Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Blues Hopefuls Gear Up for Preseason Opener

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Blues Hopefuls Gear Up for Preseason Opener

Article excerpt

Four days after the start of training camp, the Blues will play their first National Hockey League preseason game tonight.

Coach Bob Berry and assistant coach Ted Sator will take a squad of regulars, prospects and suspects to play the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Lakeland (Fla.) Civic Center.

It's only the first game, but jobs are at stake.

"I don't think anyone's naive enough to think there are 20 jobs available, but there are positions that are question marks," Berry said. "People who show well in training camp are going to be given a lot of consideration. It's not a complicated thing.

"We want to look at some guys in real-life competition. Exhibition games are for veterans to get their timing down and for us to evaluate some of the youngsters and prospects."

Among the prospects are center Jim Montgomery, winger Nathan Lafayette, defensemen Jason Marshall and Daniel Laperriere and goalie Parris Duffus.

It'll be the first appearance in a Blues uniform for Montgomery, 24, signed as a free agent after leading Maine to the NCAA championship last season, and goalie Jim Hrivnak, acquired from Winnipeg in the offseason.

"Sure, I'm excited," Montgomery said. "I'm sure nerves will come into it, but nerves were there before the NCAA championship game last year. I'm sure it won't be the same, because that game meant so much."

Although this is not a national championship game, it still is extremely important for Montgomery, who is battling Tony Hrkac and Kevin Miehm for jobs at center.

"I'm trying not to think about that at all," Montgomery said. "A lot of players count heads and check the depth chart, but I'm not doing that. I'm just trying to show the organization what I can do.

"I'm having fun out there. It's like a dream come true to be able to put on an NHL jersey. Everything's just a kick for me. I'm on cloud nine."

Nelson Emerson and Basil McRae have been playing wing on Montgomery's line in scrimmages, and that's the likely pairing for tonight.

"I love playing with them," said Montgomery, a 5-foot-10, 185-pounder. "Nellie's such a creative and fast player. He creates opportunities for himself. …

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