ST. LOUIS — In the span of three days, the St. Louis Blues performed a defensive makeover they hope will lead them to postseason success.
For now, nailing down a playoff spot has been made a bit more attainable with the addition of veteran defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold.
"This is an addition where part of it is to help us win now, but part of it is also to augment the team for (the) future," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I like the fact that management is committed to making us better. They're not just sitting and watching the group, they're doing their own level of work, too.
"The players are impressed by this, I think they feel an even higher sense of obligation to help out as much as management is helping them."
Blues veteran defenseman Barret Jackman agreed, saying the time for excuses is over.
"We've got two great players that are going to come in here and make us that much better," Jackman said. "If you look around our dressing room we have every piece that we need. Now we have to put that on the ice and win. They're definitely showing their faith in this team."
Blues captain David Backes said the players appreciate the commitment, but now must work even harder to reward it.
"No excuses in here, we just need results," Backes said. "We've shown that the core in here's got what it takes to be good on a regular basis, win games and win a playoff battle.
"That being said, we're not satisfied with those results. We've got to keep growing and keep progressing or else I think it changes the outlook. We need to stick together and bring it every night. Then we like our chances."
Bouwmeester, 29, was expected to join the team on Wednesday night in Chicago once his immigration paperwork cleared. He is expected to make his Blues debut Thursday against the Blackhawks and will wear No. 19.
Known as one of the top skaters in the NHL, Bouwmeester also adds a talented left-handed partner on the No. 1 defense pairing with Alex Pietrangelo.
Bouwmeester also provides a steadying influence on the back end.
"Hopefully we can use him in the areas where he's most effective," Hitchcock said. "He can really play against top players and he eats up a lot of minutes. He's a real good addition."
So is Leopold, who played his first Blues game on Monday in Minnesota.
"Any time you get moved, there's a want and a need from that team you get moved to," said Leopold, who came in a Saturday trade with the Buffalo Sabres. "It's something to be excited about and obviously they've showed some confidence in my game that there's a role to be filled."
Leopold will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, but Bouwmeester's contract runs through 2013-14.
"He's an addition made long-term," Hitchcock said of Bouwmeester. "He's an addition for this year, for next year. ... This is building something that we want to build. We want to make the playoffs like everybody else does, but we're trying to build a team here that's going to win long-term and he's a good fit for us."
Bouwmeester already has a friend on the Blues in fellow defenseman Jackman. The pair played together on several Canadian national teams.
"We've known each other and crossed paths quite a few times over the years," Jackman said. "I had a great time with him over in Russia and Sweden. He's a great personality and a great guy that really is going to fit in well in our dressing room."
Jackman said the motivation of Bouwmeester possibly making his first postseason appearance could light a spark.
"He's going to really enjoy having a chance to possibly be in the playoffs for the first time in over 700 games," Jackman said.
Leopold and Bouwmeester once had their rights traded for each other, so their names have been linked before. Now they are teammates.
Leopold said the Blues' system and structure is a bit different than what he experienced in Buffalo, but he's making a quick transition.
"I've been through it a few times, working with a new partner that I'm not real familiar with," he said. "The concept, the way we play is different than what I'm accustomed the past few years. I'm making the transition but right now I'm a sponge.
"I'm taking it all in and trying to get up to speed."