ST. LOUIS – Chris Stewart played parts of four seasons for the St. Louis Blues and still has close friends in that locker room. Two of his former teammates, Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan Reaves, were even in his wedding party.

Stewart considers them like brothers, which means he's ready to beat the snot out of them.

"Brothers butt heads and they fight," Stewart said. "It's not a big deal. We're going to keep it all business during the series and then we'll talk about it this summer."

Friendships aside, Stewart doesn't need any extra motivation in the Wild's first-round series. He's facing a team that gave up on him and traded him to Buffalo last season.

Stewart tried to distance himself from the whole revenge angle leading up to Thursday's Game 1 at Scottrade Center.

"The goal here is to win the Stanley Cup, that's plenty of motivation," Stewart said. "If we win, it definitely will be sweeter."

Stewart holds a pivotal role in the series. The Wild will lean on him to provide some muscle and patrol the ice against a rough-and-tumble Blues team that prides itself on physical play.

This series offers contrasting styles: the Blues' brawn vs. the Wild's speed.

The Blues want to pound on the Wild. The Wild hopes to counter with speed. Stewart needs to play the part of big brother and not tolerate his teammates getting picked on.

"He's the type of guy that certainly has a chance to be an X factor if you want to call him that," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "He's a guy that has a physical edge, he's a big body, he's going to play the game hard."

Stewart's friends — the ones in the opposing locker room — don't expect him to go easy on them, either. They know him too well.

"He's a guy who likes to try and intimidate you, friend or not," Shattenkirk said. "I know he's going to be sticking his nose in there around the net and trying to get guys off our game."

The Wild traded for Stewart in early March in order to add some size and muscle to the lineup. The Wild lacked a physical component before Stewart's arrival and opponents seized on that opportunity.

"This is the time of year I think I'm built for," he said. "I just think in playoffs it gets dialed up to another level. The physicality gets dialed up, too. The more physical game it is, I think the better I become."

Wild officials rave about Stewart's impact on the top line with Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker. Stewart collected 11 points and was a plus-4 in 20 games.

His physical style overshadows his playmaking ability and speed — he recorded an assist on the Wild's second goal Thursday.

"He's a very underrated playmaker," Yeo said. "We know that he can score goals, we know that he can be dangerous around the net. He's got very deceptive speed, and I've been real impressed with some of the subtle plays he's made."

This postseason is especially important for Stewart because he becomes a free agent this summer. He's expressed his happiness in Minnesota, but he also knows he's auditioning for a job, in Minnesota or somewhere else.

It's fitting perhaps that Stewart can show his value to the Wild by standing up physically to his former team and a few of his good friends.

"We all respect each other," Shattenkirk said. "That's the most important thing. We'll all be friends afterward."