ST. LOUIS — There is nothing quite like a Swedish winter, according to Alex Steen.
"It was good. A great winter," said Steen, the St. Louis Blues forward who played for MoDo in the Swedish Elite League during the NHL lockout. "I loved the fact I was able to spend Christmas at home for the first time in eight years. It's different here, a lot of guys that are from the (U.S.) and Canada are able to fly home and spent Christmas at home, but for the Euros it's too far."
Steen is the son of former NHL player and Swedish native Thomas Steen, who was a member of the Winnipeg Jets in the 1980s and '90s.
The younger Steen was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada, but Sweden is his natural heritage.
"It was a great winter, lots of snow but not too cold ... cross-country skiing and snowmobiling," Alex Steen said. "It was nice."
The versatile forward has played on the wing throughout much of his Blues career, but has spent plenty of time at center with other teams.
That's where the Blues envision him fitting in to start this season on a line with veteran winger Andy McDonald and promising rookie winger Vladimir Tarasenko.
"This is a new look for us, it's new for them," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I like the part (where) Alex had played center in Europe and if you can play on big ice, you can play it anywhere."
Steen played exclusively at center for MoDo and racked up eight goals and 23 points in 20 games, while playing his usual responsible defense.
"That's what they were happiest about in Sweden, he picked up the support part about playing center ice," Hitchcock said. "That's a good start for us."
"It was a fun, a really fun experience," Steen said of his time in Sweden. "I played center the whole time, (got) a lot of ice time, back-end on the power play, a lot of penalty killing, I think I was over 21, 22 minutes a night."
Steen's chemistry with McDonald has been exceptional during their time together with the Blues.
"They find each other well on the ice," Hitchcock said. "We'll start Tarasenko there and see how it looks. We like Steener (at center) because he's good down low in our zone, he's very dependable defensively.
"We need a guy that's going to be there for our defensemen, he's going to be patient and not be playing on the move all the time."
Hitchcock said the other early line combination he will start camp with Sunday is David Backes centering T.J. Oshie and David Perron.
Steen is intrigued by the potential of playing with Tarasenko. The 21-year-old former first-round pick piled up 14 goals and 31 points in 31 games in Russia's KHL pro league for St. Petersburg SKA.
"I've practiced with him once," Steen said. "I honestly don't know that much about him other than the hype you guys have put on him, so we'll have to wait and see."
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2454.