(HockeySTL)-- The long-awaited return of Paul Stastny to St. Louis will become official on Thursday night when the forward makes his Blues debut against Columbus in the club’s third game of the preseason.
Stastny, who signed a four-year, $28 million contract with the Blues this offseason, sat out the club’s first two preseason games, allowing him to play his first game with the Blues on home ice.
“The first game is, I don’t want to say nerve-racking but it’s always exciting,” Stastny said on Wednesday. “Especially after a long summer of not playing games, you just want to get back in the heat of things.”
The prolific center spent some of his early years in St. Louis, watching his father, Peter, compete with the Blues. Paul’s brother, Yan, also played with the organization for four seasons. On Thursday, the trifecta will be completed.
Last season, Stastny netted 25 goals and tallied 60 points with Colorado. Thursday will be the first time in his eight-year NHL career that Stastny has skated in a game without donning the Avalanche’s logo.
“It will be fun,” Stastny said. “I think every game under my belt I’ll just get more and more comfortable.”
Skating alongside Stastny on Thursday will be Alexander Steen and Joakim Lindstrom.
Stastny and Steen have been paired together since training camp began last Friday. Their chemistry has impressed head coach Ken Hitchcock through the first seven days of the preseason.
“You see things that you can practice those things all day and they just happen (with those two) because you have two really smart players with very high hockey IQ,” said Hitchcock. “It’s the reading off of each other that would give any opposition fits.”
Hitchcock only recently added Lindstrom to Stastny’s line in order to test for a possible fit.
“They’re extremely tough players, top players in the League,” Lindstrom said of Stastny and Steen. “I am very pumped to play with them.”
Hitchcock hopes to be able to better judge the line after it is challenged by a real opposition on Thursday.
“When there is more structure, there is opposition there and it’s a game-like situation, we will get a better read on it,” Hitchcock said.
Like Hitchcock, Stastny is ready for the competition to become real and for the in-game structure to be put into place.
“Systems are systems, there’s only so much you can do out here (at camp practice),” Stastny said. “Once you get in games, you react more….everyone’s going 10 miles an hour. This is fun, but I think we’ve done this enough for the summer. Now you’re ready for games to start.”
Aside from Stastny, David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Alexander Steen, Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo will also be making their preseason debuts on Thursday.
Thursday’s complete lineup:
Ivan Barbashev-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Peter Mueller-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Joakim Lindstrom
Yannick Veilleux-Colin Fraser-Cody Beach
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Chris Butler-Nate Prosser
Petteri Lindbohm-Ian Cole