New Faces, Depth Have the Blues Optimistic in Kicking Off Training Camp

It was a different looking Blues group on day one of training camp and with that comes some adapting, with the regulars working to get back on point while helping the new guys acclimate.

Doug Armstrong added just about everything he and many thought was needed this summer, in the guise of Ryan O’Reilly, Patrick Maroon, Tyler Bozak and David Perron, with the next step being getting them up to speed on the Note system and playing as a unit with the guys already here.

This doesn’t happen overnight, as Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester put so succinctly following his first 2018 practice: “It’s the first day of training camp.”

Which is why Mike Yeo and company aren’t as concerned with line combos or chemistry just yet, instead concentrating on getting their skaters back to punching weight.

“We’ll go into these first few days and there might be a couple things that bounce around, but for the most part we’ll keep things consistent,” Yeo said regarding early lines and pairings. “For me, the practices; I don’t think we get too much into that right now and too much out of it. The goal right now has to be, we’ve got to work on our pace, the pace of play. Do things faster than you’re used to doing them all summer long.

“You can be in the gym all you want. When you get on the ice it’s a different story, and we have to work on the tactics; the individual tactics and the team tactics. That’s what we’re going to try to get out of these first four days.”

O’Reilly, seen centering Maroon and Vladimir Tarasenko Friday, seemed encouraged to finally take the ice in his new city with his new teammates.

“It was nice to do some drills where you’re kind of working on the system, the structure, the positioning, and getting your mind kind of wrapped around that,” O’Reilly said. “It was a good skate. It’s always different when you get the coaches out there and the pace automatically picks up.”

O’Reilly also showed eagerness in talking about his — at least for the moment — new line-mates and hopefully building chemistry.

“It starts in the preseason games and we go from there, but with guys like that, for myself, it’s easy to jump in and play with guys like that because they’re so smart and they make my job so much easier,” O’Reilly said.

“I think we all complement each other well. Patty, with his size and the way he handles the puck with that size,” he said. “[Tarasenko is] so dangerous anywhere he is. A little step he gets on a guy and it’s in the net. It’s exciting to play with him.”

Asked his thoughts on the first practice back and getting to know new teammates on the ice, Tarasenko was expectant of a quick and fruitful transition.

“Everybody knows what kind of players they are…The most important thing is everyone that came here wants to be here,” Tarasenko said. “It’s really important that we have only one goal. It’s always sad to have some friends leave team, but we have new guys that are great in the locker room.”

Bouwmeester, who’s played a tick over 1,100 NHL games, said much of the gelling period for new players comes off the ice as well as on.

“That takes time. The biggest thing is when guys are comfortable they’re going to play to the best of their ability,” Bouwmeester said. “People around the organization help new guys get settled and if they’re looking for anything it’s usually away from the rink. Tips around town; that sort of thing. You help them out.”

At the end of the day, what Yeo seemed most assured of was depth, something last season’s team was hurt by several times with numerous injuries.

“One thing I’ll say is when you look around, whether it’s what Army did in the summer, the guys that he brought in, or whether some of the young guys and the way they looked out here today, I also feel that we have more depth and more ability to get through those types of things.”

Stay connected to 101 ESPN and for plenty more Blues talk and coverage as the Oct. 4 season opener approaches.

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