ST. LOUIS — Other than the large crowd of Calgary media surrounding his locker Thursday morning, St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was trying hard to downplay his first game against his former team.
"You know guys on every team so when you do get moved, they're guys you play against," sad Bouwmeester, traded from the Flames to the Blues on April 1 after waiving his no-trade clause. "It's kind of separated and you play the game. You usually know five or six guys on the other team, so I don't look at it as anything real significant."
Still, it was tough to overlook the fact that so many of Bouwmeester's former teammates and friends were wearing the red and white of the Flames on Thursday at Scottrade Center.
Bouwmeester picked up an assist on the Blues' first goal Thursday.
"It's always different," he said. "I've had the experience of doing it with Florida (before), so it's not like it's the first time. You make friendships; on the personal side of things you have a lot of relationships and it's good to see everyone and all that, but once the game starts you play the game."
There was an even bigger positive for Bouwmeester, who has qualified for the playoffs for the first time in his career.
"The only nice thing is you don't have to answer that question any more," he said. "That's the only relief is that you won't have to get pestered about it any more."
Also facing a few of his former Peoria Rivermen teammates on the Blues was Calgary defensemen Mark Cundari, one of two Blues' prospects sent to Calgary in the Bouwmeester deal.
Flames defenseman Chris Butler, who grew up in St. Louis, also got the chance to face his hometown team.
The Blue with the biggest smile since Bouwmeester's arrival has been his new defense partner, Alex Pietrangelo.
"His skill speaks for itself," Pietrangelo said. "You watch him skate out there and it really is fun to watch, even now in practice. To have a guy like that on your side that is able to skate out of problems, skate me out of problems, skate himself out of problems .... when he applies his hockey sense it's a pretty good combo."
The Blues had their eyes on Bouwmeester since last summer while looking for a good fit on the left side of the right-handed Pietrangelo.
"We've found a way to balances our styles," Pietrangelo said. "We both like to move the puck and get up on the rush. We've been able to read off each other when each guy wants to go and it's been pretty good so far. Every day you just try to learn off of each other and get better."
Owen Sound Attack goalie Jordan Binnington, a third-round pick by the Blues in 2011, has been named Ontario Hockey League Goaltender of the Year.
The 19-year-old Binnington set team records with 32 wins and seven shutouts and also had the league's second-lowest goals-against average at 2.17 and third-best save percentage (.932).
"Receiving this award is something I am very proud of and will cherish forever," Binnington told the Canadian Press. "It was a very exciting year for me on a number of levels and as a team we were such a strong hard-working group. My teammates made my job easier and I need to thank them first and foremost."
Binnington (6-foot-2, 169 pounds) has been with Owen Sound the past four seasons, going 86-51-14 with a 2.90 goals-against average and nine shutouts.
Blues veteran forwards Scott Nichol and Jamie Langenbrunner both skated again Thursday and Langenbrunner didn't look bad at all for a player who was supposed to have been out for the season after undergoing hip surgery.
"I don't know what he's doing, he looks great to me ... bouncing around there like a bunny rabbit," joked Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. "He looks fine and we'll talk about it next week and see how he feels. This is a little bit early to be honest with you, coming off that type of surgery.
"Him and Scotty Nichol look great right now and at some period of time you hope they're available for you."