Familiar faces ease Morrow's transition to Blues; Schwartz earns praise

News-DemocratSeptember 24, 2013 

New St. Louis Blues forward Brenden Morrow talks about joining a new team with familiar faces.

NORM SANDERS/BND

— It didn't take long for Brenden Morrow to adjust to the sound of coach Ken Hitchcock's voice again Tuesday during his first practice with the St. Louis Blues.

"The body doesn't feel like it did the rookie year, but having that 'Hitch' voice out there brings back memories," joked Morrow, now 34 but recalling when he broke into the NHL with Hitchcock's Dallas Stars.

After scoring 14 goals and 33 points as a Stars rookie in 1999-2000, Morrow felt he had made his mark.

Hitchcock gave him a quick reality check.

"I felt like I had earned my way onto the team," Morrow said. "We had our year-end meeting and his meeting with me was pretty much 'Come to camp next year, work hard and I'll see if I can find a spot on the team for you.'

"He humbles you, he plays those games those tricks on your mind. But he gets a lot out of his players and I'm looking forward to being with him again."

The Blues brought Morrow in at this late date during training camp on a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. He skated Tuesday on a line with Derek Roy and Chris Stewart, but Hitchcock said that had more to do with the lines playing Wednesday against Minnesota than anything else.

"It just kind of worked out that way," Hitchcock said of the decision to replace Jaden Schwartz on left wing with Morrow. "We're not necessarily going to stay with that, but it worked out that way just based on practice."

Seeing all the former Stars now with the Blues should ease Morrow's transition.

Along with Hitchcock and Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong, there's also former Stars teammates Brett Hull (Blues vice president) and Rob DiMaio (Blues pro scouting director) and former Dallas player personnel director Dave Taylor (Blues vice president).

"About six months ago I felt like I was probably never going to leave Dallas and here I am making my way around the league," said Morrow, who finished up last season with Pittsburgh. "That's interesting, it's a different feeling but coming here and seeing so many familiar faces again it kind of feels like it's got a bit of Dallas to it.

"That had a lot to do with the decision, I wanted to be comfortable and feel comfortable."

Knowing Hitchcock and Armstrong went a long way toward convincing Morrow that St. Louis was the right fit.

"This is a great team, they've got great fan support and stability in ownership now," Morrow said. "But I wanted to be comfortable with who was putting the team together and who was throwing the lines together. It didn't get any farther than St. Louis because it had all the answers I needed."

Roy said the Blues will benefit from Morrow's talent, drive and experience.

"He's just a great guy, everyone wants to be around him," Roy said. "He brings the energy level up in the locker room and holds everybody accountable."

Morrow isn't too worried about which line he ends up on.

"I knew coming in there's going to be a lot of juggling until you find chemistry," he said. "I feel like I'm going to compete and find my way in the lineup. All my life growing up I was never given anything, so I didn't expect it here.

"I wasn't scared of the challenge to try to compete and earn my ice time."

Hitchcock said the plan is to play Morrow in Friday's exhibition game, but wants to check on him following a hard workout on Thursday.

"It's going to be his call," Hitchcock said.

Training camp update

Hitchcock said nothing Schwartz has done in training camp led to replacing him with Morrow on Tuesday.

"He's been our best player," Hitchcock said. "I can put him anywhere he wants, whoever he plays with he makes better. He's not one of those guys you question, but we'll find a significant role for him because we're going to need him on the ice a lot."

Goalie equation

The Blues will split Wednesday's game between goalies Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Has Jake Allen has already been designated as the clear No. 3?

Hitchcock was asked if there had been any clear separation between the goalies.

"If you're talking all three? No. It's a nice problem to have, but it's a problem," Hitchcock said. "Jake Allen made a great account of himself the last game...I think the next two games will tell us a lot of where Brian and Jaro are at.

"We're hoping they're trending forward. They've had great practices and we think they're both getting ready, but we want to see that too. Jake's not going to go away quietly."

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

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