DETROIT – For four years, Carlo Colaiacovo and the St. Louis Blues tried to emulate the wildly successful Red Wings.
“We always wanted to model ourselves after the way the Red Wings played,” said Colaiacovo, who collected 18 goals and 88 assists in 259 games with the Blues.
Colaiacovo, who turned 30-years-old on Jan. 27, played for three different St. Louis coaches, but last season, once Ken Hitchcock took over behind the bench, the Blues took off at midseason, to finish with 49 wins for the first time in more than a decade.
“I have nothing but great memories of that place,” Colaiacovo said. “But I’m in a happy place now, with a team that competes every year for the Stanley Cup. I’m excited about that opportunity.”
Thursday morning was the first time that Colaiacovo skated at Joe Louis Arena as a member of the Red Wings, who open the 2013 season this Saturday against his former team.
“It’s a lot to think about right now,” said Colaiaicovo, who expects Saturday’s game to be an emotional one. “The adrenaline’s going to be rushing pretty good. I had a great years there, have a lot of great memories.”
Now, Colaiacovo hopes that a change in scenery with the move to Detroit will rejuvenate his career that began in the Maple Leafs’ system in 2003-04. But following a head injury, and then knee surgery – both 15 months apart – the Leafs traded Colaiacovo to the Blues during the 2008-09 season.
“I think at the time that I moved on, it was a blessing in disguise,” he said. “It made me start fresh and put me in a position to get to where I am today.”
Health will be a big issue for the Red Wings’ defenseman, but if Colaiacovo can stay in the lineup, there’s reason to believe that he can contribute on the Wings’ third pairing along with Ian White. The two played together in Toronto, so there’s certainly a familiarity that will help.
But getting set-up in the Red Wings’ JLA locker room, and soaking in the atmosphere and nostalgia that’s been home to so many great players – and often visited by legends like Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay – is just another step in feeling part of the Original Six franchise.
“I’ve always seen pictures of this room, but to finally be in it … this is one of my favorite arenas to play in even as a visiting player,” said Colaiacovo, who, with his fiancé, toured the arena earlier in the week. “To actually be in the room and be part of the team, I feel pretty special about that. I’m excited. I’ve had nothing but a smile on my face since I’ve been here. I just hope for better days ahead.”
Beginning with a fast start in his return to St. Louis.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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