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Jackman hits 500 games with little fanfare

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In his first NHL game on April 14, 2001, 21-year-old Barret Jackman played nearly 19 minutes and helped the Blues beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-3. On Monday, nine seasons later, he played in his 500th game.

"Really," Jackman said, unaware of the numbers. "Not bad for a kid from British Columbia, can't believe I've played in 500 NHL games. I should have got there a lot sooner, if not for injuries."

Injuries certainly have been a part of Jackman's journey, not surprising for the rough-and-tumble nature of his game. This will be the fifth season in which the 6-foot, 200-pound defenseman has missed 12 or more games. But he has come a long way since winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year in 2002-03.

Jackman narrowly edged two other players — Detroit center Henrik Zetterberg and Columbus forward Rick Nash — for the award that season. The voters certainly struck a blow for defenders with that choice. Zetterberg and Nash have become two of the top scorers in the league, while Jackman has become one of the most un-offensive players in the league.

Going into Monday's game against Vancouver, Jackman, 30, was averaging 0.246 point per game in his first 499 starts. His top offensive season was 2006-07, when he had three goals and 24 assists for 27 points.

At the same time, Jackman deserves credit for making a significant adaptation in his career. He got to the NHL and gained recognition as a top rookie because of the edge he carried. He hit hard, agitated, played physical in front of the net, won battles in the corners.

But soon after Jackman established himself, the NHL began changing rules to open the ice. Clutching and grabbing were outlawed, slashing and interference strictly enforced.

"Now it's all about footwork and body position as opposed to being overly aggressive," Jackman said. "It definitely has changed my style of game, from what I played all the way back to when I was 5 years old. There used to be a lot of cross-checks in front of the net, grabbing, things like that.

"The more of a jerk you could be in front of the net, the less time people spent there. Now, guys camp out there and you really can't do much."

Jackman is having a solid season. He hasn't scored a goal, but he has 10 assists and is a plus-8. He plays with bumps and bruises that would keep many players out of the lineup.

That said, the Blues have faded after a fast start. Jackman has a season remaining on his contract, which includes no-trade language. Given the fortunes of the team, and should the Blues continue to slip, it is reasonable to speculate a contending team might have interest in acquiring a veteran blueliner with Jackman's leadership qualities.

But Jackman is focused on helping the Blues make a playoff push. He hasn't thought about being asked to waive his no-trade clause.

"There's questions outside people have asked about it, but only a few and I don't think about that," he said. "I go out there and play every day. If it comes to that point where management feels it's going to make the team better and I'm not going to fit into the future ...

"But that road is ahead of us and right now, I'm focusing on playing each game."

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