ST. LOUIS -- The NHL schedule-makers could not have made the start to the St. Louis Blues' season any more challenging if they tried.
First, the Blues had to go on the road to begin the season against the defending Stanley Cup-champion Penguins in Pittsburgh. Now, for their home opener Saturday night, they will be reunited with former coach Ken Hitchcock, now with the Dallas Stars.
The Blues handled the first assignment well, defeating the Penguins 5-4 in overtime Wednesday night on Alex Pietrangelo's second goal of the game.
"With those guys, it's always going to be tough," Pietrangelo said after he scored his second goal of the game at 1:15 of overtime. "Gave up the two goals, but we held it together on the bench. We knew we had a chance, especially if we got to overtime, and we did."
The game against the Stars might be a little more emotional for both the Blues and Hitchcock, who was fired Feb. 1 after coaching the Blues since 2011.
It will be Hitchcock's first game as a visiting coach in St. Louis since Jan. 12, 2010, when he was with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Hitchcock did not have a lot of time to think about his homecoming because it will come on the back end of back-to-back games for the Stars, who opened their season at home on Friday night with a 2-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, the first game ever for the expansion team.
James Neal scored twice in the third period to give the Knights the win. Both goals came against Dallas backup goalie Kari Lehtonen, who replaced starter Ben Bishop after he was hit in the mask with a shot early in the third period and had to leave the game.
Lehtonen is expected to be in goal against the Blues, though Hitchcock did not think Bishop was seriously injured.
On the positive side, the Stars fired 45 shots at Vegas, and kept the Golden Knights from scoring on any of their seven power-play chances.
Even before Friday night's game, Hitchcock talked about the Stars' first two games as a set, not wanting to think only about one of them.
"It's a process and we'll take it step by step," Hitchcock told the Dallas Morning News. "We'll find out how we look in these first two games and then we'll go from there."
Blues coach Mike Yeo, who took over the team last February after Hitchcock was fired, also was reserved in his assessment of his team after the win in Pittsburgh as it prepared to face the Stars.
"I thought we had a good practice. I thought we had a good video (session)," Yeo told reporters on Friday, "This is one game into a long process of not trying to get too caught up in the big picture. I don't think anyone's going to get too overly excited about the fact that we won one hockey game.
"At some point here we're going to lose a hockey game and we're not going to let that derail us either."
Saturday night's game is the only Blues' home game out of their first six games of the season. They go back on the road for the next five games, starting Monday against New York Islanders.
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