Friday, September 22, 2017

Prosser back looking to stick with Blues this time

Defenseman spent three weeks in St. Louis in 2014 before being 
claimed back off waivers from Minnesota; tonight's game lineup in Washington

ST. LOUIS -- Nate Prosser has been through this routine with the Blues before.

The defenseman, who signed a two-year, two-way contract ($650,000 NHL/$400,000 AHL) on Aug. 3, has been through this rodeo before.

In the summer of 2014, Prosser signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blues on July 21, 2014, was all set to turn the page on his Minnesota Wild career and begin a new journey with the Blues.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Nate Prosser (left) celebrates with teammates after a goal
during Tuesday's preseason game in Dallas.

But when the Blues put Prosser on waivers Oct. 1, he was claimed on waivers by -- you guessed it -- the Wild, on Oct. 2. And coincidentally, the Blues happened to be playing the Wild in a preseason game that very night. So instead of hopping back on a commercial flight back to the Twin Cities and reclaim the life he just left, Prosser switched locker rooms and went back with the Wild on their team plane.

"It's hard to even put into words because it was the weirdest situation," Prosser said. "It was basically like I never left (Minnesota). I got put on waivers, got back, Minnesota's down here playing and I just went on their flight back and it was never like I even left. My locker room spot was in the same spot. All my stuff was basically there for me to start the year. It was a very bizarre situation. Like I said three years ago, that's just the game of hockey. You never can predict what's going to happen or what's going on behind closed doors. I just kind of took it with a smile on my face and I wanted to be that positive teammate that had a regular spot."

Prosser spent approximately three weeks working with the Blues, then returning to familiar ground.

Prosser returned to the Wild, where current Blues coach Mike Yeo was coaching at the time and playing with current Blues center Kyle Brodziak.

"I actually stayed with (T.J.) Oshie for like a week or two and then a hotel for a week," Prosser recalled. "I played with Oshie in Sioux Falls for a little while. Just with him being from Minnesota, I kind of got a relationship with him. Being able to meet a few guys through him was a nice way to go about it, but had the car packed up, I hardly unpacked it. A few bags came out and just put it right back in there. ... It's the life of a hockey player right now. Nothing's guaranteed. I've got to find a way to impress management in a new way, I guess."

When it came time for free agency on July 1, Prosser, 31, was without a deal and he saw the writing on the wall that the Wild would be moving on without him.

So why not circle back to where Prosser was once willing to try a different venue? After all, many of the teammates he would have played with in 2014 are still on the Blues roster today, and Yeo and Brodziak are both in St. Louis, too.

"Obviously I know Mike Yeo and I feel like I know his systems and he knows what I can bring," Prosser said. "I know all the guys. I was here three years ago. I got acquainted with a lot of them. I was here for three weeks or whatever it was. I know the locker room well, it's a bunch of great guys. I feel like I can jell in pretty nicely with those guys. I just want to show management what I can bring this time around.

"Obviously, I knew what contracts look like, but I just wanted to come in and play my game. It's not something I want to be focused on when I'm here. It's just something that you kind of look in the summer. I just felt like it was going to be a good fit with coming back into this locker room and with this coach and coaching staff, Darryl Sydor too. It's not something like, 'Oh my gosh, there's six big contracts in front of me. What am I gonna do?' I'm focused on my day-to-day stuff."

Prosser will play in his second preseason game today for the Blues (1-1-0 in preseason) in Washington against the Capitals (6 p.m. on NHL Network and; he played in a 5-3 loss at Dallas on Tuesday and logged 16 minutes, 30 seconds of ice time and had one assist and three blocked shots.

Prosser is not the guy will wow you on the ice, but what he does bring is a veteran presence that goes out and does what is asked of him.

"Typically guys like that, a lot of their games is a lot of people won't notice them, but the coaches do," Yeo said. "They see the small things in their defensive game. He's a guy that might not give you as much as somebody else in terms of offense or flash, but it's always about give-and-take and he's not going to cost you as well. He's a veteran guy who knows what his is. He plays with an edge and he's got a good identity as a player."

Prosser, who has been in the league for parts of eight seasons, all with the Wild, had two goals and five assists in 39 games last season before picking up an assist in three games against the Blues in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

He came in to compete for the seventh spot on defense, but with the ankle fracture of Jay Bouwmeester, there is the distinct possibility Prosser could crack the opening night lineup.

"You're getting a guy who in the room every day, he's one of those guys who is good to be around," Brodziak said of Prosser. "He's always happy, always in a good mood. On the ice, you know what you're getting from him. If you've been able to watch him, for guys who are familar with his game, you know exactly what you're getting night in and night out. He's a smart player. He's not going to be overly flashy; I'm sure he's OK with me saying that. He's smart. He's dependable. He's a realiable player. He doesn't make big mistakes. He knows what he's doing out there. He usually gets the job done.

"He does his job. He knows what's expected of him. He stays within his limits and he's effective at it. I think that's why he's been able to stay around so long. You realize that at the end of the night, he was effective and he does a lot of little things that add up at the end of the night that might not get recognized on the highlight reel or the papers, or what you want to call it. He's a guy that does his job."

When it came time to get a new contract, Prosser was worried as the days of July came and went and now things got into August. But keeping connections with Yeo helped ease the tension and ultimately, led to an opportunity in St. Louis.

"Me and Mike have a good relationship," Prosser said. "I was able to have a few conversations with him over the summer. Just encouraged me along during the free agency process because it was pretty dry. If you don't go July 1st, 2nd or 3rd, it goes pretty dark for a while. It's kind of a stressful time for a lot of guys and it was for me and my family. It was nice to get a few phone calls from him. That's the kind of relationship that we have. He's kind of been my only coach in pro hockey other than (Bruce) Boudreau last year. My first time signing, I went down to Houston with him for a year and half and when he went up to Minnesota, I went there with him and I was there for five years. I've been with him a lot of years. He's a great guy, family man, great coach, a guy I really look up to."

Prosser doesn't mind living the life of a nomad these days. He said his vehicle is littered with girls' toys. 

"I have three little girls, so my car is actually full of like princess doll houses, strollers, Barbie dolls," Prosser said. "There are bins of Barbie dolls in the back of my car right now. 

"We sold my house back up in Minnesota. Just kind of waiting until camp's over and then have them come down. They miss daddy and I miss them. It's just the nature of the business. You've got to leave your family and focus in on hockey here for a little while."

- - -

The Blues will begin a stretch of three games in three days tonight. They host Dallas on Saturday before playing in Pittsburgh on Sunday night in the Kraft Hockeyville game.

Here is tonight's lineup, which includes Robby Fabbri's first game since Feb. 4 (lines will be updated during the pregame skate):

Forwards: Ivan Barbashev, Beau Bennett, Conner Bleackley, Robby Fabbri, Dmitrij Jaskin, Klim Kostin, Jordan Kyrou, Wade Megan, Magnus Paajarvi, Oskar Sundqvist, Robert Thomas, Tage Thompson

Defense: Robert Bortuzzo, Vince Dunn, Niko Mikkola, Nate Prosser, Jordan Schmaltz, Thomas Vannelli, Jake Walman

Goalie: Ville Husso, Jordan Binnington

- - -

The Capitals' lineup:

Jakub Vrana-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky-Travis Boyd-Devante Smith-Pelly

Chandler Stephenson-Lars Eller-Tom Wilson

Mathias Bau-Tyler Graovac-Anthony Peluso

Lucas Johansen-John Carlson

Christian Djoos-Taylor Chorney

Aaron Ness-Tyler Lewington

Braden Holtby will start in goal and play two periods. Pheonix Copley will be the backup and play the third period.

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