ST. LOUIS — With only six days until the season begins, this St. Louis Blues training camp will be anything but ordinary.
It kicked off Sunday morning at Scottrade Center with 25 players, including a couple of veteran forwards.
Coach Ken Hitchcock said the strong conditioning level of center Scott Nichol and winger Jamie Langenbrunner immediately got his attention.
"Somebody must have given them new legs for Christmas, both guys," Hitchcock said. "I'm not sure, but they looked quick and they looked lean. Both guys are coaching their little kids' teams so they've been running around trying to catch up to kids, too. Both guys looked like they're ready to help us right away."
Hitchcock and his staff pushed the players hard in a workout that didn't quite make it to two hours. With only six days to prepare for the home opener Saturday against Detroit, he has no other choice.
"The players lasted about 40 minutes and then the legs kind of seized up a little bit because we went at a really high tempo," he said. "We're hopeful by the end of the week that we're going to get a solid hour out of everybody."
Because of the lockout-shortened 48-game schedule, the Blues face a grind of six games in nine days to open the season.
"The reality for the players is my God, it's six in nine nights, What a wake-up call," Hitchcock said.
David Backes centered David Perron and T.J. Oshie and Alex Steen was between Andy McDonald and rookie Vladimir Tarasenko.
Patrik Berglund centered a line that included Jaden Schwartz and Chris Stewart, while Vladimir Sobotka was between Matt D'Agostini and Ryan Reaves. Another line had Nichol and Langenbrunner with Chris Porter.
There are 15 forwards vying for 14 roster spots.
The defense pairings were Kris Russell with Alex Pietrangelo, Barret Jackman with Kevin Shattenkirk, Ian Cole with Roman Polak and Taylor Chorney with Jeff Woywitka.
"I think the players have really figured out quickly we're going to need everybody --and we're going to need everybody in every situation," Hitchcock said. "So no more two units on the power play, it's got to be three. No more six forwards killing power-plays, it's got to be eight or nine."
Being in shape isn't the issue at this point. These workouts are all about developing timing, chemistry and cohesion.
"It's just getting back into NHL mentality, NHL shape," Blues captain David Backes said. "It's no longer the summer skates where you're just out there wheeling around hoping to keep your lungs.
"It's leaning on guys, physical play, a lot more structure than the summer and what the guys who went and played in Europe had. It's a steep learning curve, but we've got a group of guys that was together for most of the year last year and is going to continue to thrive in this environment."