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Tampa Bay Lightning At St. Louis Blues: Blues Preseason Begins Tonight

The official start of hockey season's just a few weeks away, but the business of setting rosters and getting back into the swing of things is just getting started. A grueling week of five straight pre-season games is underway.

What with the Cardinals trying to squeak into the Wild Card slot and Rams season starting up, it's easy to overlook some preseason sports action. Unless you're a Blues fan. Hockey fans have been waiting since the beginning of April for the season to start - new faces, new chances, and a new hope for the year. Some fans (like myself) have tempered expectations and are just waiting for the ride to begin, while others are expecting a return to the playoffs and a deep run. What's going to happen? Who in the heck knows. All we do know is that something we've been staring at the calendar about for five months is about to happen - puck drop.

Tonight marks the first pre-season game against the Tampa Bay Lightning (if you miss it, there's one tomorrow night in Tampa). The big guns won't be making it. Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Eric Brewer won't be making the trip - that's not out of the norm. Usually during pre-season teams save stars for home games, and more often than not the guys out on the ice are the ones looking to make a big impression. According to Andy Strickland, one youngster looking to make an impression is Evgeny Grachev, who will be playing on a line with David Backes and Jamie Langenbrunner. The Blues acquired him from the New York Rangers at the 2011 NHL draft for their 3rd round pick.

Another player who will suit up to make an impression is Jonathan Cheechoo. The former 54 goal scorer has struggled mightily of late, but if the Blues break camp with 14 forwards, his name could very well be at the top of the list to get a long look. One almost gets the sense of potential there, if only a team could build self confidence in him. If there ever was a team good at working one-on-one with players for that, the Blues are it. 

Brian Elliot will be starting in net tonight, marking the start of the battle for the position of Jaroslav Halak's backup. Elliot will be competing with Ben Bishop for that position.

Puck drop is at 7:00 at Scottrade Center. The game is not televised, but should be aired on KMOX 1120AM.