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St. Louis Blues host first open practice of 2019-20 season

The Blues' Jordan Nolan practices with the team at Centene Community Ice Center in Maryland Heights on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Sid Hastings photo)

Blues players were involved in 14 fights last season, with the now departed Pat Maroon (six) and Joel Edmundson (two) accounting for eight of them.

Granted, fighting has an ever-shrinking role in the modern NHL. But if the Blues need someone to drop the gloves from time to time, they’ve got Robert Bortuzzo, maybe Brayden Schenn, and . . . who?

Well, Jordan Nolan provided a reminder in Friday’s exhibition game, against the Washington Capitals, that he’s available if needed. Early in the first period, he pummeled Liam O’Brien with a series of lefts when they went at it near center ice.

O’Brien did not return to the game after the fight. It was the 32nd NHL fight for Nolan if you include preseason, regular season and postseason games, according to hockeyfights.com.

“He’s a guy that’s been around,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “He’s won (championships) a few times. He knows what it takes. . . . I thought he had a pretty good solid game. He was involved and he was forechecking hard. When he’s doing that and he’s an aggressive player, he’s a good player.”

Nolan almost certainly is headed for San Antonio and the American Hockey League. He already has gone through the waiver process (on Sept. 20) and isn’t on the team’s travel roster for Sunday’s exhibition finale, in Columbus against the Blue Jackets.

With 21 of 23 playoff participants back from last season’s Stanley Cup championship squad, and the addition of three-time all-star Justin Faulk on defense, this is an almost impossible roster to make.

“Last year I feel like I came into camp and worked hard, and put myself on their radar,” Nolan said. “And this year I think they know what I can do, what I bring to the team.”

Although he began last season in San Antonio, Nolan played 14 games for St. Louis in December and January, registering two assists. He had 17 goals and 18 assists in 59 games for San Antonio, then joined the Blues for most of their playoff run as one of the team’s “Black Aces” — players who practice but don’t appear in playoff games.

This time around, Nolan wants the Blues to know he’s ready again if called upon.

“You need lots of guys,” he said. “Especially after a deep run. The guys are a little tired and might not have worked out as hard as they have in the past. So you gotta be ready. If you’re sent down or if you’re here, you gotta stay ready. It’s a long, grueling season. Especially after a deep run and a championship run, you need lots of bodies.”

Nolan was part of Stanley Cup winners with the Los Angeles Kings in the 2011-12 and ‘13-14 seasons. He appeared in 26 regular-season games and 20 playoff games with the ‘11-12 Kings and 64 games but just three playoff games with the “13-14 champs.

“We had that core together for a long time (with the Kings),” Nolan said. “Some of them are still there. It’s a special thing to be a part of — be a part of a winning team. You kind of feel like you belong in that family for the rest of your life.”

Although he had a much-reduced role with the Blues last season compared to those years with Los Angeles, Nolan takes pride in the fact he was part of two franchises winning the Stanley Cup for the first time.

“It’s pretty special, and something I’ll never forget,” Nolan said. “When you get a taste of it you want to keep feeling that. And you know how hard it is to win. So our guys in here (with the Blues), they want to obviously keep going. They want to be a top team every year and get back to that feeling.”

The Blues thought enough of Nolan’s contribution that he got to spend a couple of hours with the Cup this summer.

“I was pretty excited and a little surprised,” he said. “I know I played a couple games last year; I was here for a bit. And I was ready to go in the playoffs, too (if needed). But just to get to spend the (Cup) day a third time. The first two were pretty hectic. They were long, long days with the family and parade and signing. So this time around it was just a couple hours of strictly family.”

Nolan, 30, saw some of Berube’s Cup day festivities in Calahoo, Alberta, on social media. As someone who is also of First Nation descent, Nolan took pride in seeing Berube recognized and honored by the Cree chief and other members of the Alexander reserve near Berube’s home.

“My first two Cup days I brought it to my reserve at Garden River First Nation, outside of Sault Ste. Marie and we did a traditional pow wow, and we had all the chiefs from around the area,” said Nolan who is Ojibwe. “For the community to see that and see one of their own, it means a lot. They really care about their own. So if you put me and Ryan O’Reilly out on the First Nation community, kids will all go right to me. That’s just the way it is. They really take pride in their own people and to see their own succeed. So I think the fact that ‘Chief’ took it back for his people to see is pretty special.”

2019-20 Blues season preview

Compiled by Post-Dispatch hockey writers Jim Thomas and Tom Timmermann, and columnists Jeff Gordon, Benjamin Hochman and Ben Frederickson.

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