ST. LOUIS — Skating with the Mississauga Steelheads junior team in the Ontario Hockey League helped reinvigorate veteran defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo for another shot in the NHL.
He gets that shot with the St. Louis Blues, who signed Colaiacovo to a one-year, one-way contract this week worth $550,000 plus incentives.
Colaiacovo is grateful for that opportunity after the second year of his two-year, $5 million contract was bought out by the Detroit Red Wings.
The Blues will look for Colaiacovo to provide defense depth after veteran defenseman Jordan Leopold was lost for at least two months because of finger surgery.
"It's been a crazy last couple days just getting everything finalized and getting here, finally getting on the ice and seeing everybody," said Colaiacovo, who played for the Blues from 2008 to 2012. "It's been pretty special and I'm very grateful for the chance to be here again."
Colaiacovo said he stayed in shape by skating every day with the Mississauga youngsters.
"Being around the group of the guys they had ... I had a lot of fun doing it," Colaiacovo said. "It made me reminisce back to the days when I played junior and we were having fun. It kept me young again, but it still kept me motivated too."
The Blues have given former first-round pick Ian Cole the first shot at filling Leopold's spot on defense. Cole also now wears the No. 28 Colaiacovo wore with the Blues, but Colaiacovo instead switched to 13 for his second tenure with the team.
Colaiacovo said the opportunity with the Blues was too good to pass up.
"I decided to take some time away from hockey at the start (of the season) to be with my family because me and my wife were expecting our first child," he said. "When I made the decision to come back we were in talks with a couple teams and all of a sudden St. Louis called.
"It really brought the excitement back and made me think about it long and hard. I'm glad it worked out."
Colaiacovo suffered a shoulder injury in the Red Wings' second game last season and saw extremely limited action until the playoffs. He had one assist in six regular-season games, then registered an assist in nine playoff contests.
"(The injury) was something that at the time probably didn't get the attention that it needed," Colaiacovo said. "It was something that lingered probably longer than it needed to. It was frustrating right from the start. I really enjoyed my time there, but I wish it could have went a little different."
Colaiacovo liked the Blues' mix of veterans and youth, plus a roster full of hungry players eager to make some noise in the playoffs.
"It's a team that already has some great pieces, that's built for winning this year," he said. "That's exactly what I want to be a part of. Whatever role I'm asked to play, I'm going to work my hardest and do whatever I can to contribute."
And Colaiacovo can do that in a familiar dressing room and familiar city.
"I couldn't ask for a better scenario, to be honest with you, he said. "It's a place that I'm familiar with and a place that I really never wanted to leave when I left. I'm grateful for a chance to be back here for both me and my family. Now that I'm here it's really special."