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Alex Steen was just a kid the last time he experienced a Winnipeg Whiteout.
Back then, he dressed the part.
The St. Louis Blues veteran forward, the son of legendary Jets 1.0 centre Thomas Steen, remembers the cacophony and craziness inside the old Winnipeg Arena when he tagged along with the rest of the family to watch dad’s frequent but short-lived playoff stints.
He’s thrilled to get the chance to soak it all in as a player.
“It’s going to be fun. Exciting. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the Whiteout,” Steen told reporters after the Blues’ morning skate at Bell MTS Place Wednesday.
“I was here until I was about 11 years old, so I saw a few of them.”
Steen, in his 14th season in the NHL — including the last 11 with St. Louis — was born in 1984 and raised in River Heights and Tuxedo, playing his minor hockey in south Winnipeg before moving to Europe in 1995.
He’s still got some buddies he keeps in touch with in the Manitoba capital.
“Not a ton, but there’s still a few people that I keep in touch with pretty regularly. And the other guys, you know how it is, you don’t talk for a couple years and then you pick up the phone and it’s like you’ve talked every week for the last few years,” he said.
Right now, he’s joined at the hip with centre Ivan Barbashev and winger Zach Sanford on the Blues’ fourth line, a trio head coach Craig Berube can’t stop commending.
The line checks, can stymie power-play chances and occasionally pops in a goal or two, including nine during St. Louis’ final nine regular-season contests.
On the surface, it’s somewhat of a drop down the forward depth chart for Steen, who scored 33 goals five years ago and has 238 regular-season tallies to go with 367 assists in 963 career contests, 13 more than his father; yet, neither he nor his coach or teammates see it that way.
He’s just applying the best of his traits to the greater good.
“To be honest, since training camp we’ve been pretty focused on our group mentality and how we want to approach games and how we want to continue to evolve and get better throughout the season,” said Steen, who had 10 goals and 17 assists in 65 games, missing a couple of stretches due to injury. “I think we’ve done a good job of that. Mentally staying pretty even-keeled throughout the whole process and sticking with the process of just day by day, moving forward and getting better.
“The mojo and the attitude we’ve had, especially in the second half of the year, has been really good.”
Even when he was pumping in 20-plus-goal seasons, Steen was a defensive specialist, said Blues defenceman Jay Bouwmeester.
“That’s always been such a big part of the role he’s played for us. He’s played against the other teams’ best players, had to be responsible in our end but had the responsibility of adding offence as well, so it’s no surprise to us to see that line doing well,” he said. “That’s part of our depth, and we have four capable lines.
“He’s a guy who, at different times, has been asked to do some different things for us. And he’s accepted it and taken pride it in, and done a really good job.”
Steen averages about 15 minutes of ice time a night, and is a regular on the penalty kill. His reliability on the St. Louis squad is invaluable, Berube said.
“Every since we put him down there, he’s really just balanced that line out, given (Barbashev and Sanford) confidence and an identity, more than anything,” he said. “I’ve really liked that line. They’ve done a really good job, we trust them and put them out there against anybody.”
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).