A familiar face returns to St. Louis for the first time
ST. LOUIS — The Blues’ skaters will have to be wary of a familiar face on the forecheck in tonight’s game against Pittsburgh.
Fourth-line center Maxim Lapierre delivered hits for St. Louis just over a month ago before an unexpected trade during the All-Star Break. Now he’s playing the same role for the Penguins and looking forward to his first game back at the Scottrade Center.
"It’s a weird feeling," says Lapierre, who still keeps in touch with his former teammates via frequent texts and phone calls. "It’s a special feeling, but at the same time there’s no friends on the ice. You’ve got to do your job and you try to win the games."
Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves undoubtedly feel the same way, even though they’ll likely exchange pleasantries with their former linemate after they’re done hitting each other on the ice. It’s not easy when those close bonds are suddenly broken, but Lapierre understands that’s part of the business.
Neither he nor Marcel Goc had any idea they were about to move when the Penguins and Blues agreed to the deal on Jan. 27, two days after the All-Star Game. Pittsburgh needed some additional physicality, and St. Louis wanted a more patient, responsible center to play with its two heavy hitters.
"(Reaves and Ott) are, I think, one of the best in forechecking and disrupting the other team, getting under their skin," says Goc, who started his career in San Jose and also played for Florida and Nashville. "You need a guy that kind of holds back and watches them go to work."
Both St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock and Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston say the trade has been beneficial, and it’s hard to say one team has gotten the better of it so far. Both players have one assist and the Blues have gone 9-3, compared with 5-5-1 for the Penguins since the trade.
It didn’t take long for Lapierre to embrace his new organization, the fifth he’s been a part of since joining the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens in 2005. He has a good shot at making the playoffs for the ninth straight season, and a win in St. Louis would certainly help the cause.
"I like my role here," Lapierre says. "I had a good time in St. Louis and, obviously, it’s going to be a special feeling to come back here tonight, but I really enjoy where I’m at right now."