Blues debut in "Road to the Outdoor Classics" tonight; team focused on
immediate games, not Winter Classic; Fabbri, Reaves OK, will play; Allen in goal
ST. LOUIS -- To get a better idea and more of a clear picture on some of your favorite Blues players, the "Road to the Outdoor Classics" will debut today at 9 p.m. (CT) in the first of four one-hour episodes on EPIX.
The documentary, which began in 2010 that focused initially on teams competing in the NHL Winter Classic, used to be called the "24/7 Road to the Winter Classic" that gave fans all-access to heir favorite players.
But with the NHL celebrating its 100th season, the show that's focusing on the Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, has been combined with the Centennial Classic and its participants, the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, who will play their outdoor game on Jan. 1. The Blues will host the Blackhawks at Busch Stadium on Jan. 2.
The program will feature footage of all four teams.
The Blues have had an Epix camera crew with them since they departed for their last trip that started with the New York Islanders on Dec. 8 and will be with them through the 2017 Bridgestone Winter Classic.
"We got used to it when we went deep in the playoffs," Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz said. "There were a lot of cameras. It was kind of almost similar, maybe a little less on the plane and buses. There was a little less in the locker room. We've had stuff like this before. I don't really think it changes. We're a group that likes to have fun, but we know when to be serious and focus to get ready."
However, there is anticipation and interest when programming airs.
"I think we all are interested," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "I think when you watch it and your team's not in it, you're kind of half-invested into it, but it's always kind of fun to see the light that you're pictured in and I think it's a good chance to see how much fun we have in this locker room. You know it, but people get a chance to see us away from just on the ice. It's a cool experience and I think it's only helped hockey and helped it grow the game because I think people can relate to us and realize that we're pretty regular guys.
"... I feel fans have a pretty good grasp on me by now and know that I can be a bit of a goofball away from the ice. I'm a very light-hearted guy. I hope I kind of have shown that in the first episode here."
So who will have the most interesting roles in these shows?
"I don't know," Schwartz said.
"I don't think it'll be me," he said. "I'm not sure. I think at different points, it'll be different guys. A little bit of everybody. A little bit of mix."
"Reaves, 100 percent," Shattenkirk said of teammate Ryan Reaves. "Reaves can't see that boom without touching it or try to make you laugh when you're talking to the Epix guys. Even when we're interviewing with you guys, you know how much he likes to joke around. That's who he is and that's why we love having him in this locker room."
"I've been very shy on it," Blues center Patrik Berglund said. "I don't think I've been much a part of it.
"I'll be a little sneaky guy there that pops in here and there, but I don't think I'm the main character in that movie, that's for damn sure."
Here's a programming rundown (all times central):
Episode 1 — Friday, Dec. 16 at 9 p.m.
Episode 2 — Friday, Dec. 23 at 9 p.m.
Episode 3 — Friday, Dec. 30 at 9 p.m.
Episode 4 — Friday, Jan. 6 at 9 p.m.
* Blues-Blackhawks renew rivalry -- The outdoor stage for the Blues and Blackhawks may not be for another 16 days, but the big stage will have a first take on Saturday when the Blues host the Blackhawks at Scottrade Center.
For the Blackhawks, another outdoor game is just old hat. For the Blues, it's their first one, but don't think for a second they're devoted much, if any, focus on Jan. 2.
"You start to think about the outdoor game, but you look at how many games we've got and how many division games we've got before you even get to that, it's hard to get too far ahead," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. The way we are right now, we're barely lucky to get 12 hours ahead of where our thinking is. You see things like when the trucks come in or your training staff has to go over there like they did today, equipment guys have to go over, you start thinking about that stuff and then the reality of who you're playing tomorrow night kind of hits home and you've got to go and be ready.
"It's a nice feeling, but it seems like it's months away yet its two weeks. ... The importance of the games overrides the event. Now I think it's going to be different obviously the next time we play them, but tomorrow night, it's the importance of the game, and I think everybody's focused on that. Both teams know. We can cut the ground right down to where we're chasing right from behind or they can get a big gap in us and we want to be close."
The Blues (17-10-4) trail the Blackhawks (20-8-4) by six points with a game in hand in the Central Division. They don't want to fall behind much more, and obviously, there are still six games between now and Jan. 2.
"There's too many games between now and the Winter Classic," Schwartz said. "We're obviously all excited, we're all looking forward to it, but we play like every second day so you've got to focus on each game and each day. We'll get to that point. We'll have a few days before we soak it in, but these are big points right now and it's obviously a big division game and we want to try and catch them. It shouldn't be an issue focusing on tomorrow.
"It's a big game (Saturday), a big division game. It is a good measuring stick. We've seen them the last few years obviously. We play them all the time. They're always intense games, they're exciting, they're fast, Saturday night game, we're all looking forward to it. It should be fun. It's a four-point swing here tomorrow night."
The Blues, 1-0-1 against the Blackhawks this season, including a 5-2 win at Chicago in the season-opener and 2-1 overtime loss here on Nov. 9, view this as a statement game simply from a rivalry perspective.
The Blues eliminated the Blackhawks in a seven-game series in the Western Conference First Round last season.
"It's a statement game, not so much for the Winter Classic, but to kind of show that we're still the team that beat them last year and we have to use that to our advantage," Shattenkirk said. "We let one slip away here against them last time. We want to make sure when they come into this building that they feel uncomfortable. It goes a long way down the road knowing that this can be a four-point swing in our division and we can gain some ground on them."
"Yeah, they're good games," Hitchcock said. "We've had two games against them so far. Both have been really competitive. They're obviously top in the division right now, so we'll get a chance to climb back in the race here with them. Should be a good game."
* Practice updates -- All players skated Friday except for forwards Robby Fabbri and Ryan Reaves. Both took maintenance days, according to Hitchcock, and will be available to play Saturday.
Goalie Jake Allen, who is 11-0-2 at home this season, including eight wins in a row at Scottrade Center, will start.
Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (lower body), who's missed four straight games, was a full participant in practice and Hitchcock said something will need to be decided soon.
Brad Hunt, recalled last week, has a goal and three assists and a point in four straight games since being recalled from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.
"Gunnarsson's fit now, so he's ready to go," Hitchcock said. "We've got to make a decision there what we're going to do. That's a decision we'll have to make in the next 24 hours."