TAMPA, Fla -- An early-morning phone call can be annoying at times, especially if one is comfortably sleeping.
For Blues 2014 sixth-round pick Samuel Blais, a phone call letting him know he's coming up to the NHL is one he won't soon forget.
Blais was recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Friday while the team was in San Jose after the Blues assigned Tage Thompson to the Rampage, and Blais will make his NHL debut today when the Blues (4-1-1) close out a four-game trip against the Tampa Bay Lightning (3-1-0) at 6 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM) at Amalie Arena.
"It was a long day but I received good news in the morning so it was all worth it," Blais said Saturday after an optional skate. "I was really happy. I play my first NHL game tonight. It's a dream-come-true for sure. When I was young, my dream was to play in the NHL one day and tonight it's going to happen, so I'm very happy."
Blais, who had three goals and one assist with the Rampage in two games playing on a line with former Chicago Wolves teammate Andrew Agozzino and Colorado Avalanche farmhand Rocco Grimaldi, had a very productive preseason with the Blues but was surprisingly sent to the AHL.
He took the news in stride and made the most of his opportunity before the quick recall.
"I took the news in a good way," Blais said. "I went back in San Antonio and I played pretty good. I had a good attitude and I played good and that's why I think I got called up.
"I was playing with a lot of confidence. I was playing my game and making some offensive plays and I think I did pretty good. ... I had a lot of fun down there, but tonight's going to be a fun game for sure."
The 8:15 a.m. call sparked text messages for Blais' parents, Sebastien and Marie-Josee, who along with Blais' brother Etienne and sister Florence, who all are flying in from Quebec City to be in attendance tonight.
Blais hopes to join Blues teammates Jaden Schwartz and Wade Megan, who also made their respective NHL debuts here against the Lightning, scoring their first goals. Schwartz did so in 2012, Megan did it last season.
"I was real happy," Blais said. "I text my mom and dad right away. They were very happy, too. I think they both booked their flight like an hour after that."
Then it was time to hop on a plane and make the cross-country trek to Florida.
"I was thinking about what's going to happen today," said Blais, who joined Wolves roommate Vince Dunn in Tampa. "I was really happy to come here and to play my first game. I'm going to enjoy the moment for sure.
"I may be a little nervous in the warmup, but I just got to do what I did in the preseason. Just play my game, play like I an play and if I do that, I think I'll have my chance to play good and I've just got to enjoy the moment. It's my first NHL game. Not every day that happens, so I've just got to go out there and have fun."
Blues coach Mike Yeo had a talk with Blais, and said it's a chance to take advantage of something that will only happen once in a player's lifetime, so enjoy it.
"For me, it's a similar conversation that I had with Tage," Yeo said. "You get one opportunity to have your first game in the NHL. We've talked about some things with Sammy through training camp and obviously we'll go over the systems with him again to make sure he knows that stuff. But I don't want him coming into the game thinking too much. I want him to play with his instincts, I want him to go out there and show us the things and prove why we called him up. He's an offensive player, he's strong on the puck, he has the ability to make plays and I want to see him get involved and do those things.
"He continued that going down and playing for San Antonio in the offensive situations that he needs and obviously contributing offensively. He's a guy that has a knack. As a coach, you watch him sometimes and you wonder why he's playing over there and all of the sudden, the puck's on his stick. The puck follows him around, he's got the instincts and he's go the ability. Great kid, we're happy for him and we're excited for him.
"There's no question that he'll have some (nerves), but he's a poised kid, he's a confident kid and I think getting out there early in the game, it won't take him too long to get over that.
"I think he'll have so much energy and adrenaline will kick in. This is your first NHL game, so I think he'll be fine."
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The Blues, 3-1 on the road this season and 2-1 on this trip after losing for the first time Thursday, 5-2 at Florida against the Panthers, would love nothing more than to end the trip on a good note against one of the Eastern Conference's premier teams.
"Beating some pretty good teams in New York back-to-back games, last game could have went either way," Yeo said. "We could argue looking at the scoring chances all that kind of thing, the opportunities that we had, the missed chances, but the reality is we gave up five goals and you're not going to win many games when you give up five goals. But we have a chance to come in, if we can beat this team tonight, this is a team that many and with good reason are picking to come out of the East and even be Stanley Cup champions, so it's a real good test for us tonight. Their speed, their skill, their ability to counter and take advantage of opportunities, it's going to be a handful."
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Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is on a nine-game point streak (four goals, 10 assists) dating back to last season and leads the team with eight points (two goals, six assists) in five games this season; he shares the NHL lead for points among defenseman with Detroit's Mike Green, who has eight assists in five games.
Center Paul Stastny is also on a five-game point streak (two goals, six assists) to start this season and needs one to reach 600 for his NHL career (206 goals, 393 assists in 747 games).
Speaking of Yeo, he is one win shy of 200 for his NHL coaching career.
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Celebrate the first 50 years of the St. Louis Blues with former players and the author of a new book chronicling the team’s history. Sports columnist Dan O’Neill presents the story of the St. Louis Blues—from the humble beginnings and early expansion-team nights, though dramatic ups and downs, through the on-going quest to capture an elusive Stanley Cup Championship. Through stories and photos, “When the Blues Go Marching In” captures the magic—the color, the characters, and the excitement.
Hear from O’Neill, Blues announcer John Kelly, and Blues alumni such as Bobby Plager at the launch event for the book on Monday, Oct. 23, at the Missouri Athletic Club (405 Washington Ave)
The event begins with a cocktail reception at 6 pm, followed by dinner at 7 pm and the event program. The price is $75, which includes dinner, parking at the MAC garage and a copy of the book.
For more information, clink on the link here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/when-the-blues-go-marching-in-st-louis-blues-book-event-oct-23-tickets-37469400987
The Blues' projected lineup:
Magnus Paajarvi-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Samuel Blais
Vladimir Sobotka-Ivan Barbashev-Dmitrij Jaskin
Scottie Upshall-Oskar Sundqvist-Kyle Brodziak
Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo
Jake Allen will start in goal; Carter Hutton will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Nate Prosser, Chris Thorburn and Wade Megan. Alexander Steen (hand) and Jay Bouwmeester (ankle) are day-to-day, Patrik Berglund (shoulder) is out until December, Zach Sanford (shoulder) is out until at least late February and Robby Fabbri (knee) is out for the season.
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The Lightning's projected lineup:
Vladislav Namestnikov-Steven Stamkos-Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat-Brayden Point-Yanni Gourde
Chris Kunitz-Cedric Paquette-Ryan Callahan
Alex Killorn-Tyler Johnson
Victor Hedman -- Jake Dotchin
Mikhail Sergachev -- Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn -- Dan Girardi
Andrei Vasilevskiy will start in goal; Peter Budaj will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include J.T. Brown, Gabriel Dumont and Andrej Sustr. Erik Condra (back) is out.