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Pietrangelo ready to get past first meeting with former team

Updated January 25, 2021 - 4:17 pm

With a blue music note on his chest, Alex Pietrangelo accomplished things most hockey players can only dream of.

The Golden Knights defenseman grew into a All-Star and captain with the St. Louis Blues. He also became a Stanley Cup champion and was the first player in franchise history to raise hockey’s iconic trophy June 12, 2019, at TD Garden in Boston.

Pietrangelo is wearing a new symbol on his chest this year. He’ll get to stare across the ice at his old one for the first time when the Knights host the Blues at 6 p.m. Tuesday at T-Mobile Arena. Thanks to the NHL’s new division-only schedule, it’ll be the first of eight meetings this season between the teams.

“I knew this day would come eventually,” Pietrangelo said. “I’ve been joking that I guess if you’re going to do it, just do it eight times in one year and get past it.”

Pietrangelo will forever be a Blues legend for what he accomplished in St. Louis. The former fourth overall pick in 2008 ranks highly on several of the team’s leaderboards, including fifth in games played (758), third in assists (341) and ninth in points (450).

The two sides couldn’t find a way to stay together this offseason. The Blues signed defenseman Torey Krug — who now lives in Pietrangelo’s former home — to a seven-year, $45.5 million contract with their captain still on the market. Pietrangelo signed with the Knights three days later on a seven-year, $61.6 million deal.

The change of scenery means Pietrangelo has been taking a crash course on a new style of play this season. He has 758 games worth of reps on how the Blues like to play. Breaking his habits on breakouts and rush defense proved difficult at first with a shortened training camp and no preseason games.

“It’s almost like learning on the fly,” Pietrangelo said.

He’s felt more comfortable the last few games. Coach Pete DeBoer said Pietrangelo has adapted better than most players. His best game may have been Sunday in a 1-0 victory against the Arizona Coyotes. The defenseman was aggressive in the offensive zone, firing a team-high four shots on goal, and moved the puck well in the defensive zone.

The Knights had a 10-4 edge in scoring chances when he was on the ice at five-on-five.

“World-class player,” DeBoer said. “(He’s been) open minded and coachable to everything we’re talking about, which is the most impressive thing when you have a guy with his pedigree.”

Pietrangelo now gets to put those adjustments to the test against his former team, which should be one of the Knights’ chief adversaries in the West Division. His teammates are aware of what the game means. Left wing Alex Tuch said Pietrangelo has already become a team leader and “you want to win for guys like that.”

Pietrangelo, for his part, tried to downplay the matchup’s significance. The Blues are just another opponent to defeat once he steps on the ice, even if the memories of June 12, 2019, never fade away.

“When you get in the game, you got to play the game, right?” Pietrangelo said. “I don’t think they’re going to let up on me.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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