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6 ST. LOUIS Blues
Brian Cazeneuve
October 04, 1999
Blues captain Chris Pronger was in midseason form during one of the team's voluntary scrimmages in late August. After 90 minutes of exhausting four-on-four hockey with only eight players per team, Pronger was campaigning to prolong the game. "We had the ice for a while longer," says Pronger. "We're paying for it, we might as well use it."
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October 04, 1999

6 St. Louis Blues

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INSIDER

CATEGORY

SI RANKING

SKINNY

OFFENSE

12

Demitra, now a star, must adjust to big-time checking

DEFENSE

7

Pronger and Maclnnis are powerhouses

GOALTENDING

18

Is Turek up to being a No. 1?

SPECIAL TEAMS

5

Conroy and Pellerin are superb penalty killers

COACHING

2

Quenneville simply makes his players better

Blues captain Chris Pronger was in midseason form during one of the team's voluntary scrimmages in late August. After 90 minutes of exhausting four-on-four hockey with only eight players per team, Pronger was campaigning to prolong the game. "We had the ice for a while longer," says Pronger. "We're paying for it, we might as well use it."

The sentiment was nothing new for a man who logged more ice time per game (30:37) than any other player in the league last season. And when Pronger wasn't on the ice, it seemed that Norris Trophy winner Al MacInnis was. At 35, MacInnis had the finest season of his outstanding 16-year career. He led NHL defensemen in scoring with 62 points, averaged more than 29 minutes per game (fourth in the league) and was +33 on a team whose next-highest mark in that category was center Craig Conroy's +14. The problem for the Blues was finding four other defensemen they wanted to put on the ice.

In training camp the Blues were getting ready for the regular-season wars. During intrasquad games MacInnis and Pronger exchanged slashes—MacInnis called them "love taps"—and Pronger fought rookie forward Brandon Sugden and had a nasty mid-ice collision with defenseman Jamie Rivers, who was subsequently lost in the waiver draft. That ill-tempered defense will help goalie Roman Turek, who had sparkling numbers (16-3-3, 2.08 goals-against average) as Ed Belfour's backup in Dallas last season. Turek, 29, will get his first crack at being a No. 1 goalie now that Grant Fuhr has been shipped to Calgary. Netminding was a problem for the Blues in 1998-99: St. Louis allowed the fewest shots of any team in the league, but its goals-against average ranked only 14th.

The scoring load will fall to 24-year-old forward Pavol Demitra, who broke out last season and led the team with 37 goals and 89 points. His 10 game-winning goals were one behind league-leader Brett Hull of the Stars. Crafty center Pierre Turgeon had a strong postseason (13 points in 13 games) and a solid training camp. The rookie to watch is 22-year-old forward Jochen Hecht, a German who had two goals in five playoff games after a late-season call-up. He has outstanding size (6'3", 200 pounds) and skill and is versatile enough to play any position up front.

The Blues are a team with a scrappy attitude, a handful of stars—count 41-year-old coach Joel Quenneville among them—and a future among the Western Conference's elite teams.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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