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Penguins notebook: Ryan Reaves ready for 'fun' return to St. Louis

Jonathan Bombulie
| Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, 6:54 p.m.
Penguins winger Ryan Reaves plays against the Golden Knights Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins winger Ryan Reaves plays against the Golden Knights Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.

ST. LOUIS — Ryan Reaves learned an important lesson from watching Marc-Andre Fleury make his return to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

“Don't let the cameras see you cry,” Reaves said with a laugh. “I'm going to try to hold back the tears.”

Reaves' tear ducts will get tested when the Penguins face the St. Louis Blues on Sunday afternoon. Reaves spent his entire career in the Blues organization before being traded to the Penguins last June, playing three seasons for the AHL's Peoria Rivermen before spending the next seven seasons as a fan favorite on the NHL roster.

“It's going to be emotional, but it's going to be fun,” Reaves said.

Reaves might not have forged as strong an emotional connection with the fanbase in St. Louis as Fleury did in Pittsburgh, but it was in the same ballpark.

From the franchise's early days with the Plager brothers to the hard-hitting combo of Tony Twist and Kelly Chase in the 1990s, rough-and-tumble players have often been popular in St. Louis.

“The city liked their blue-collar players,” Reaves said. “(David) Backes was their captain for so long, and he plays a blue-collar game. Barrett Jackman was a fan favorite, those kind of guys. I think I had a pretty good relationship with the fans.”

Adding an emotional element to the homecoming, Reaves' dad Willard will be in attendance because of the Penguins' annual fathers' trip.

“Knock on wood, I usually score when he's in the building, so we'll see how it goes,” Reaves said. “It'll be fun for everyone, fun for him to experience that with me.”

Tough times

In the first period of Tuesday night's game against Vegas, defenseman Shea Theodore wound up, fired a slap shot and summed up Carter Rowney's season so far in a nutshell.

The puck struck Rowney near the right ankle, sending him to the locker room in a considerable amount of pain and ending his night.

It was the latest in a string of injuries that has limited Rowney to 31 games this season.

“It got me in a bad spot,” Rowney said. “It was unfortunate. There's only a little area that it can get you in, and it seems like that's my luck this year. At the same time, it's our role and everyone tries to embrace their role.”

Rowney caught a break when no bones were broken, and he was able to play Friday night in Dallas, but that didn't go off without a hitch. Rowney was on the ice for two goals against in the third period as the Stars rallied for a 4-3 shootout win.

Coach Mike Sullivan said he'd like to see Rowney be more conscientious about shortening his shifts, but otherwise gave a vote of confidence to his fourth-line center, calling him an important penalty killer.

“I don't think he struggled,” Sullivan said. “I think he brought what we expect Carter to bring.”

Early start

To accommodate an NBC broadcast, the Penguins will play a game Sunday with a rare 11 a.m. start in the Central time zone.

Sullivan said it was an odd start time, for sure, but both teams were in the same boat.

“It's kind of appropriate that all the dads are here for this because it kind of takes you back to your youth hockey days when you're at the rink at 8 o'clock in the morning,” Sullivan said. “Maybe they'll come with their skate guards on.

“What we did talk about was making sure our eating habits are where they need to be, both today and in the morning, and that our pregame routines are very important for that type of game.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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