He has fought back from one of the toughest and most painful hamstring injuries a hockey player can face, one that involved surgery on two hamstrings and three months of rehabilitation.
Once he neared a return, St. Louis Blues veteran forward Steve Ott then dealt with colitis, an inflammation of the lining of the colon. He wound up missing 56 games this season.
Once he returned to the lineup in Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs against Chicago, Ott immediately began his usual process of agitation, aggravation and motivation.
He doesn’t play a lot of minutes, but uses all available time to deliver hits and one-liners while trying to crawl completely under the skin of the opposition.
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Ott and fellow fourth-liners Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall were an effective weapon against the Blackhawks. Now Ott finds himself facing the team he suited up with for a decade, the Dallas Stars.
“It’s exciting,” said Ott, who played with Dallas from 2002 until 2012 and was on the 2008 Stars team that reached the Western Conference finals. “I’ve played with a lot of those guys that are still on that team. To have an opportunity to play against them in the playoffs is something that I’m really looking forward to, but with the team that we have going there it’s a really exciting time.”
What about the built-in added incentive of facing your former team in the playoffs?
“I have friends over there,” Ott said. “It’s no hidden message, but there’s no friends when that playoff series starts and I would expect the same thing from them. You go out there and you battle hard and you definitely want to have the upper hand.”
Ott became a gritty fixture in Dallas and played some of his best hockey with the Stars, including a 19-goal, 46-point season in 2008-09, the long playoff run in 2008, and a 22-goal season in 2009-10.
Ott is among the Blues’ numerous ties to the Stars, including former Dallas head coach Ken Hitchcock and former Dallas General Manager Doug Armstrong. Brett Hull helped Hitchcock and the Stars win a Stanley Cup in 1999, scoring the winning goal in triple overtime in Game 6.
I have friends over there. It’s no hidden message, but there’s no friends when that playoff series starts and I would expect the same thing from them.
Blues forward Steve Ott
Dave Taylor, the Blues’ vice president of hockey operations, came to St. Louis after three seasons as Dallas’ director of player personnel. Former Stars player Rob DiMaio is now the Blues’ director of pro scouting and another former Star, Kirk Muller, is a Blues assistant coach.
“When you have friends over there or guys you’ve played with for a long time,” Ott said, “there’s nothing better than trying to beat them and battle hard against them and challenge them. It’s like if you have a brother, you never want to let down your guard.”
Paint the town Blue
Several Blues players on Wednesday talked about how their friends and neighbors decorated their homes and neighborhoods during and after the first-round series win over the Blackhawks.
“It’s a great feeling,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “I think all of us had a lot of messages after the game from family and friends and you walk around the city and you see all the signs, neighbors leaving signs on your front door ... it’s fun, it’s a good feeling.
“We’re glad to bring the fans what they want to see. It’s been a tough couple years in the postseason for them. Hopefully we can bring them more.”
I got back to the condo and there was signage everywhere — and it wasn’t ‘Get Rid of Hitch,’ so that’s a nice sign.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock on neighbors decorating his condo
Blues goalie Brian Elliott had the same thing happen to him.
“We’ve had the chalk on the street from all the kids in front of the house and balloons and beads and signs, blue lights strung up along my house,” Elliott said. “It’s just crazy support in the city and especially in my little neighborhood. I want to thank everybody for that.
“It’s cool to see and I think that goes in every neighborhood around St. Louis.”
Hitchcock also had Blues signs and other messages of support at his condo.
“I got back to the condo and there was signage everywhere — and it wasn’t ‘Get Rid of Hitch,’ so that’s a nice sign,” Hitchcock said with a smile.
Gone, but not forgotten
Former Blues forward T.J. Oshie is still alive in the playoffs with the Washington Capitals, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t following his former team.
According to the Associated Press, Oshie said the Blues’ 3-2 victory over Game 7 — on a goal by the player he was traded for, Troy Brouwer — was the first full NHL game he’s watched on TV.
“I care a lot about those guys,” he told an AP reporter in Washington. “Extremely happy for them. They took down a champion. In that division, that’s what you’ve got to do to move on.”
Quenneville’s classy gesture
The hockey fraternity is a close one, so close that Blackhawks (and former Blues) coach Joel Quenneville told Blues coach Ken Hitchcock to go win the Stanley Cup when they shook hands after Game 7.
“Yeah, that’s what he said: ‘Go try and win it. You’ve earned the right.’’’ Hitchcock said. “When you beat a champion out, you’ve earned the right to try and go for it. I’m sure it’s probably the same thing that was said to Lindy (Ruff, coach of the Dallas Stars).
“We’re down to eight teams after tonight. Nothing but tough games. I think all of us recognize that the intensity and the emotion of the games is going to go nothing but up.”
As a result, the Blues took an extra day off Wednesday to rest their bumps and bruises from the rugged first-round playoff series win over the Blackhawks.
“That wasn’t what I anticipated yesterday when I drew up the practice plans,” Hitchcock said. “After communicating with the players later in the day, their read was, ‘We’re still sore, we’re still tired, we’re banged up and we needed another day.’ So we came in, we had a good meeting today to get ready for another game plan set.”
The Blues will practice on Thursday in preparation for Game 1 on Friday in Dallas.
“The decision to skate full tomorrow was made after communicating with five or six of the key guys last night,” Hitchcock explained.