DETROIT - The NHL has sold one more subscription to its Center Ice package.
With their son set to make his first NHL start tonight, the Allen family bucked up so they'll be able to watch the Blues-Detroit game from New Brunswick, Canada.
"I think they bought it last week (before) I got into the game against Nashville," Blues goalie Jake Allen said. "They're excited. It's going to be good for them, and I can't say enough ...they've helped me get here. So hopefully, I'll make the most of it for them."
And make the most of it for the Blues. With Brian Elliott struggling and Jaroslav Halak still on the mend from a groin injury, the team is forced to turn to Allen, a second-round draft pick from 2008 who has spent the past three seasons in Peoria. He made a brief appearance in last season's playoff and his only other NHL action was 31 minutes last week against the Predators, who touched him for two goals on eight shots.
"I have no idea how this is going to turn out," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "This is new ground for all of us. He's played really, really well...his last four or five starts in Peoria have been excellent. But this is a different league.
"We're a little bit like Detroit. Detroit brought in the kid (Petr Mrazek Feb. 7 against the Blues, a 5-1 Red Wings' victory in which Mrazek made 26 saves). He was very competitive, I thought the players fed off his competitiveness and that's what we're hoping for with Jake. He's got to get his career started somewhere, and other than Toronto, you couldn't get a bigger atmosphere to play in."
Allen got the news that he was starting Tuesday night. He said that he didn't have any trouble sleeping.
"I feel confident in net," Allen said. "I just want to get back in there. I haven't played in a little bit. I'm anxious. Hopefully we can turn things back around tonight, and get off the losing streak."
At least one of Allen's Blues' teammates knows how much work Allen has put into making tonight a reality. Jaden Schwartz spent the first part of the season with Allen in Peoria.
"Words can't describe how excited I am for him," Schwartz said. "I know he's been looking forward to this opportunity for a long time. He's a great kid, he works really hard. This is kind of his first chance to start between the pipes up here. He's really excited, he's calm. I asked him how he felt and he said, 'Just another game.' I'm sure the nerves will creep in a little bit before the game, but he's played in big situations before so that will help him."
David Perron-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald-Alex Steen-Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart
Vladimir Sobotka-Scott Nichol-Ryan Reaves
Ian Cole-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell-Roman Polak
Other than Allen, the Blues will be putting their opening-night lineup on the ice tonight against Detroit.
That includes reuniting the line combinations, which means the return of Andy McDonald, Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko. They've been separated the last three games. After producing 10 points in his first eight NHL games, Tarasenko is pointless in his last four games.
"Tarasenko played his best with those two guys and as much as we probably need help somewhere else up the lineup, those three guys were a combination, so we'll just stay with it," Hitchcock said.
On defense, Kris Russell returns after sitting out as a healthy scratch the last two games. He'll replace Wade Redden, who has played eight of nine games (missing one with the flu) since he was signed.
Through 10 games, Russell is without a point, and he's a minus-2.
"Yeah, he's calmed down and ready to go again," Hitchcock said.
Redden had goals in his second and third games with the Blues, but he's without a point in his last five. Furthermore, he's a minus-7 in the last five games. Redden played only 10 minutes, 10 seconds in Monday's 4-1 loss to L.A.
Asked if Redden needed a breather, Hitchcock said, "A little bit in our eyes ... he hasn't played much. I think that left side is four guys for three spots, so whoever going well plays, and whoever isn't, that's just the game of hockey."
KEKALAINEN TO COLUMBUS
The ex-Blues' presence continues to grow in Columbus. On Wednesday morning, former Blues president John Davidson announced that former Blues director of amateur scouting Jarmo Kekalainein is the new general manager of the Blue Jackets.
Kekalainen becomes the first European GM in NHL history.
Kekalainen, who was with the Blues from 2002-2010, also had the title of assistant GM. But his duties focused on the amateur scouting and particularly the draft. When the Blues face Detroit tonight, they will have 10 players on the ice that Kekalainen drafted.
They are Patrik Berglund, Alex Pietrangelo, Ian Cole, David Backes, Roman Polak, David Perron, T.J. Oshie, Ryan Reaves, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko.
Kekalainen took Oshie in the first round in 2005 before most teams had him projected.
"He obviously thought enough of me to draft me high ... I definitely didn't want to disappoint him," Oshie said. "The way he carries himself and the confidence he has, it's a good way to represent an organization. He obviously did a good job with what he did to St. Louis. I wish him all the best and congratulations."
In 2010, Kekalainen nabbed Schwartz with the No. 14 overall pick and then traded to get the No. 16 pick, which was used on Tarasenko.
"That's awesome, I'm happy for him," Schwartz said. "I've met him a few times. He seems like a great guy and everyone that knows him speaks very highly of him. He saw something in me and believed in me, and that's nice, so I'm happy for him."
In 2010, when the Blues hired Doug Armstrong, Kekalainen returned to Europe looking to further his management credentials. He was working as the GM Jokerit in Finland before accepting Columbus' offer.
For more on Kekalainen's hiring, check out this story in the Columbus Dispatch.
ODDS & ENDS
- Goalie Jaroslav Halak was on the ice this morning with the Blues, but he did not face shots during practice. Going back to Monday's incident, I'm told Halak was still bothered by the groin injury during warmups, and didn't want to take the chance. Halak is not on injured reserve and is officially listed as day to day. But there is strong concern throughout the organization that it could be a week-to-week situation.
- Former Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo is out tonight with a shoulder injury. He skated briefly this morning and afterwards was seen catching up with his ex-Blues teammates. Hitchcock had an epic line when he walked past the oft-injured Colaiacovo: "Do you play in games, or are you a practice player?" Hitchcock said.
- Detroit forward Johan Franzen will miss tonight's game with a hip-flexor.