ST. LOUIS — They comprise the St. Louis Blues' top line and Thursday night at Scottrade Center, there was no denying the value of David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Alexander Steen.
All three had a goal and Steen and Backes added assists as they generally imposed their will --especially early --in a 4-2 season-opening win over Nashville.
"As a line we feel like we've got some responsibility to set the tone and set the bar for work ethic," said Backes, a two-time 31-goal scorer who had only six in last year's abbreivated season. "With the skill that those two guys have and me getting in the other team's way, it seems to work out for some offensive prowess as well."
The veteran trio are among the team's most versatile players. They see time on the power play and penalty kill and typically take the ice against the other team's top line.
Hitchcock had harped about needing the Blues to finish off more scoring chances around the net and the goals by Backes and Oshie were perfect examples.
"We've got workers right now," Hitchcock said. "We want to make power forwards out of some of our workers. I think there's guys capable of scoring 20, 25 or 30 goals here. If we get them to play with a higher level of finish and tenacity around the net, I think we're going to be in good shape."
The Florida Panthers visit the Blues on Saturday for the second leg of a five-game homestand to open the season.
"You've got to be good at home and squeak out some on the road," Backes said. "We've had some great history in this barn and the fans were fantastic (Thursday). I thought the roof was going to come off a couple times. It gives you a little extra energy."
The Blues scored on their first two power plays and were 2-for-4 on the night. They also killed off all four Nashville power plays.
Jaroslav Halak will be back in goal against Florida after winning the opener.
Former Blues Brad Boyes and Mike Weaver will revisit their former hockey home Saturday night as members of the Florida Panthers.
Boyes signed a one-year deal with the Panthers on Sept. 28 after netting 10 goals and points last season with the New York Islanders. He came to camp on a pro tryout contract.
Boyes had his best two NHL seasons with the Blues from 2007-09, racking up 76 goals and 137 points in 164 games. That include a 43-goal outburst in 2007-08, but since scoring 33 goals in 2008-09 Boyes has never scored more than 14 again.
Weaver was with the Blues from 2008-10.
The Panthers got a goal from 18-year old rookie Aleksander Barkov and two from Marcel Goc on Thursday in a 4-2 victory at Dallas. Barkov was the second overall pick in the recent NHL draft.
The Panthers also signed veteran defenseman Ryan Whitney, who was in camp with the Blues on a pro tryout contract before being let go.
Florida's goaltender is Tim Thomas, the former Boston Bruins standout who is 39. Thomas hadn't played in the NHL since April 2012, before collecting the win on Thursday.