DETROIT – Last month, Damien Brunner received a rude welcome to the National Hockey League during his first North American shift compliments of the St. Louis Blues.
The Red Wings’ Swiss import doesn’t remember much of the game, however, he’ll never forget the hit, or the person that delivered it.
“I only remember that (David) Backes hit me in the opening shift,” said Brunner, who has a goal and an assist against the Blues. “When I look back, it’s good that it happened in the first shift. Get it over and then it’s done.”
The Red Wings and St. Louis Blues are far from being done. The two Central Division rivals are set to face-off for the third time in the last 13 days, and the fourth time this season, when they meet Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena. The WIngs have won the last two games against the Blues, out-scoring St. Louis, 10-4.
Considered to be one of the best body-checkers in the league, Backes leads the Blues with 35 hits, including his first of the season on Brunner.
“The puck was on the boards,” Brunner said. “I had it on my back-hand and I put it between the defenseman’s feet and I saw Pavel (Datsyuk) going toward the middle and I knew someone was coming. But in Switzerland you know the stick is coming, not the body. And he just crushed me. It didn’t hurt, or anything.”
The Jan. 19 hit left Brunner in a pile, his helmet knocked off. But the first-year player vows that won’t happen again.
“The first two games the helmet was a little too big, so it came off a little easier,” Brunner said. “It’s tighter now.”
PLAYER TO WATCH
D KEVIN SHATTENKIRK – What’s happened to the St. Louis Blues this month? The 26 goals that they have allowed in the five games are 12 more than they surrendered in the first seven games of the season. Shattenkirk and defenseman Barret Jackman are the only Blues with plus/minus ratings better than +1. Shattenkirk also leads the Blues with 13 points, making him just one of three NHL defensemen currently leading their respective teams in scoring. The others are Columbus’ Fedor Tyutin and Winnipeg’s Tobias Enstrom. Shattenkirk said recently that he believes the Blues have gotten too content and have allowed “a little bit of arrogance” to crept into that game.
Season Series: 2-1-0
2011-12 Season Series: 4-2-0
All-Time Series Season: 118-109-37-7
St. Louis’ 2011-12 Season Record: 49-22-11
Top Scorer vs. Red Wings: Kevin Shattenkirk – 1 Goal, 3 Assists in 3 Games; Alex Steen – 4 Assists in 3 Games.
Red Wings’ Top Scorer – Henrik Zetterberg – 3 Goals, 3 Assists in 3 Games.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
Tickets to this game and all 16 remaining regular-season contests at The Joe are currently available for purchase at the JLA box office (313-396-7575), all Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) outlets, and online at DetroitRedWings.com.
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