Monday, September 18, 2017

Bennett hopes signing with Blues is right fit

Former first-round pick of Penguins looking to 
build off strong last season, trying to stay injury-free

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- New Blues right wing Beau Bennett hasn't tweeted often, but when he does, it's usually in good humor.

A California native, when Bennett first arrived in St. Louis after signing a one-year, one-way contract for $650,000 on July 1, he was in the market for a rental car at the outset.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Beau Bennett gets off a shot during training camp on Saturday. Bennett
signed a one-year contract with the Blues.

"There was like a (GMC) Denali, a (Chevy) Tahoe and I was just like, 'Ah, I like that Chrysler Pacifica,'" Bennett said Monday at the team's practice facility after practice. "... You know what, sometimes you've got to do something like that to be a little funny and earn the respect of your teammates. I just chose to go with the mini van."

Yes, a mini van.

Probably not the wisest choice as a professional hockey player, considering the razzing Bennett was about to get, which prompted the following tweet from Bennett ( that reads: This is what I get for renting a Chrysler Pacifica mini van during training camp

It's in response to one of the players leaving a written note on the steering wheel that says: Nice car loser Go back to Cali

Playful indeed, and does Bennett have any suspicion who the culprit was?

"I did not. No one will stake claim to that. I don't care who did it," he said. "My suspects would be (Paul) Stastny, (Robert) Bortuzzo ... he'll actually pawn it off on anybody, but I think it's Bortuzzo actually."

Bortuzzo would be the wise choice since Bennett is staying with the Blues defensemen. They're good friends from their days of playing together in Pittsburgh for two seasons.

Luckily for Bennett, 25, he doesn't have to drive to the Ice Zone inside St. Louis Outlet Mall. Bortuzzo does the honors here, but ... 

"I'm gonna ask to borrow his car when I'm gonna have to drive to the game tomorrow if I play so I don't have to roll up in the mini van," Bennett said. "It's been parked at his house. He makes me drive to dinner and what-not, but it's all good. Everything's been good so far."

Things have been good for Bennett, who's looking for a fresh start after playing last season with the New Jersey Devils, scoring a career-high eight goals, matching a career-high with 11 assists and setting a career-high in points with 19 in 65 games, the most games Bennett's played in any of his five previous regular seasons.

Bennett is a first-round pick (No. 20 overall) by the Penguins in 2010, and he never quite lived up to expectations there, for one reason or another, but mainly, injuries have hampered the 6-foot-2, 195-pound forward.

Among them, wrist surgery; knee injuries that at times needed braces just to practice, shoulder pain that comes and goes, two lacerations that were a result of cuts from skates and believe it or not, he even injured himself celebrating after scoring. 

Crazy to think, isn't it?

"It sucks, but it's all about your mindset," said Bennett, who has 24 goals and 40 assists in 194 career regular-season games. "You can feel bad about yourself and ask why me, but you've just got to take those things and roll with them and try to get better. It's no one's fault other than just bad luck or being at the wrong place at the wrong time. It's when you get injured, you maybe just modify your play where you can improve and improve from there."

And that's what Bennett hopes to do with the Blues, who signed him as a depth forward giving him the opportunity to crack the lineup as a bottom-six forward.

And even though he understands the depth and competition of this hockey team, Bennett saw an opportunity and more importantly, a good fit.

"They play a puck-possession game, they make plays, they're positionally sound," Bennett said of the Blues. "I feel like those are the foundations of my game. Last year I started to build more holding onto the puck and making the smart, right plays and I think working in a little more even calculated risks here. It's something I worked on a lot this summer and being healthy going into the offseason. I actually got to skate a fair bit. 

"I thought I gradually improved throughout the year. For whatever reason, it didn't work out going into this year, but I'm thrilled with the opportunity here in St. Louis. It's been great so far."

Bennett said the transition to the Western Conference for the first time (he spent four seasons in Pittsburgh before joining the Devils last season) has been a smooth transition, and getting to know his new teammates has been a pleasure.

Besides being close friends with Bortuzzo, Bennett said he's faced Jaden Schwartz from their days in college and knows Chris Butler and professional tryout attendee Ty Loney from their days at the University of Denver.

"It's been an easy transition in terms of guys off the ice," Bennett said. "I've been with Bortuzzo for two years in Pittsburgh. Just knowing him as well as I do, he's kind of got me in the little group here. As far as on the ice, I just want to come in and build on what I did last year as far as playing positionally sound while trying to contribute a little more offensively and try to be the player I'm supposed to be when I first got drafted.
(New Jersey Devils photo)
Beau Bennett set career highs in goals (8), assists (11) and points
(19) with the New Jersey Devils last season.

"I'm not like the quickest player. I just try to think the game, out-think the opponents. It's a very ... like a little more methodical. Someone like a Kyle Turris, when you watch him, you're like you almost think he's not trying, but he's so positionally sound. He just finds a way to get the puck and make the right play. That's a guy that maybe I try to play like."

Bennett won't be in the lineup when the Blues play at Dallas on Tuesday; he's likely to make his debut Wednesday night at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

But in the meantime, Bennett's other objective is to get to know St. Louis better.

"Bortuzzo's been driving everywhere, so I haven't looked at a map at all," Bennett said. "I don't know where I am really right now. With everything that's been going on downtown, we haven't ventured out that way. We've been just sticking to Clayton and just golfing a ton, working out and skating so it's been good."

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