Found April 11, 2012 on Fox Sports Midwest:
New_jersey_devils_0488
ST. LOUIS It was during a four-day span last summer that the St. Louis Blues first envisioned their season playing out like this. It began July 2, when the club signed defenseman Kent Huskins. Then came the signing of veteran winger Scott Nichol on July 5. The next afternoon, the Blues then announced one-year deals with Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner. In barely 96 hours, the Blues went from a young and inexperienced group to a team that featured three Stanley Cup Champions and a fourth who had played in the Conference Finals the past two seasons. Most hockey observers had no problems with the signings at the time. The low-risk, high-reward moves brought much needed veteran leadership to a team that hasnt won a playoff game since 2004. Some said the signings would have been better had it been 2001 and not 2011. And they were probably right. But for a group looking to take that next step towards winning the franchises first Stanley Cup, nearly everyone said adding the veteran quartet couldnt hurt. Now nearly nine months later, the Blues host the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals Thursday night at Scottrade Center. And while the additions were key factors in the Blues earning the No. 2 seed in the west and reaching this point, they hope now is the time the moves really begin to pay off. Playoffs are for veteran players, said coach Ken Hitchcock. Thats where you expect them to shine. Thats why Arnott and Langenbrunner were brought here. They have the experience of what its like going deep. They know what it feels like, they know what it looks like and this time of year is exactly why they were brought in to come and help us. Hitchcock joined the Blues midseason after Davis Payne was fired following a slow start, but he knows both Arnott and Langenbrunner extremely well. In fact, the two veterans and coach have been linked closely throughout their careers. Langenbrunner was a member of the 1999 Stanley Cup Champion Dallas Stars, which were coached by Hitchcock. The Stars again reached the finals the next year, but lost when Arnott scored the game-winning goal in double-overtime of Game 6 for the New Jersey Devils. Barely two years later, the two players were traded for each other as part of a three-player deal. And Langenbrunner immediately led the Devils to the Stanley Cup title in his first full year with New Jersey in 2003, leading the league with 11 goals and 18 points in the playoffs. Arnott was traded back to New Jersey in 2010, where he teamed with Langenbrunner for most of the 2010-2011 season before being dealt to Washington late in the season. With both hitting the free agent market at the same time and not ready to retire, the veterans looked for a team they thought had a chance to help them win another Stanley Cup. And as it turned out, they both decided separately that team was the Blues. It was the way I envisioned it, Langenbrunner said. You evaluate teams and try to figure out what fits best for you and this is what I saw, a team that was improving and on the cusp of getting to the playoffs,. This is what we play for. We want this opportunity. Its a long battle but Im excited to be there. Langenbrunner served as the captain for New Jersey the past five seasons. He also was the captain of the U.S. Olympic team in 2010, which ended up winning the Silver Medal. The two-time Stanley Cup winner has 12 game-winning goals in the playoffs, more than Hall of Famers such as Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey and Cam Neely. Showing the ability to come through when the pressure is highest, Langenbrunner has scored four game-ending goals in the playoffs in overtime. The 36-year-old Langenbrunner will be making his 14th appearance in the playoffs while the 37-year-old Arnott, a two-time All-star, will be making his 13th trip to the playoffs with his sixth different team. Nichol, 37, will be making his sixth playoff appearance for his third team. He reached the Western Conference Finals in each of the past two seasons with the San Jose Sharks. And dont forget about Huskins, who won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. The 32-year-old signed with the Blues as a free agent just days before the other three did, but was limited to just 25 games in the regular season because of injuries. For a team looking to win their first playoff series since 2002, the experience the added veterans bring cant be overstated. For general manager Doug Armstrong, its worked out just as he planned last summer. We were brought in here because weve been through this, Langenbrunner said. Theres a lot of guys getting their first playoff game and were fortunate to have been through it a few times so I think the biggest thing is to bring a little bit of a calming influence. It is the playoffs, but its the same game. It gets ramped up and all that, but it seems to be the teams that crack first. Teams arent going to get better. Its teams that can make the other teams crack and I think for us its just staying focused and doing the same things that we do well. Having a coach who has made nine trips to the playoffs and won a Stanley Cup doesnt hurt either. And the Blues figure to lean heavily on the coaching of Hitchcock and the veteran presence of Arnott, Langenbrunner, Nichol and Huskins for what they hope is a lengthy playoff run. But come Thursday, the entire Blues lineup will have playoff experience under their belt. Even if its just a little. You get though that first shift and youre a playoff veteran, Langenbrunner said. The Blues have high hopes as they prepare to face the Sharks Thursday night. And in large part, its because of a few days last summer.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Playoff inexperience a non-factor for Blues

ST. LOUIS The question was common this week, and goalie Jaroslav Halak turned to the crowd after practice to explain how the St. Louis Blues have faith in their chance to advance despite playoff inexperience. The past doesnt matter, he said without emotion to the cameras and microphones nearby. Hockey can be an unforgiving game, but it rewards teams that stay true to an approach...

Blues list Elliott day-to-day, recall G Jake Allen

Courtesy: Blues Media Relations ST. LOUIS St. Louis Blues Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today the club has recalled goaltender Jake Allen under emergency conditions from the Blues American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen. Brian Elliott is day-to-day with an upper body injury. Allen, 21, has played in 37 games for the Rivermen...

Blues G Elliott day to day with injury

St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott left practice midway through a 90-minute practice Tuesday with what coach Ken Hitchcock is calling an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day. The team recalled goalie Jake Allen from Peoria (Ill.) of the American Hockey League. The Blues open the playoffs at home Thursday against San Jose. Hitchcock said he expects Elliott to be fine...

Blues G Elliott day-to-day with injury

St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott left practice midway through a 90-minute practice Tuesday with what coach Ken Hitchcock is calling an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day. The team recalled goalie Jake Allen from Peoria (Ill.) of the American Hockey League. The Blues open the playoffs at home Thursday against San Jose. Hitchcock said he expects Elliott to be fine...

Blues to start Halak in Game 1

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Jaroslav Halak will start in goal for the St. Louis Blues in their playoff opener against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. Coach Ken Hitchcock announced his decision Wednesday. Goaltender Brian Elliott is nursing an unspecified upper-body injury and he didn't practice. Elliott led the NHL with a 1.56 goals-against average and nine shutouts. Halak wasn...

Jeff Quirin: Halak Named Game One Starter + Blues Playoff News & Notes

Sharks vs Blues First Round Preview: What You Need to Know & Watch For   -   Submitted for your approval are today's collection of St. Louis Blues Playoff News, Notes, & Thoughts for Wednesday, April 11th.   The question on everyone's mind today is who will Ken Hitchcock name the game one starter?  Who took the ice for practice should have been...

Blues' Backes reflects on first year as captain

ST. LOUIS - Four days before his evolution as a leader continues in the playoffs, the captain stands in the St. Louis Blues locker room, strong and stern. After a practice Monday at St. Louis Mills, David Backes looks at the crowd in front of his stall. Sweat drips from his left ear. He places both hands on his dark-blue shorts and fields questions about his team's first postseason...

Jeff Quirin: With Elliott Day to Day, Allen is Recalled + Blues Playoff Randomness

Sharks vs Blues First Round Preview: What You Need to Know & Watch For   Take a deep breath, it's not that bad...   Have Sharks fans broken out the Voodoo Dolls already?   The word from today's split practice session is that St. Louis Blues netminder Brian Elliott did not return for the second half of the on ice activities. Head coach Ken Hitchcock told...

Jeff Quirin: Sharks @ Blues Game One Quick Hits

Nearly a month has past since the St. Louis Blues were the first team in the NHL to qualify for the playoffs. In the days between then and now there has been enough discussion regarding the first such event in three years around the city that even the most casual of local hockey fans know what’s going on. If the blue, not red, color of the fountain at Kiener Plaza and the...

St. Louis Blues v San Jose Sharks

The NHL Playoffs have arrived. The CS staff is pleased to present you with a preview , a couple of keys to the series, and Sean Keenan’s prediction of the winner and MVP of each series. Our thanks go out to Kenny Krizsanitz for his help in writing this preview.   Where the hell did St. Louis come from this year? Out of nowhere they just exploded into a winning machine that has...

Blues-Sharks season rewind

ST. LOUIS - The Blues and San Jose Sharks will begin their Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup Thursday night at Scottrade Center. And if their four regular season meetings are any indication, the Blues should be in pretty good shape. The Blues swept all four meetings from the Sharks and allowed just three goals, thanks in large part to stellar goaltending from both Jaroslav...

Stanley Cup Playoffs breakdown: St. Louis Blues vs. San Jose Sharks

I continue my analysis of the 1st round Stanley Cup playoff series by analyzing the playoff series between the St. Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks. The St. Louis Blues became the surprise team of the regular season, particularly after they hired Ken Hitchcock after a 6-7-0 start and catapulted themselves to the one of the top records in the National Hockey League (NHL).  Hitchcock’s...

Sharks-Blues Preview

Ken Hitchcock's big decision decided itself. It was no surprise when the St. Louis Blues coach announced Jaroslav Halak would start in goal in the playoff opener against the San Jose Sharks. After all, his other option, Brian Elliott, didn't practice because of an unspecified upper-body injury sustained about a week ago. ''Oh yeah, it's a big decision before...
NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.