Tarasenko's absence creates opportunity for others

News-DemocratMarch 17, 2014 

— While Vladimir Tarasenko's hand surgery on Wednesday leaves a definite hole in the St. Louis Blues' offensive arsenal, it also create opportunity for others.

The two prime candidates for additional ice time are rookie Dmitrij Jaskin and former first-round pick Magnus Paajarvi.

Tarasenko had just scored his 21st goal Saturday in Nashville, but was injured during the third period while being checked by Viktor Stalberg. Tarasenko will undergo surgery on his right hand Wednesday and is expected to re-evaluated in six weeks.

"I don't look at it as a loss," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "It's not like the guy left the country. He's hurt and I look at it as somebody's opportunity. There's 15 games left in the year; there's a ton of opportunity for people and there's a ton of opportunity for more injuries for every team."

Currently out with an upper-body injury, Paajarvi has six goals and 12 points in 44 games. He did not skate Monday, but is expected to return soon.

Up and down from the Blues' minor-league affiliate in Chicago several times already this season, Jaskin has one goal and one assist in nine games.

"I don't think it changes my role," Jaskin said. "I may get more opportunities and more scoring chances and more time on the ice. I'll work for the guys and try to make some chances for them and maybe they can make some chances for me."

Whether it comes from injury or a roster opening, all most players want is an opportunity to prove themselves.

"If I'm Jaskin, Paajarvi, Derek Roy, I'm looking at 'man, this is my chance to shine,'" Hitchcock said. "I can tell you Tarasenko's looking at this like "Man, if you think this is going to keep me out of the playoffs, you're nuts.' He's going to get back as fast as he can so we could end up with a really positive situation here. A guy gets to be reconditioned for playoffs and he comes back and helps us, then you've (also) got guys that are capable of stepping up."

The Blues have kept on rolling despite missing other important offensive contributors this season, most notably Alexander Steen (concussion) and Vladimir Sobotka (knee). Both have returned to the lineup.

"Just coming off that Sobotka injury where we lost a significant player for a long stretch of time, we seemed to deal with that all right," Blues winger Brenden Morrow said. "From training camp coming in, that's something this team has talked about has been our depth."

That depth has served the Blues well, but must be leaned on once again with another key component out with an injury.

"You can never just replace one guy with another guy, especially with the talent Vladdy brings," Blues winger Steve Ott said. "He brings a lot and is a huge element to this team, so collectively we're going to have to do it."

Blues defenseman Jordan Leopold (ankle sprain) was ready to return to the lineup Monday before being pushed back by the flu. Hitchcock expects him to be ready to face the Blackhawks in Chicago on Wednesday.

Baby Oshie

Blues winger T.J. Oshie and his fiancee, Lauren Cosgrove, welcomed their new baby daughter to the world Monday morning. Lyla Grace Oshie made her debut at 9:57 a.m. and now has one of the more famous fathers in the hockey world.

Oshie did not participate in the morning skate Monday and the Blues left it up to him whether he would play against Winnipeg. Oshie missed the game, electing to remain with his family.

"It's 100 percent up to him," Hitchcock said Monday morning.

Blues piling up points

With the 3-1 victory over Winnipeg, the Blues moved to 101 points. They had surpassed 100 points only five previous times in franchise history: 1980-81, 1990-91, 1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2011-12.

What does that milestone mean to Hitchcock? Not much with his team still chasing first overall and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

"What means everything is just keep looking below and stay above," he said. "This is get the highest seed possible because home-ice advantage for anybody in the West is going to mean the world because you're going to need it. Every round's going to be really different and the little advantage you have with getting that extra game might mean a world of difference in the end."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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