ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has his own theory when it comes to winning back hockey fans turned off by the lengthy NHL lockout.
Does Hitchcock feel a 48-game season is enough?
"This is what we do, we play hockey," he said Thursday. "I don't care if it's 28, just get playing. We've got a lot of work to do with people to get this thing back. This isn't going to come back overnight.
"I think our game is going to be ahead of our positioning with our fans. Once we start on Sunday, we're in position of controlling the good will -- and the only way you control it is by playing your butt off and playing well."
He's not too concerned about the die-hard fans.
"I don't think it's mending the fences, I think it's more where have the causal people gone," said Hitchcock, who has been impressed by the Blues fans he encounters during his trips in and around the St. Louis region.
"I meet people every day where it's them, their parents or their grandparents that have been following this team since '67. I've got guys telling me a million stories from the '60s and '70s. There are huge fans here, but it's where have the casual fans gone?" Have they got other places to go now?"
Alex Steen, Patrik Berglund and goaltender Jaroslav Halak were among the latest arrivals as the Blues continue filling in their roster from all points of the globe.
Steen and Berglund played in the Swedish Elite League during the lockout while Halak played one game in Germany before returning to his native Slovakia.
Halak said the high ankle sprain that ended his season during the first round of the playoffs has mended.
"I've been skating on my own since then, so it feels good to be back and get a practice in," Halak said. "I felt 100 percent in August, I was good to go. Since then I was just waiting like everybody else."
Another new face this season is former Blues defenseman Jeff Woywitka, back for his second stint with the club. Woywitka signed with the Blues in July as a free agent. He last played for St. Louis in 2008-09 and spent the past three seasons with Dallas and the New York Rangers.