Blues keep Ferraro on ice, out of booth

Thursday, April 18, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- That offseason job with ESPN will have to wait for Ray Ferraro of the St. Louis Blues, who's finally in the playoffs for the first time in four years.

The 37-year-old center is thankful he'll be holding a stick instead of a microphone as the Blues open the playoffs tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"It's something I want to do later, but I'm thrilled to be right where I am," Ferraro said.

The previous two seasons, Ferraro was ready for TV the minute the regular season ended, because he played for the lowly Atlanta Thrashers. So, he's gotten plenty of experience.

The fact he's still playing gives him a unique perspective. Ferraro is not the type of analyst to rip into players, because he knows how difficult the game is.

"It's kind of hard to do while you're still playing because you see a mistake on the ice and you're supposed to point it out, but you've made the same mistake a thousand times," Ferraro said. "It's pretty easy to sit in the chair and nitpick at it. For myself, I just try to keep that in mind."

Ferraro said he hears about his second career all the time when he's on the ice.

"They ask if I've been analyzing things," he said. "I get it pretty good and I guess that comes with doing it. I don't know that anybody's done it while they're playing as frequently as I've had the opportunity, but then again, the teams I've played on haven't been in the playoffs."

Ferraro has more than 400 career goals, but the trade-deadline deal that sent him to St. Louis made him feel like a kid again. He's played a significant role down the stretch with the Blues, filling in at center on the second line while Doug Weight was sidelined 21 games with a pelvis injury.

Coach Joel Quenneville, a former teammate in the 1980s with Ferraro, has been impressed with the player he still refers to as "Pee Wee."

"Watching him play during the stretch run, he's really given us a spark," Quenneville said. "You can see the enthusiasm."

Before the trade, there were about 14 games left in the Thrashers' season and Ferraro was figuring he'd retire. Not anymore.

"I don't know what next year holds," he said. "But it's so much fun to play when the games mean something every night. Every game we shifted all over the standings and it's fun to part of that again."

He dodged the question whether he was now a better analyst or player.

"Actually, I'm a pretty decent breakfast chef," Ferraro said. "I don't know what I'm good at anymore. I like to compete and when I get to do that TV stuff I have a lot of fun at it, but what I've learned is I've got a hell of a lot to learn."

Even if Ferraro hasn't been to the playoffs in a while, the Blues are loaded with veteran experience. They made it to the Western Conference finals last spring and added Shjon Podein from the Stanley Cup champion Avalanche in a mid-season trade.

"You can't stress enough how important experience is," defenseman Al MacInnis said. "Guys have been through it, through the trenches."

The Blackhawks are in the playoffs for the first time in five years. There are only four players left from their last trip: forwards Tony Amonte, Eric Daze, Alexei Zhamnov and Bob Probert, so they'll be leaning on defenseman Jon Klemm -- signed from the Avalanche.

"I'll just try to bring some of my experiences to the locker room," Klemm said. "I'm not going to try to do too much. We've got enough guys in here who have been through playoff series before."

Coach Brian Sutter likely won't name a starting goalie until game day. Jocelyn Thibault has been No. 1 most of the season, but is 4-10-2 in his last 16 starts so Steve Passmore could make his first career playoff start.

"He tells us in the morning before the game," Thibault said. "It doesn't matter. You've got to be ready to play anyway."

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