ST. LOUIS — After confirming Friday that rookie Vladimir Tarasenko has a concussion and a severe facial laceration from the hit he received Wednesday against Colorado, St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock talked about what he feels is becoming a league-wide issue.
Tarasenko was placed on injured reserve after being leveled and knocked out of the game on a blind-side hit from Colorado's Mark Olver during the third period of a 1-0 overtime loss.
The hit wasn't penalized and the league decided no further disciplinary action was necessary.
"He's got a pretty severe facial laceration, some form of concussion where we really don't know yet, obviously, the severity of it," Hitchcock said of Tarasenko, who has six goals and 12 points in 17 games. "He's doing OK, but obviously he's not a player for tomorrow. He has a headache today; he didn't have one yesterday."
Hitchcock feels many young players are targeted for hits similar to the one that Tarasenko got, either because of their talent, not having been around long enough to fully learn how to protect themselves, or both.
Among the NHL players who have been sidelined with concussions this season are 2012 Rookie of the Year Gabriel Landeskog of Colorado, 2011 Rookie of the Year Jeff Skinner of Carolina, Columbus forward Artim Ansimov and Montreal rookie Brendan Gallagher.
"I feel for the player, I don't really give a damn what the rule is or what some guy says on the video," Hitchcock said. "Whatever happens happens, but I feel for the young players who comes into our league. ... If you have points and you're a good player, sometimes you get hit.
"That's unfortunate because a lot of them are just trying to keep up to the pace of the game."
Now missing veteran winger Jamie Langenbrunner (season-ending hip surgery) and Tarasenko, the Blues on Friday promoted winger Chris Porter from Peoria.
Tarasenko will miss at least one game, but depending on the severity of his diagnosis could potentially miss more. Porter, 28, had seven goals and 10 points in 12 games with the Rivermen.
"I think there's a bigger picture here for me," Hitchcock said. "It's not so much Vladdy, it's all the young players. These are young players who are in unsuspecting situations and it just seems like there's a lot of young players that are getting hurt -- because experienced players know where they can catch them in vulnerable situations. That's the part that bothers me."
Hitchcock also was asked the Blues' lack of immediate retaliation for Olver's hit. When the hit occurred, the game was tied 0-0 and that situation may not have dictated that type of vigilante justice.
"It's a long season," he said. "It's a long season."
With so much money invested in so many high draft picks, franchises are getting players to the NHL far quicker in that in the past.
"This wasn't a young man's game before," Hitchcock said. "The average age in the league was 30, so guys had seen and done all of this stuff before. Now we're bringing in kids.
"We're getting guys that haven't been in the league before and then we're putting them in the league and playing them in top-nine (forward) roles --because they're good players. You're trying to teach them how to play the game, but then you're trying to teach them awareness, too. That's sometimes the hard lessons that we learn."
Blues winger Andy McDonald said he's admittedly biased since he's had multiple concussions in his career. But he is growing tired of seeing hits to the head and wishes there was a better way to deal with the problem.
"I'd like to see the league get away from those types of hits," McDonald said. "You can still have a physical game, an intense game, and obviously the fans love that. But the players that are making hits ... you've got to get away from going in and making contact with the head."
McDonald talked about Olver's hit on Tarasenko and wondered aloud if it was really necessary.
"Could the guy have hit Vladdy and not hit his head? Probably, and it still would have been an effective hit," McDonald said. "It's too dangerous ... the health implications of those hits are too severe. It's not worth it.
"(Olver) wasn't penalized for it, so I think he probably felt he was hitting him within the rules of the game and that's fine. Personally, I just believe we need to get rid of those hits and hopefully the league will consider that."
Many players in the NHL make a good living with rink-rattling hits that wind up on highlight reels. McDonald said solid body checks are fine, but hits to the head are not.
"You can ask the players to change but I think you're going to have a tough time until the league really cracks down on it.," he said.