It's officially hockey season.
The Blues opened Training Camp at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Scottrade Center, and fans turned out by the thousands (yes, literally) to watch the team take the ice for the first time during the 2012-13 season.
More than 5,500 fans showed up for Sunday's practice, a clear sign that Blues fans are among the most passionate in the League.
"It was pretty awesome for us," forward Jamie Langenbrunner said. "You never know how people are going to react coming out of this, but we were pretty sure our fans were going to be there for us. They showed today how supportive they are. It's a special feeling for us."
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said he wants to add more size and speed to the lineup, so Ryan Reaves and Ian Cole will suit up to play in Game 4.
For Reaves, it'll be his first game since Game 1 of the Quarterfinals vs. San Jose, but he's not worried about his nerves.
"I think the butterflies left in Game 1," he said. "I got my first taste, and now it's about doing what I do and get excited."
Cole last played in Game 2 against the Kings on April 30.
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Alex Pietrangelo will return to the lineup tonight when the Blues meet the Kings in Game 3 at Staples Center.
Pietrangelo missed one game after being shoved into the boards by Kings' forward Dwight King in Game 1, but he participated in a full practice Wednesday and Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock declared him good to go after Thursday's gameday skate.
"It's huge. He's arguably our best player," Hitchcock said Thursday. "When you have a player who touches all three aspects of your game, five-on-five, (penalty kill) and (power play), and then he leaves the game quickly, there's a huge adjustment you have to go through. Getting him back is huge for us and hopefully we can surround him with better play.
"It's hard to believe that one player makes that big of a difference, but obvously in our game, he did. So we're hoping the whole stability part gets back to our team where we've got the right players playing in the right situations."
Hitchcock also said that Pietrangelo wouldn't be eased back into the lineup. Instead, expect him to get plenty of ice time.
"There's going to be no tie down on allowing him to play the minutes. He's going to have to play big minutes, he knows that, so we waited until the last possible minute where he could play with no reservations. He's there now."
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Pietrangelo skated with the team during their morning gameday skate and according to Head Coach Ken Hitchcock, he feels "good so far." But a decision on whether he'll play won't be made until later today.
"Right now he's an injured player, but if he's in the warmup before the game, he's a player (tonight)," Hitchcock said after today's morning skate. "Right now we're deciding. He feels good so far, so we'll see him make it through the rest of the day, but we're not going to put him in the warmup unless we're going to play him. If he's out there for the pregame skate tonight, he's definitely going to be a player."
Pietrangelo was shoved from behind by Kings forward Dwight King late in the second period of Saturday's Game 1. Pietrangelo's head hit the boards and he didn't return to the game. When he didn't practice on Sunday, there was legitimate cause for concern.
If Pietrangelo can't go, Ian Cole will step into his place tonight.
"Sitting out for a month or however long and then having to go in and step into a very intense series like we have going right now, it's tough," Cole said. "But we're practicing hard, they've been skating us hard, trying to get us ready for this possible situation that might happen. I feel like I am ready to step in if that's what needs to be done."
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It's been exactly one week since the Blues wrapped up their first round best-of-7 series with a 3-1 win against the San Jose Sharks, giving the team their longest layoff since the NHL All-Star Break.
With all that time off, is there any reason to be concerned about the Blues starting flat?
"You can go either way," said veteran Scott Nichol, who went to the Western Conference Finals as a member of the Sharks the last two seasons. "It's nice to rest up and heal up a little bit. We just have to control our emotions. We have a young team here and we have to play between the whistles and stay out of the stuff after."
"I think all of us watched the game last night (between Nashville and Phoenix), and Nashville was rusty," Coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That's the fear of any coach coming into any of these competitions. You don't want to be rusty. All of us are hoping we've done everything. I don't think we have the exact answer to that science, but I think all of us are a little bit nervous (because) you don't want to start the game rusty.
"We're hoping we're ready for it and we're hoping we can get our game out there in a hurry."
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