DENVER -- Paul Stastny was greeted by a throng of reporters in front of his stall in the Blues dressing room at the Pepsi Center on Saturday, the next step in his Colorado homecoming.
While it's the second time the Blues have played Colorado this season, it's the first time Stastny has faced them. He missed the first meeting with a shoulder injury.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has seen similar situations before and knows it's not going to be an easy day for the center.
"I think it's really uncomfortable for players," Hitchcock said. "I think you have a very difficult time. You need the first one in the books. It's unfortunate the first time, he was hurt. That could have made this one easier. I think he just has to go through it and be better for it when we finish the game and get on the bus and get back to St. Louis. I think it's a very difficult challenge for somebody who was an impact player on a good hockey club. I think it's going to be really difficult for him."
Stastny played eight seasons for the Avalanche after being drafted out of the University of Denver. Though he grew up in St. Louis, his hockey life has largely played out in Colorado.
"You just have to play," Hitchcock said. "You know there's going to be an emotional tug of war going on. You're visiting with friends, you've got people that know you on the other side. He hasn't played a hockey game against Colorado, we're two months into the season. Just stay with it. I think the biggest thing is his two linemates have to pick him up a little here. There's going to be some real emotion on his side, positive and negative. He's going to play as well as he can play, we know that, but the other two guys have a responsibility to help him out a little bit here."
Stastny has also had to deal with adjusting to a different style of play with the Blues than he had in Colorado. Jeremy Rutherford talks about that here.
SPEAKING OF LINES
With Carl Gunnarsson out, the Blues are rotating which of their final three defensemen, Chris Butler, Ian Cole and Petteri Lindbohm, sits out. Today it's Butler who won't be playing, though Hitchcock said he'd be back in the lineup on Tuesday.
THE OLD COLLEGE TRY
T.J. Oshie, Chris Porter and Jaden Schwartz made a busman's holiday and went to the North Dakota-Denver hockey game on Friday night after the Blues got into town. Oshie and Porter both played for the Fighting Sioux, who lost to Denver 4-1. (Schwartz went to Colorado College.)
"DU played really well," Oshie said. "Maybe me and Porter shouldn't be giving the pregame speeches. Ports and I went in and did the starting lineups. It was really awesome. We always tell stories about being back in school but being in that locker room and seeing the guys in their jerseys takes you back a little bit. It was fun, it was great to see them on the ice. We definitely miss being back there."
Schwartz said he remained neutral throughout the game.
North Dakota and Denver play again tonight. A lot of North Dakota fans made the trip to Denver for the series, so it felt like home for Oshie.
"Every time we come to DU, it's a big road trip," he said. "When I was there, we'd get a full section. Yesterday it seemed like 60 percent of the rink was Sioux fans. There was a lot of black and green there."
A CLASH OF STYLES
It will be the Blues' bulk against the Avalanche's speed tonight.
"It's not a big secret for either team, one team's built on speed and pressure and one team is built on the grind," Hitchcock said. "Whichever team seems to control that aspect of the game controls the tempo. We had a really difficult time against them in Game 1. After the first period, we really had a tough go, their speed in transition was effective and we were catching up the whole night. So now in the second game it's really in our court, we've shown the ability once we get and occupy the offensive zone and keep it in there then we end up with a lot of scoring chances because of it.
"For us, it's keeping it five on five and not letting their top skill guys on the ice and the second part for me is really how we manage the offensive blue line. They have a bunch of guys who are ready to jump on the back end and we don't want to give them the odd man rushes. We gave them seven odd-man rushes in the game in St. Louis and that's way too many if you're going to beat them on a regular basis."
Barret Jackman has been a plus-3 in his past two games. That's the first time in his career, which spans 752 games, he's been +3 back-to-back. Just having a +3 is tough enough. The Blues have done it just seven times this season. ... It's Vladimir Tarasenko's birthday. He's 23. Tarasenko has points in four straight games. ... Gunnarsson and Brian Elliott did not make the quick trip to Colorado. ...