By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Troy Brouwer was all set to play his first NHL game this season fresh off signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Blues on Wednesday for $750,000 but has to wait at least a couple more days.
Brouwer, 34, was signed after the Blues put Sammy Blais on the shelf when they announced he would need surgery on his right wrist and be re-evaluated in 10 weeks.
Blais was injured in the second period of a 3-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning but returned to finish the game.
Brouwer, who played one season with the Blues in 2015-16, was in on a professional tryout along with Jamie McGinn but earned a contract now with the Blues down three forwards (Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen and Blais) due to injury.
Brouwer, who played last season with the Florida Panthers and had 21 points (12 goals, nine assists) in 75 regular-season games but was let go after the Panthers ran into cap issues and roster space of their own, was supposed to make his debut tonight against the Calgary Flames (7 p.m.; FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM) but will have to wait as his visa/immigration paperwork is ironed out.
"From my understanding it was supposed to be tonight," Brouwer said of his debut. "We've come into slow immigration problems, which is how it goes. I came to the rink expecting to play this morning. Another skate today, one more tomorrow with the team and then hopefully I'll be in this weekend.
"Everything else is kind of taking care of itself. We're just waiting on the immigration stuff. I've had visas that have taken a few days, I've had ones that have taken a little while. It depends on how much emphasis they put on the process at the customs office.
"The guys met [Donald] Trump a couple months ago and I bet they can ask him."
Regardless, Brouwer, who had 39 points (18 goals, 21 assists) in 82 regular-season games and another 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in 20 playoff games in his only season with the Blues, is excited to be back and can provide that veteran presence.
"I am. I had so much fun when I was here the last time," said Brouwer, who played for Ken Hitchcock then. "The guys are awesome, the city's great. Just the chance to be able to prove myself in the NHL again, I'm really looking forward to it, especially playing for the Blues.
"That's part of the reason I was brought in to begin with. It's a comfortable situation for me, it's something I've been used to the past couple years, I'm also used to this locker room and most of the guys. It's been an easy transition so far, I'm not coming in and stepping on anybody's toes but just to add a little more veteran presence in the room. That's always a helpful thing."
Blues coach Craig Berube confirmed Brouwer won't play tonight but knows what to expect when he does.
"Just a lot of the same things he's done over his career," Berube said. "He's a good two-way winger, goes up and down, plays a hard game, he's a smart player. He can play in all situations, penalty killing. If we need a power-play guy, he's been a power-play guy in his career too. It's nice having a guy like that with experience. He's won, a good locker room guy. I think it's a good thing having him here, especially with our injuries."
Brouwer got the news Wednesday afternoon to unpack his bags.
"When I left the rink yesterday, I knew they were having a meeting about me amongst other things," he said. "Army [Blues GM Doug Armstrong] gave me a call about 3:30 or 4 o'clock, somewhere in there, and finalized all the contract paperwork and moved on to the immigration stuff. I knew yesterday around dinner time when it was all finalized and was able to call the family and friends and tell them I was back in the NHL."
When he came in, Brouwer knew there was a leg up for him just with the familiarity he had with playing with a number of current Blues players that were in the roster in 2015-16.
"I think so," Brouwer said. "That comfort factor of me coming in and knowing the guys, having to learn a couple new guys, but even a guy like [Brayden] Schenn, I played with him in the world championships, a lot of the other guys I've played against for quite a few years. [David] Perron, you have that mutual respect between each other. I didn't really know him personally, but it just makes it easier to integrate into the dressing room. I've been through a lot of situations in my long career and this is a new one for me.
"I had confidence in myself, does that count? I had a little bit of an indication but nobody told me what it was going to be or how it would play itself out. I was real happy with my camp and how I played, well, how I practiced, I should say, over the week and a half and had good confidence in myself and was hoping that they saw it the same way."
The fact that Brouwer has a two-way contract doesn't mean he's accepting of n assignment to San Antonio.
"We'll cross that path when it comes," Brouwer said. "Hopefully I can play myself into a regular in the lineup and we don't have to worry about that. As for right now, I'm here to make sure I'm helping out with the holes they do have in the lineup and try to work myself into being a regular every night."
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As for Blais, who has eight points (five goals, three assists) in 20 games, it's a tough pill to swallow all things considered. He had played himself into a top nine role, most in the top six, and had himself a really nice game against the Lightning before being shoved into the offensive zone boards by Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak.
Blais used his right hand to brace himself for contact and on replay, it can be seen his hand was bent in an awkward position. He also sustained a cut above his right eye.
"That kind of an injury, it's a tough injury," Berube said. "It takes a lot of time to heal. You can't play with it, though. He came back with it. It was obviously bugging him.
"He's playing well this year, especially with the puck. He does a lot of things with it individually, beats people one-on-one, creates scoring chances on his own, physical player. He was a good player for us."
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The Blues will be wearing their retro jerseys they wore from 1994-1998 for the first of three dates tonight.
The uniforms were from the days when Brett Hull, Wayne Gretzky, Chris Pronger, Al MacInnis and others were toting around with the red designs in them.
"They're pretty cool," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "I don't know if I'd wear them as a regular jersey anymore, but I guess any time the nostalgic stuff comes out, it's pretty cool. They've done a good job with the equipment to kind of match it. I saw it in the summer. We've all seen them, I think it's a great thing the league's done with the retro stuff."
Added Schenn: "They're awesome. I remember Gretzky, Hull, guys like that wearing those jerseys, especially when it's Wayne Gretzky, even though I was young and stuff like that, you always follow him to see what he's doing, and when he was in St. Louis, you definitely remember what he was doing wearing that jersey. It's funny how it comes full circle and you get a chance to wear it."
Perron shared similar sentiments: "It's cool. Obviously Gretzky wearing it, Hullie and all those guys. I like our jersey, but I think it's nice to wear it a few times."
The Blues will also wear the retro jerseys Feb. 27 against the New York Islanders and March 31 against the Detroit Red Wings.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Tyler Bozak
Ivan Barbashev-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron
Zach Sanford-Robert Thomas-Oskar Sundqvist
Mackenzie MacEachern-Jacob de la Rose-Klim Kostin
Colton Parayko-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Justin Faulk
Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo
Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Carl Gunnarsson and Troy Brouwer. Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder), Alexander Steen (ankle) and Sammy Blais (wrist) are out.
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The Flames' projected lineup:
Johnny Gaudreau-Mikael Backlund-Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk-Sean Monahan-Andrew Mangiapane
Milan Lucic-Derek Ryan-Dillon Dube
Zac Rinaldo-Mark Jankowski-Michael Frolik
Mark Giordano-Rasmus Andersson
Noah Hanifin-Michael Stone
Oliver Kylington-Brandon Davidson
David Rittich will start in goal; Cam Talbot will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Alexander Yelesin and Tobias Rieder. Sam Bennett (upper body), Austin Czarnik (lower body), Travis Hamonic (lower body) and TJ Brodie (medical episode) are all out.