ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Blues fans won't be the only ones feeling overly emotional when the team takes the ice for the season opener Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.
The players are just as fired up.
"I don't think you can describe it," Blues captain David Backes said, trying to put the feeling of standing on the ice before a sellout crowd. "It's that goose-bump feeling; this is what you dream of. You've got 18,000 or 19,000 people, standing-room only, crazy people going nuts. ... You talk about not needing any motivation, it's all there for you.
"If you can't play in that circumstance, you're not a pro. All the guys in here are more than ready to go."
A season that not that long ago seemed in jeopardy because of labor problems finally begins. The typical 82-game schedule was shortened to 48 games because of a lengthy and nasty lockout that caused anger and frustration for fans all over North America.
Blues fans seemed a little more ready to forget, with 10,200 people turning out at Scottrade Center for a Thursday night scrimmage.
The team's players are appreciative of the early support, but also realize there is still a lot of fence-mending to be done where fans are concerned.
"I think we're all excited to get going," Blues forward Jamie Langenbrunner said. "It's been great having all the fans here at practice with us all week. We're just looking forward to getting rolling and getting back on our mission of where we're trying to be at the end of the year."
There aren't many new faces for the Blues. Rookie Jaden Schwartz saw spot duty last season while Russian rookie winger Vladimir Tarasenko will be making his NHL debut.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock announced Jaroslav Halak would be the starting goaltender for the season opener.
The Blues also signed veteran defenseman Wade Redden to a one-year deal Friday and released veteran defenseman Colin White. White was brought to training camp on a pro tryout basis, but Redden's presence took him out of the competition.
Veteran winger Chris Porter was placed on waivers and will be assigned to minor-league Peoria if he is not claimed by another NHL team.
A strong training camp performance helped Schwartz earn a roster spot. The versatile forward has been skating at left wing on a line with Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart.
Scouting the Red Wings
The Blues open against the rival Red Wings, a team they were 2-3-1 against last season.
But this is a vastly different Red Wings team, one that no longer includes 20-year veteran defenseman and future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom.
Lidstrom leaves an incredibly large hole on defense, especially after winning seven Norris Trophies during his career.
"That's going to be real strange," Langenbrunner said of Lidstrom's absence from a Blues-Red Wings game. "He's probably one of the greatest player of my generation. ... He was a class act both on and off the ice and a great competitor.
"I'm sure he's going to be missed in that locker room, but they obviously have a good hockey team and will continue to be a strong force."
The Red Wings have made 21 straight playoff appearances, but were knocked out in the first round last season by Nashville.
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2454.