JR'S MORNING SKATE
Blues coach Andy Murray said he can tell the players are antsy.
“I could sense in practice yesterday that they didn’t want to practice,” Murray said. “They just want to play right now. I think there’s a lot of energy going into the first game, no question.”
The forward combinations will stay the same:
Andy McDonald-David Backes-David Perron
Paul Kariya-Keith Tkachuk-Brad Boyes
Brad Winchester-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie
Alex Steen-Jay McClement-B.J. Crombeen
Many will remember that when training camp started, Tkachuk was on a line with Winchester and Oshie, while Berglund was playing with Kariya and Boyes. Murray swapped Tkachuk and Berglund a couple of weeks ago because Berglund was playing “tight.” I asked Murray today if the move has worked.
“We just felt that Bergy was feeling the pressure a little bit, playing with Paul and Brad,” Murray said. “Walt (Tkachuk) can handle those guys a little better. Nothing is written in stone. I think the good part of it is, we know we can go either way. Depending on matchups, we can switch that center and they’ve got familiarity with each other.
“The other thing we’ve done in the last few games is . . . the third period in Dallas, I played Andy McDonald as a center between Paul and Brad. People will say that I’m just messing (with other teams). I was doing it for a reason. Some times you have to change the game a little and I was looking for a spark. We put Andy in the middle and that’s a possibility. It’s nice to have that flexibility.”
Forwards not playing today: Derek Armstrong, Cam Janssen
Murray said that center Derek Armstrong has played well enough to be in the opening-day lineup. Armstrong had three goals and four assists in five preseason games. But Murray said that he wants to show respect to the other forwards “who got the job done last season,” so he’s keeping them in and making Armstrong a healthy scratch for game No. 1.
Murray said that he spoke with Armstrong about the situation, and Armstrong agreed that if he were one of the forwards who helped the Blues get into the playoffs last season, he’d be upset if he were taken out.
The defense pairings are set:
Barret Jackman-Roman Polak
Darryl Sydor-Erik Johnson
Carlo Colaiacovo-Mike Weaver
Extra: Alex Pietrangelo
After missing last season, Johnson will be playing his first NHL regular-season game in 544 days when he plays today.
Now that it’s finally here, I asked Johnson if he felt any different when he woke up this morning. ”It feels just like another day, really,” he said. “I’m preparing just like any other game, doing my routine. It has a little more meaning, but I’m not going to stress myself out about it, or put any more pressure on myself than I already do . . . just gonna go out there and do what I’ve done all preseason.”
Pietrangelo will not be in the lineup today, and unless a defenseman has a bad game today, I don’t anticipate him playing Saturday either.
“We’re trying to win games right now,” Murray said. “We’ll play the lineup that gives us the best chance to win. If that means Petro is in there, then he’s in there. We’re trying to win. He’s better than he was last year. When we need him, he’ll play. I went over it with Larry (Pleau) and (John Davidson) and we’ll approach it day by day and see what our team needs.”
Chris Mason will be in goal. When asked if Mason would start tomorrow in back-to-back games, Murray said, “We’ll see what happens.”
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said the same thing about Wings goalie Chris Osgood starting Friday and Saturday.
There will be a familiar voice behind the public-address microphone today. Blues PA announcer Tom Calhoun was invited to Sweden to announce the goals, penalities, etc.
“I haven’t gotten a lot of direction from the league yet about how I’m supposed to handle Blues’ goals, as opposed to Red Wings’ goals,” Calhoun said. “Being in neutral-site, I’m sure they’ll want me to play it a little bit more down the middle than what I’d normally would. But I’m sure I’ll still have a little more enthusiasm for the Blues’ goals than the others.”
Calhoun said the assignment keeps his streak intact. He has been behind the mic for EVERY Blues’ preseason, regular season and postseason game since January 1987.
“If somebody wanted to get technical, this would have been the first “home” game that I would have missed had I not been given the opportunity to come over,” Calhoun said. “It’s pretty exciting for me to come over and keep the streak alive.”