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Oshie among leaders in Blues' on-ice endurance test

ST. LOUIS (AP) — T.J. Oshie was among the last men standing in the St. Louis Blues' annual on-ice endurance test, skating a few victory laps after the rest of his eight-player group had bowed to fatigue.

It was exactly what the front office wanted to see.

"I'm coming in a lot more mature than I have ever, that's for sure," the 24-year-old Oshie said Friday. "I'm ready to get it going."

Fellow forwards Andy McDonald and Chris Porter led other veteran-laden groups in the prequel to training camp, cheered on by hundreds of fans who didn't seem to mind the repetitive exercise.

Coach Davis Payne was happy with the conditioning level of a team that's missed the playoffs four of the last five seasons.

"We're not going to jump up and down because we've come in shape," Payne said. "That's an expectation. The first indicator is these guys have put in the kind of work they needed to do over the summer."

Besides a lengthy absence with a broken foot, Oshie served a two-game disciplinary suspension last season and finished with 34 points in 49 games. Overall health concerns influenced the Blues' decision to sign the former 2005 first-round pick to a one-year contract this summer.

"I'm ready to play on a one-year contract every night," Oshie said. "That definitely drives me."

The Blues open the preseason at home Tuesday, the first of five games in five days. Not much time to prepare, but then again most players have been skating together informally for about a month.

"In reality, these guys are game-ready," Payne said. "We can get right at it and we can get to evaluating and making some decisions."

The schedule works for Oshie.

"I think the best way to get in shape for a game is to get a game under your belt, get back to that stopping and starting," Oshie said. "To get right into it right away is best for conditioning, and to kind of snap out of the kind of dangling, stickhandling, backdoor pass stuff you did in the summer."

Veteran pickups Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner are expected to complement a roster dotted with former high draft picks Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo, Patrik Berglund, Ian Cole and new captain David Backes. Another member of that group, forward David Perron, remains sidelined by a concussion sustained last November.

Porter, who split time between the Blues and Peoria of the AHL last season, appeared to have plenty left after the rest of his group was out of gas Friday. Though 34, McDonald's showing was not a surprise.

"He's a pro, that's how pros do it," Payne said. "It's a great example."

Jonathan Cheechoo, who played the last two seasons in the American Hockey League, is getting a shot to win a forward spot.

"We want to see how much of an impact he can have," Payne said. "He's got to make a statement."

Forward Philip McRae changed his number to 39 from 38 in remembrance of former Blues player Pavol Demitra, who was among the victims in the recent plane crash that killed members of Russia's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey club.

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