Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Blues ready to test Roy-Stewart combination

Pair will play with Jaden Schwartz tonight against
Tampa Bay; Stewart anxious to lead by example

ORLANDO, Fla. -- There can only be so much a group can do in practice. Applying those work habits can only be judged what a player does in game situations.

So with all the hype and talk about what Chris Stewart and Derek Roy can do for one another playing on the same line, it will all be put in motion when they are part of the featured line along with Jaden Schwartz as the Blues play their second preseason game against the Tampa Bay Lightning today (6 p.m.) in Orlando, Fla.

"I think everyone's excited to get started in a game," said Roy, signed to a one-year contract over the summer. "I know half the guys got into a game that last game and half the other guys are going to play (tonight). I think we're excited to play.

(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jaden Schwartz and Chris Stewart (right) will be together when the Blues
face the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight in Orlando, Fla.
"Me and Stewy have been talking a lot about trying to find chemistry, where each other is going to be on the ice, try to keep skating, keep moving, keep shooting pucks towards the net, keep making plays. We'll just work at that (tonight). It's a long season. It's experience. We've got to learn from our mistakes and we've got to move on and keep getting better."

Roy, who split the season between Dallas and Vancouver last year, already feels like he has a solid rapport with Stewart.

"Whenever you get a smart player like Stew with a good shot, it's pretty easy to play with," Roy said. "I'm just more worried about trying to get him the puck and make sure he's in a good shooting position to let it go. I just told him to keep skating and I'll find him. That's one of the things we have to learn as a group, keep moving around for each other and we'll find each other. If we stand still, it's easy to check. We've got to be moving and creating."

Stewart, who led the Blues in goals (18) and points (36) a season ago, is already smiling from ear-to-ear. Playing with a center that thinks pass first, shoot second is reminiscent of playing with Paul Stastny in Colorado.

"That's music to my ears," Stewart said. "You can tell right now (Roy's) obviously a gifted player with the puck. He's very patient and he's pretty shifty. He has some really good speed, too. It's hard to tell right now. You're kind of eager to get in a game, see how we really match up.

"If you play with a player that doesn't panic under pressure is obviously a good thing. It gives you a little more time to get open. From watching his highlights and playing against him, he's one of those guys who, at the end of the game you go, 'How did he make that play or where did he come from? How do you find that guy?'"

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is also eager to see this unit on the ice tonight.

"We want to see a gritty, 200-foot game," Hitchcock said. "I think they can make plays. We can see that. They make it off the rush, but now you're going to play against teams who aren't going to give you the ice you need. Now we've got to see them play a gritty 200-foot game. That's what we're curious about. Can they play the 200-foot game? I think they can. I think that line has a chance to really be effective.

"(Schwartz is) going to knock down pucks, he's going to get to loose pucks, he's going to create turnovers that hopefully Derek and Stewy can jump on."

Just call Schwartz the plumber of the group.

"A little bit," Schwartz said with a grin. "I'll try to go to the net and create havoc on the 'D.' That's kind of my job, to get in on the forecheck and things like that. But at the same time, when I get the puck I want to make sure I put it into the back of the net, make plays for these guys, too.

"I'm really excited. I've been looking forward to today's game."

Stewart and Roy's relationship is not only about what they do on the ice but off it as well. It goes along with developing that chemistry that can only enhance their play when they do hit the ice together. The two were together Monday for a get-together to watch some Monday Night Football. Those type of outings are helpful in the getting-to-know process.

"I think it's necessary to have that relationship with someone away from the rink," Stewart said. "When you're playing, you're going to care about him. You want to see each other succeed."

For Stewart, who will turn 26 Oct. 30, he's at the point in his career where he feels like his game is ready to take off. He got a new two-year, $8.3 contract this summer, and as camp opened, Hitchcock talked about the team's leadership group. Stewart and Patrik Berglund are two that are newcomers to this group and Stewart is stoked.

"I think it's good," Stewart said, who also recently got married. "I think putting that responsibility on my shoulders, I think personally for me, is only going to make me a better player. When you know guys are counting on you and you're looked upon to be a leader and relied upon, I think that's a great thing to have in your job description. I'm excited for the opportunity and the challenge and want to hit the ground running here."

Hitchcock feels like Stewart is ready to take the ball and run.

"Obviously Stewart and Bergy are two significant guys that are into the picture now," Hitchcock said. "I don't want to say we're going to demand more of those guys, but I think we're going to expect more from those guys, especially those guys have to come out and now be vocal now and back up what they say. For us to get to the next level, we need those guys to join what's already here.

"... We've had them in meetings, we've talked to them, we expect to them to become vocal and even more accountable that they have been in the last few years."

Stewart, who calls Jarome Iginla a pioneer of his craft regarding power forwards and models his game after the former Calgary Flames great, also looks to model his game after a certain teammate.

(St. Louis Blues photo)
Derek Roy will make his Blues debut tonight against the Tampa Bay
Lightning. He will play with Chris Stewart and Jaden Schwartz.
"I think I've got to be one of those leaders on the ice who is sticking up for teammates and making it hard for the other team to play against," Stewart said. "You watch David Backes, I think there's an element in his game that I think I can add to mine. You see him, he's tough to play against. He's finishing every check. I think it's really inspiring. A lot of things that he does goes undermined, but I think he's one of the most underrated players in the league for sure."

Projections always tend to lean on Stewart becoming that go-to 30- to 40-goal scorer for the Blues after scoring 28 goals in each of his first two seasons. Stewart won't make any projections on his goal or point total because he has one focus on mind: winning.

"If I get myself trying to think about the offense of the game, it's going to sacrifice other parts of your game," Stewart said. "I'm not too worried about (numbers). I'm worried about the team and putting together a good year here and winning a Stanley Cup. If it takes 10 goals to do it, I'm perfectly fine with that. I have a new perspective. Not to say I was a selfish guy before, but I'm definitely buying into the team atmosphere here and I'm going to do whatever it takes to help this team win.

"I'm at that point in my career where I know what I've got to do to be successful in this league. It's all about just being strong mentally."

No comments:

Post a Comment