Vladimir Tarasenko wasn’t on the ice Tuesday for the morning skate before Game 2 of the playoff series against the San Jose Sharks, but there was an extremely good reason.
Tarasenko was with his wife, Yana, at a local hospital to be present for the birth of the couple’s first child. They had a boy and christened him Aleksandr, with his father expected to be in the lineup Tuesday night for the Western Conference Final game.
Will the son’s first present be a goal from his dad in Game 2 against the Sharks on Tuesday night? It’s still too early to tell but expect Tarasenko to be in a good mood.
“Yeah, he’s pretty excited,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Tuesday morning. “Hockey’s not a priority. But you know what, if something happened (and) he wasn’t able to come here, the priority is to be with his family and we all understand that.
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“We’ll support him 100 percent on it, but our assumption is he’ll be here ready for the game.”
Tarasenko and Blues captain David Backes are tied for the team playoff lead with seven goals. Both are tied for the team scoring lead with 13 points along with rookie forward Robby Fabbri.
The Steve Ott factor
Not that he’s not trying, but Blues veteran forward Steve Ott tends to find a way to crawl underneath the skin of most of the playoff opponents he’s faced over the years.
As a result, he’s got a bit of a reputation in many cities around the Western Conference. San Jose is included on that list “Because I played in that Pacific Division for a lot of years. Had some pretty solid battles against these guys for a lot of years when I was in Dallas. There was a lot of bad blood back then.
“Obviously my reputation with those guys is the same if you ask them. Individually aside, I just like how heavy our team is to play against.”
Ott doesn’t feel the grief he gets from Sharks fans is much different than he gets from anywhere else. After all, as a fourth-line winger it’s not like he’s on the ice for large amounts of time.
He just tries to make the most of each opportunity to gain an edge in any way.
“I think it’s a little bit everywhere,” Ott said. “Definitely one of my favorite places to play in the NHL, if not No. 1 if you were going to ask me I would love to play in a visiting team arena, it would probably be San Jose.”
And why is that?
“I just love how small it feels in there with the building size and the crowd right on top of you,” Ott said. “It always bodes for some great atmosphere and when you have atmosphere it’s easy contagious energy. When you can use that energy to your game, you can feed off of it.”
Sharks coach Pete DeBoer seemed to be showing a healthy respect toward Ott and his playoff role.
“Otter, I’ve got tremendous respect for him,” DeBoer said. “I’ve coached him before; coached against him since he was 16. He’s earned his way into this league. He plays a tough role. He tries to have an effect in every game.
“He’s not an easy guy to play against. I think he’s made a great career for himself out of doing that.”
Hitchcock couldn’t resist when asked about whether DeBoer might contemplate a lineup change that would move Patrick Marleau from left wing on second line to centering the third line.
“We don’t like that match,” Hitchcock said. “ He should stay on the second line. I’m not telling Pete how to coach, nor am I telling him how to referee. Just telling him we don’t like that match.”
The referee comment continued the back and forth that began before Game 1, when DeBoer seemed to be suggesting that the officials need to closer attention to the Blues because they are one of the more penalized teams in the league.
DeBoer seemed to feel Marleau would stay put on the wing.
“Patrick Marleau in our lineup makes us a better team, whether he’s at wing or center,” DeBoer said. “Those are things that we discuss as a coaching staff on a daily basis, just like line combinations.
“He’s a world-class player. He’s in our lineup, right now he’s on wing. We think that’s the best place for him to help us right now.”
Game 2 Lineups
St. Louis Blues
Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri-Paul Stastny-Troy Brouwer
Patrik Berglund-Alexander Steen-David Backes
Steve Ott-Kyle Brodziak-Scottie Upshall
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko
Goalie: Brian Elliott
San Jose Sharks
Tomas Hertl-Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau-Logan Couture-Joonas Donskoi
Melker Karlsson-Chris Tierney-Joel Ward
Dainius Zubrus-Nick Spaling-Tommy Wingels
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun
Paul Martin-Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon-Roman Polak
Goalie: Martin Jones