MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. — From the moment Marco Scandella put on a Blues jersey, it felt right.
That day came on Feb. 18, and less than a month later, the 30-year-old defenseman acquired from the Montreal Canadiens for a second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2021 was leaving the potential for unrestricted free agency behind.
When Scandella signed a four-year, $13.1 million contract ($3.275 million average annual value), he was doing so with the thought that he could be sacrificing a bigger pay day on the open market.
Then again, it may not have been as such, so when the Blues acquired Scandella from the Canadiens because they were filling the void left by Jay Bouwmeester, who had a cardiac episode during the Blues' game at the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 11 and was placed on long-term injured reserve, they made sure they secured him immediately.
And Scandella was thinking the same, because things couldn't have worked out any better for him being paired with Colton Parayko.
"I don't think so," Scandella said Thursday. "I feel like I found a home here right away when I got to St. Louis. I knew a bunch of guys in the locker room and as soon as I got here, I felt comfortable. I felt like this organization is a proud organization with a winning attitude. I think I fit in pretty well here. I'm just really happy I got the opportunity to sign a four-year deal, be here for the foreseeable future. I think we're going to have a lot of success. If you look at the team, it's build to win. At this stage of my career, I'm 30 years old, all I want to go is win. I'm putting myself in the best position. It's a winning culture, love the guys here, love the city of St. Louis, back in the Midwest, back in the Central Division. So many positives coming out of it."
Scandella had an assist in 11 regular-season games with the Blues but fit in so well paired with Parayko. It was his third team this season after starting it with the Buffalo Sabres before getting traded to his hometown in December.
"As soon as I got here, it felt like home. It felt right," Scandella said. "I was telling my mom back home, my friends at home and I was like, 'This is it. I don't want to leave St. Louis. I found a home here.'
"I feel like the last couple years in Buffalo were a little bit difficult mentally too. I want to win. It's so much more fun to win and be a part of that culture, and I feel like we have it here. We practice hard every day. It's important and I feel like that's what drives me and to be a part of something like this is really special."
* Schwartz, Schenn, Tarasenko looking to get going -- As the Blues are on the cusp of concluding training camp 2.0, they continue to formulate their lines and roster accordingly.
It also includes making sure top players are in position to peak at the right time, including top forwards Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz.
There have only been two actual scrimmages during this camp, but that trio has combined for one goal out of 19 scored in the two games.
Of course, the intensity is different playing against teammates, but if the Blues are going to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, they'll need this unit to set the tone.
"It's a little bit different," Schwartz said Thursday. "I think all of us need to get up to speed again with that long break, so it's just not Vladi. He's had a little bit of a longer break, but I think he looks good. He's strong on the puck like he always is. He's starting to make plays and see the ice just like us, getting used to having guys around us again and just kind of getting the timing going. The legs are feeling pretty good and I think everyone is just anxious to get going and get to Edmonton. Now that we have a schedule and there's been so much uncertainty, but now that we know what's going on, it gives you a little bit more excitement to get ready."
Tarasenko has not played in a game since Oct. 24, so it will be more than nine months since his last action against an opponent when Tarasenko dislocated his left shoulder against the Los Angeles Kings that required surgery Oct. 29.
"It's been a long time since they've played together with Vladi being out," Berube said. "They're moving it and working it, and I think they look good. I think they all have good jump right now. These guys, they're big-time players and they do big things in games."
* Camp Kostin -- Klim Kostin's game-winning goal in the scrimmage on Wednesday was an example of how the 2017 first-round pick will thrive in the NHL.
Drive the net, look for rebounds and hammer home a rebound using hat big 6-foot-3, 212-pound body.
Getting the call to be with the Blues during these unprecedented Stanley Cup Playoffs, even if the Penza, Russia native doesn't get to play in them, is another step in the development of someone the Blues have invested heavily in.
"Klim's an up and down winger, big guy. He's got to play a physical brand of hockey," Berube said. "He's got a good shot, use his size down low in the corners, getting to the net, make sure you're physical and make sure you're being a simple player for him, he'll find success a lot quicker if he just does that. He's got good speed. He's doing well. He's a young kid still. He started at a young age in the American Hockey League. That's not an easy league to play in when you're 18 years old. Klim's on the right path right now and he's just got to keep improving and keep working at his game."
Kostin, who scored in his fourth NHL game (Nov. 23 against Nashville), is in his third year in the organization after spending the past three seasons with San Antonio of the American Hockey League, and one of his teammates thinks this is an important time for the 21-year-old.
"It's a really big step for him this year and next year because I think it's time for him to make some moves and try to get on the roster," Blues forward Ivan Barbashev said. "He's been good. Vladi (Tarasenko) talks to him a lot, helps him out on the ice, off the ice. You can see that Klim is progressing."
Kostin had 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) and was a plus-1 in 48 games with the Rampage this past season after 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) and was a minus-28 in 66 games in 2018-19.
"Klim has been back for more than a week (before the start of camp) and we see him every day in the locker room," Barbashev said. "He played last year a couple games and he's growing."
* Tucker time -- Another player the Blues wanted to get here for this abbreviated camp was 20-year-old defenseman Tyler Tucker, who was their seventh round pick in 2018.
Tucker, who had 56 points (17 goals, 39 assists) in 55 games split between the Barrie Colts and Flint Firebirds of the Ontario Hockey League this past season, in a perfect world, could make the jump to the Blues' new AHL affiliate, the Springfield (Mass.) Thunderbirds next season but was likely destined for the ECHL before Tulsa jumped ship on the Blues and became affiliates with the Anaheim Ducks.
Regardless of where Tucker plays next season, and it won't be in the OHL, this gives him a great chance at seeing what NHL life looks like.
"Experience. He's going to be in camp here with us and get some experience," Berube said. "It's going to help him at training camp for next year for sure.
"He had a tremendous year this year in junior. I think that he's a solid defenseman, a big guy, plays a physical game, tough kid. He's the type of guy we like."
* Steen, Dunn still out -- Forward Alexander Steen and defenseman Vince Dunn were not on he ice for Thursday's practice again.
Steen missed his second day to what Berube Wednesday was "rehab stuff" and then on Thursday, said there was no change in his situation, which is as day to day.
Dunn has been out since July 16 with what is speculated to be a positive test for COVID-19.