Blues believe they have an agitating force in Lapierre

News-DemocratSeptember 16, 2013 

— When the Blues signed veteran free-agent center Maxim Lapierre to a two-year, $2.2 million contract this summer, it wasn't to bring in another goal scorer.

And while Lapierre netted two goals in Sunday's exhibition opener in Dallas, he realizes his role is much more about preventing goals than scoring them.

His career high in goals was 15 back in 2008-09 with Montreal.

"I scored a hat trick a couple years ago with Montreal in the first period (but). I'm happy with one," said the 28-year-old Lapierre, who scored two goals in a 5 minute, 12 second span of the opening period Sunday. "I know I'm not out there for my goals, I'm not going to start dreaming.

"I've been around long enough to know last night was last night. What I want to do is be physical and be good defensively."

With Scott Nichol retiring, the Blues needed another center and they turned to Lapierre. He had four goals and 10 points last season with Vancouver, the team he spent most of the last three seasons with after previous stints with Anaheim and Montreal.

He is strong and physical with the kind of personality that can translate into sandpaper on the skin of opponents. He can agitate with the best of them and also won more than 50 percent of his faceoffs.

"We're going to turn him loose to where he was two years ago a little bit more, so he's going to be able to play hopefully with a physical edge," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He's in your face, just plays with an edge. He competes hard, he draws people into the battle with him, and then I think he gets the other team's attention, also."

The 6-foot-2, 207-pound forward never shies away from a battle.

"I don't think I'm going to score two goals every game, but I want to bring energy," Lapierre said. "I want to work hard and if goals come, they're going to come. I want to be there to play good defensively and be physical.

"Right now you want to get your speed back and be smart mentally. You'd rather do your mistakes in these games and correct them right away so you're ready for the first game of the season."

Lapierre noticed a lot about the Blues while playing for the Canucks.

"I think it's a great team; this is why I signed here," Lapierre said. "This team has a great chance to win the Stanley Cup if everything works together, every guy works together. It's fun to be part of this group."

Lapierre believes the Blues' rough learning curve in the playoffs, knocked out by the Kings in the second round and then the first, may have laid the groundwork for better days ahead.

"Definitely," he said. "Especially in the last two years I think they were really close. Obviously you need to get some experience in the playoffs and you've got to play to learn. But it was so close the last two years and it's still the same group coming back this year, so yeah, we really think it's our year."

Hitchcock said the Blues are still trying to get Lapierre up to speed regarding their overall system.

"We're going to work really hard with him like we did today on killing penalties.," Hitchcock said. "We're going to work really hard getting the details of checking in his game so he can be trusted fourth or third line guy."

Around the rink

* Blues strength and conditioning coach Nelson Ayotte said goaltender Jaroslav Halak's decision to remain in St. Louis this summer to concentrate on conditioning paid big dividends.

Halak lost 14 pounds, got stronger and lowered his body fat percentage from 13.5 percent to 8 percent.

Ayotte also said the Blues are the leanest they've been in nine years. The majority of the main roster has an average body fat percentage of 9.38 percent and weighs 207.44 pounds, with the lowest body fat percentage owned by veteran winger Chris Porter (5 percent).

* Hitchcock said Brian Elliott will start in goal for Wednesday's preseason game against Tampa Bay in Orlando, Fla., while Halak will be the starter on Friday at home. The coach also said the Blues will use a veteran-heavy lineup for their Friday and Saturday home games.

On Monday, Hitchcock reunited his top line of David Backes centering Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie. Another interesting line combo was Vladimir Sobotka centering Ty Rattie and Dmitrij Jaskin.

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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