By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Joel Edmundson wasn't going to pass up a free meal.
Not when it's at the expense of two of his closest friends and former teammates.
The Carolina Hurricanes defenseman touched down on Monday for the first time in St. Louis as an opposing player and will face the guys he won a Stanley Cup with this past summer for the first time when the Blues (31-14-8) and Hurricanes (30-19-3) square off today at 7 p.m. at Enterprise Center (FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM). The Blues, 1-4-1 their past six games, will look to extend their home point streak to 11 games (9-0-1 the past 10).
But before Edmundson lines up any of his former teammates with some physical play on Tuesday, he spent Monday night with roughly half the team at one of his favorite spots in town, Cafe Napoli in Clayton, for a get together and meal and some vino.
"Schwartzy and Schenner stepped up," Edmundson said of Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn. "That's a free meal, I'll take that.
"There was a bunch of the guys there, went to Napoli, one of my favorite spots in town, had a nice meal, a couple glasses of wine and just caught up. I spent a lot of time with those guys over the past four or five years. It was really nice to see them again. Schwartzy and Schenner, they split the bill. That was really nice of them. I was thinking the whole time, 'Do I pay for this?' I'll get them back (in Carolina) for sure."
Justin Faulk, who will face the Hurricanes for the first time tonight, was coincidentally in the same establishment entertaining his former Carolina teammates.
"I didn't know that until towards the end of our meal," Edmundson said. "They were right door to us. I think they left right before us. We were in no rush to leave."
Also before Edmundson takes the ice tonight, he will finally be able to put that Stanley Cup ring on his finger when he receives what his teammates got theirs right before the start of the season.
"When I saw the videos and the Snapchats of when they received them, just looking at pictures for like the next week of it, but since then, I haven't really looked at it or thought about it too much," Edmundson said. "I kind of want to just get my mind off that and focus on playing hockey. Definitely coming back here, it's going to be exciting to see it."
There will be some emotions tonight, especially since his parents, Bob and Lois Edmundson, will be on hand to witness it. The Blues flew Edmundson's parents in from Brandon, Manitoba.
"That's very cool yeah," Edmundson said. "Army [Blues general manager Doug Armstrong] called me a couple weeks ago and kind of mentioned that to me. It's just a first-class move by [Chris] Zimmerman, [Tom] Stillman, all the guys here, the whole organization. They treated me well my whole time in St. Louis. For them to do that is reslly special. I know my parents are really thankful for that."
As for the trade itself, which included Edmundson, 2018 first-round pick Dominik Bokk and a 2020 seventh-round pick for Faulk and a 2020 fifth-round pick, Edmundson said it was a tough day to swallow despite seeing the writing on the wall.
"It definitely was difficult, but I sort of saw it coming," said Edmundson, who spent his first four seasons with the Blues after being picked in the second round of 2011. "Just going to arbitration two years in a row, you kind of get that sense that there might be a trade in the works, but it still caught me off guard. Going to Carolina, I just wanted to go in there with a positive mindset, I wanted to bring my game down to Carolina. It's been an easy transition, it's been an easy locker room to go into, a lot of young faces. I didn't really know anyone when I got down there, but definitely became friends with everyone real quick."
Edmundson, who is averaging 18 minutes 18 seconds of ice time with the Hurricanes this season and has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 52 games, the exact number of goals, assists and points as Faulk, has seen his ice time go down from last season (19:23). He has liked his adjustment with the young Hurricanes team.
"It's actually been a real easy transition. It's a quiet city," Edmundson said. "I kind of like that. I'm not really a big city kind of a guy, so it's almost like a small town, but when I got down there, I was really surprised and overwhelmed by how good of a fan base they have down here. After every game, there's hundreds of people waiting outside our rink waiting for autographs and stuff like that. They definitely love their hockey down there and I've really enjoyed playing there so far.
It feels like that, but I'm probably right in the middle of the pack. I've been in the league long enough that I try to be a leader in my own type of way."
One thing Edmundson will always have, and that's the parade down Market Street and the memories of winning it all here.
"It's weird. We flew into the other airport and I was kind of thrown off by that, but just driving through downtown going down Market Street brings back good memories," Edmundson said. "Just seeing all the guys, seeing the guys that work in the organization, seeing you [media] guys. I definitely missed it, but I'm definitely enjoying myself down in Carolina. We're just looking forward to a good match tonight."
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Robert Thomas
Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron
Alexander Steen-Tyler Bozak-Jordan Kyrou
Sammy Blais-Ivan Barbashev-Troy Brouwer
Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn-Justin Faulk
Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Robert Bortuzzo, Jacob de la Rose and Mackenzie MacEachern. Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder) and Oskar Sundqvist (lower body) are out.
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The Hurricanes' projected lineup:
Warren Foegele-Sebastian Aho-Andrei Svechnikov
Nino Niederreiter-Jordan Staal-Teuvo Teravainen
Brock McGinn-Erik Haula-Justin Williams
Ryan Dzingel-Jordan Martinook-Martin Necas
Jaccob Slavin-Trevor van Riemsdyk
Jake Gardiner-Brett Pesce
Haydn Fleury-Joel Edmundson
Petr Mrazek will start in goal; James Reimer will be the backup.
The healthy scratch will be Lucas Wallmark. Dougie Hamilton (fractured leg) is out.