitchcock was coming off the ice, he stopped and chatted for a few minutes.
"No, we talked about golf," Hitchcock said when asked if they talked hockey. "We talked about his son-in-law.
"We've been friends for a long time and obviously we've had some success in Olympics and World Cup and World Championships and stuff like that. There's a lot of history with us. Mostly talked about golf and the state of our team and where it's at. He's such a smart hockey guy. He just has this ability to know exactly what each team looks like, feels like and things like that. He's a fun guy to be around."
Hitchcock was asked if anyone can come close to duplicating Gretzky's numbers in the NHL ever again.
"No. It's impossible," Hitchcock said. "First of all, when you played against the Oilers, it was pick your poison. You'd need a $100 million team to play like that. 'Gretz' was a special player, but he had a lot of guys around him. He'd be the first guy to explain that to you, too, that he had a lot of unbelievable players around him. Just the chemistry and the way he played was so dynamic. It was must-watch television to watch them play for those years in Edmonton. It was so much fun to watch them practice. We were so lucky to watch them practice, watch them play so many games live and stuff like that. It looked quite frankly a lot like Team North America in the World Cup."
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Robby Fabbri (upper body) was back practicing today after missing last week, and Steen (shoulder) was skating with the group today minus the no-contact jersey.
Fabbri hasn't skated since playing in the preseason opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sept. 26, and Steen continues to push towards the season-opener Oct. 12 at Chicago.
"He skated today, he practices tomorrow and he'll play on Wednesday; that's the plan," Hitchcock said of Fabbri. "(Paul) Stastny's in Wednesday, (Vladimir) Tarasenko's in for Wednesday. All these guys that we want to see are going to get the last two games and then we'll just see where 'Steener's at right now.
"The only guy right now that's going to be missing for these next two games will be (Jaden) Schwartz. Other than that, everybody's going to be in."
There's an outside shot Steen could get into one of the final two preseason games. The Blues play the Capitals on Wednesday in Kansas City and Saturday at home against Chicago, which is the more likely one.
"That's going to be his call, not ours," Hitchcock said. "He's doing everything he needs to do. He knows how he feels.
"If he taps us on the shoulder and says, 'Hey listen, I'm ready to play,' then we'll do it. If we've got to wait, we'll wait. We'll just see how he feels moving forward. We're going to practice with the assumption that he's doing everything we want to do and he's been doing that. He's in the right-colored sweater, so obviously he's getting really close. He's gone off of the rehab sweater onto a real color and that's a good sign. So we're just taking it one step at a time."
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The Blues made five more roster cuts on Monday before leaving for Washington.
Assigned to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League were defensemen Chris Butler and Tommy Vannelli along with goalie Pheonix Copley. Veterans Chris Porter and Eric Nystrom were released from their professional tryouts.
The moves bring the Blues' roster down to 36 players.
Porter was trying to earn a contract and a second stint with the Blues after spending last season with the Minnesota Wild.
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The Blues' roster for the game against the Capitals includes:
Forwards: Kenny Agostino, Ivan Barbashev, Berglund, Samuel Blais, Kyle Brodziak, Landon Ferraro, Dmitrij Jaskin, Jori Lehtera, Magnus Paajarvi, David Perron, Ty Rattie, Ryan Reaves and Scottie Upshall; defensemen: Robert Bortuzzo, Joel Edmundson, Carl Gunnarsson, Colton Parayko, Jordan Schmaltz, Shattenkirk and Mike Weber. Hutton and Jordan Binnington are the goalies.
A couple of players (Agostino, Blais, Barbashev, Ferraro and Weber) are fighting for one of the remaining few jobs.
"That's why we're taking them all into Washington," Hitchcock said. "Whoever survives, gets to keep coming."
Hutton will play the full game tonight and will be backed up by Binnington. Jake Allen will start and play the final two games.
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Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson has been suspended the remainder of the preseason and one regular season game as a result of his match penalty received for an illegal check to the head on Rattie during Saturday's preseason game against the Blues.
Hjalmarsson will miss the Hawks' final two preseason games, including Oct. 8 against the Blues in St. Louis, then miss the regular-season opener between the two teams in Chicago on Oct. 12. The incident occurred with 1 minute, 5 seconds remaining in the Blackhawks' 4-0 victory.
Hjalmarsson will forfeit $22,778.77 in salary for the regular season game missed, which will go into the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.