40 years ago, the movie Slapshot was released. Three brothers kept asking, “Can I Play, Coach?”
St. Louis, MO – The Blues announced today that Vladimir Tarasenko will be re-evaluated in 10 days for an upper-body injury. The injury that kept him out of the lineup in the final game of the recent California road trip will apparently cause him to miss at least 5 more games.
Tarasenko has been somewhat of an iron man in his career. Beginning with the 2014-15 season, he has only missed 11 games in the past five seasons playing 77, 80, 82, 80, and now 66 of 68 games in the current campaign.
Surprisingly, the Blues are 8-2-1 in those 11 games. But, there isn’t a St. Louis fan alive who wants to see this team have to play games without him.
The question for Craig Berube now is, “Who’s the next man up?”
The French Connection
If there was ever a good time to get David Perron back, now would be that time. Concussion symptoms have lingered with him and there has been no word on a return date for him. Perron was one of the hottest Blues at the time of his injury and was carrying a 13-game scoring streak when he was injured. He has 17 goals and 18 assists for 35 points in 45 games played. He hasn’t played since Jan. 17th and has missed 22 games. But, word is that he probably won’t be back until the end of the regular season.
The Missing Schwartz
Could we see Jaden Schwartz break out of his slump if he were to be slotted into that spot? Last season, while playing on a line with Brayden Schenn and Tarasenko, Schwartz was part of one of the hottest lines in hockey. He had a career year with 24 goals and 35 assists for 59 points in 62 games. But, this season has been a disappointment, to say the least. The 26-year old is on pace for his lowest points per game average. He has 6 goals and 22 assists for just 28 points in 55 games (.5 PPG). Everyone who plays on a line with Ryan O’Reilly seems to flourish. Maybe that’s what Schwartzy needs to get things going.
The Old Wily Veteran
Could Alexander Steen be the guy who gets the nod? Maybe. The coaching staff seems to have a lot of confidence in him. He does have lots of experience. This season he has 7 goals and 13 assists in 51 games. Steen gives a ton of effort, but it seems that he has lost a step and wouldn’t be the best choice for a winger on your front line.
The Young Guns
Will Berube move someone else up the lineup like Robert Thomas? Thomas, the 19-year old rookie has played well. He is learning the NHL game in a year when he arguably could have and should have been playing in the AHL to hone his craft. But due to pro hockey rules, he had to either play junior hockey or stay in the NHL. He looks like he belongs in the big league and seems to be playing with more confidence as the season goes. He has 7 goals and 18 assists for 25 points in 56 games played. He’s averaging 12:38 in time on the ice (TOI), so a move to the top line would be a big jump in minutes for the youngster. He also is a natural centerman but has been playing wing most of the season. Interestingly, if he were to fill the spot, you’d have 3 centermen playing on your top line.
What about Robby Fabbri? He’s seen very limited action since he returned from a separated shoulder earlier this year. Playing in just 14 of the Blues’ 32 games since Dec 31, he’s been a healthy scratch in more games than he has played. It would be a stretch to think he would be the choice for Vladi’s spot, but he could fill a void created by someone else being moved up.
Call Up Who?
Could this be the time to bring up Jordan Kyrou? We’ve seen some of what this speedster can bring to the ice. He skated the 4th fastest time in AHL history this year as the lone representative of the San Antonio Rampage, St. Louis’ AHL affiliate. He’s played in 16 games early this season with the Blues and has torn it up after being sent to San Antonio. Playing in 43 games, he has 16 goals and 26 assists for 42 points.
Of course, there are several others who the Blues could call up to fill a slot. Jordan Nolan has played a few games with the Blues. He’s a veteran. You know what you’re getting with him. This also could be a time when you take a look at Klim Kostin and see what happens. Although he’s had some struggles in San Antonio, he’s supposed to be part of the future. Maybe it would help him to get a taste of what life in the NHL is like. Although, you might not want to waste a year of his pro status by playing him in more than 9 NHL games.
There are several options, and maybe even one or two we didn’t think of. Who knows what will happen, who will get the chance to play on the top line with O’Reilly and Schenn. Whoever does need to produce. The Blues are pushing toward the end of the regular season and need to hold the ground they’ve gained. We will find out soon enough what choice Craig Berube makes. The team hosts Arizona tomorrow night.
When someone goes down you have to take on a “Next Man Up” mentality. Let’s hope he makes a good choice. Let’s go Blues