Tonight, Blues fans will get their first look at goaltender Brian Elliott, who signed a one-year, $600,000 free-agent contract with the club in the offseason.
Elliott, 26, will start the Blues' first preseason game against Tampa Bay, and he's expected to remain in the entire game. It will be a key night for Elliott, who's in a battle with Ben Bishop to be the team's backup behind Jaroslav Halak this season.
"There's no time like the present," Elliott said. "You don't much time at camp before you get into the games. Then again, you don't want that much time. You just want to get into it and get that game feeling back again. Don't put too much pressure on yourself ... just go out there, have fun and get that feeling back again."
Elliott has looked steady so far in training camp, but after only three days of practice, it's too early to tell if he or Bishop has the upper hand in the competition for the backup job. We'll learn more about who's on top over the next week, as the Blues get set to play preseason games on five consecutive nights.
The Blues' training camp roster is divided into two teams, and since Elliott and Bishop were on the same team, it was assumed incorrectly by me that the two netminders would split games, allowing them to compete against the same competition. As it turns out, the Blues' intentions are to have their goalies play from start to finish in the preseason.
Blues coach Davis Payne explained in yesterday's "Morning Skate" blog that it's not fair to have one goalie come in halfway through a game with a score of, let's say, 1-0 or 5-2. Both Elliott and Bishop agreed, saying they're happy to get the full game.
"It's probably good to get a full game," Elliott said. "It's different playing in the first period than the third period. It's getting the whole experience, and it's probably good for everybody as a whole."
Bishop said: "It's nice to play a full game. It's always a little bit tougher coming in halfway through. We did this last year, so hopefully we'll do it the same way."
The Blues have swapped goalies on their two camp squads, so it will be Jake Allen, not Bishop, dressing as the backup for tonight's game. It's not known when Bishop will see his first action.
I'll have more on the backup goalie battle Wednesday on STLtoday.com and in the Post-Dispatch.
Evgeny Grachev-David Backes-Jamie Langenbrunner
Matt D'Agostini-Philip McRae-Jonathan Cheechoo
Chris Porter-Brett Sonne-B.J. Crombeen
Derek Nesbitt-Anthony Nigro-Anthony Peluso
Carlo Colaiacovo-Roman Polak
Brett Ponich-Kevin Shattenkirk
Danny Syvret-Mark Cundari
LINE TO WATCH
While it will be interesting to see Jamie Langenbrunner in a Blues' uniform for the first time tonight, the line that may bring the most intrigue is Matt D'Agostini-Philip McRae-Jonathan Cheechoo.
It's a big camp for D'Agostini, who when the regular season begins should get some ice time at right wing on the top line. He told the coaching staff that he would play wherever they needed him in the preseason, so that's why he's on the left side in camp.
McRae has followed up a productive week at the NHL Prospects Camp with a quick start at training camp. He may be on the outside looking in as far as a roster spot out of camp, but McRae could leave a lasting impression.
Meanwhile, Cheechoo continues to show flashes in camp of the scorer he's been earlier in his career.
"Dags has looked good ... Philip right from Traverse City has played well," Payne said. "Obviously (they are) some guys that we want to see create some things, but also play that 200-foot game as well."
THE BEST TO WEAR NO. 39?
Philip McRae won wide respect for his decision to give up No. 38, a tribute to former Blues Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev, who wore the number in St. Louis and died in a tragic plane crash with their Russian hockey team on Sept. 7.
Among those who voiced their respect was Kelly Chase, who was friends with both Demitra, Korolev and their families.
Still, when McRae announced that he was switching to No. 39, he predicted that he would catch some grief from Chase, who wore the number for the Blues.
"I'm sure once 'Chaser' finds out, he's going to be giving me a hard time," McRae said recently.
Well, Chase has found out and McRae was right.
"I told Phil he's the third-best player to wear the number," Chase said today.
Asked who the second-best player to wear No. 39 was, Chase said: "Doug Weight."
ODDS & ENDS
- Former Blues defenseman Eric Brewer, now with the Tampa Bay Lightning, did not make the trip to St. Louis. The visitors also did not bring Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis or Vinny Lecavalier.
- Wednesday's preseason game between the Blues and Lightning was originally scheduled to be played in Winnipeg. But after it was scheduled, Winnipeg landed the Jets (formerly the Atlanta Thrashers) and the game was moved to Orlando, Fla.