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Vladimir Tarasenko will have surgery on dislocated left shoulder

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Three days after missing the playoffs, the St. Louis Blues learned their star forward Vladimir Tarasenko will need surgery on Wednesday for a dislocated left shoulder.

Tarasenko was hurt in the first period of the regular-season finale on Saturday in Colorado. The Blues needed a point in the game to reach the playoffs, but lost 5-2.

Tarasenko revealed he had a dislocated shoulder while standing with his left arm in a sling Tuesday as teammates cleared out their lockers. The recovery after surgery can take up to six months.

”We’ll see how it goes,” Tarasenko said. ”It was a hard year all the way around.”

The 26-year-old led the team with 33 goals and 66 points. It was his lowest point total in four seasons. The Blues won 44 games this season and finished with 94 points.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Mike Yeo wrapped up his first full season as the Blues coach. St. Louis is 66-40-8 since Yeo replaced Ken Hitchcock as coach on Feb. 1, 2017. That’s the 10th-best regular-season record in the NHL in that period.

But it’s little consolation for a team missing the playoffs for the first time after six straight seasons. Two years ago, the Blues were playing for the conference championship.

”We understand we’ve taken a step back this year,” General Manager Doug Armstrong said. ”That lies firmly on my shoulders. My job is to deal in reality. The formula we had this year did not breed success and we need to find that formula.”

Armstrong said the play of special teams needs to improve.

The Blues were 30th on power-play success at 15.4 percent. They finished 18th in penalty killing at 79.7 percent. During the previous six seasons making the playoffs, the Blues ranked No. 1 in the NHL in penalty killing with a rate of 84.3 percent.

However, the Blues scored only 38 power-play goals.

”As a coaching staff, I promise you we won’t just sit around and just assume things will get better next year,” Yeo said. ”We have to look at everything from the way we manage it, operate it and holding guys accountable and the personnel we’re using and the tactics.”

When Yeo coached the Minnesota Wild, the power play also was stagnant.

”I’ll take responsibility for it,” Yeo said. ”I don’t dodge that. That’s on me.”

Armstrong backs his coach.

”Mike and I are tethered together and we’re going to figure this thing out,” Armstrong said.

St. Louis was just 24-17 on home ice this season.

”You can’t have the home record we had and be satisfied,” Armstrong said. ”The people that come here work for a living and we need to send them home happy. If we’re in the top 10 in home records, we’re in the playoffs.”

The salary cap should increase about $4 million for next season. Armstrong said the Blues ownership will continue to spend to the cap.

”We spend to the cap,” Armstrong said. ”We’ve had a good run here. We’ve got to get back to that.”

Goalie Jake Allen was signed to a four-year, $17.4 million contract on July 1, 2016. He finished with a 27-25-3 record, a 2.75 goals-against average, a .906 save percentage and one shutout.

”I definitely need to be more consistent,” Allen said. ”I know I’m capable of it. I don’t think I need to change much. I’m a pretty good goalie.”

Backup goaltender Carter Hutton is an unrestricted free agent. Hutton was 17-7-3 with a 2.09 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. He had three shutouts.

Armstrong said he wants to bring Hutton back.

Other goalies gain on Vasilevskiy in Vezina race

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At the end of 2017, Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy looked like an absolute no-brainer to win his first Vezina Trophy. He already had 24 wins and a sparkling .934 save percentage, checking the boxes for basically every type of hockey person.

The gap has been closing for some time now, and while Vasilevskiy still stands as the best choice, the race could really heat up during the final quarter of the 2017-18 season.

For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to look at the top seven goalies in wins (28 or more) to get a quick viewpoint on how things are starting to get snug. You can dive deeper here, noting some reasonable dark horse candidates including Marc-Andre Fleury and John Gibson.

Vasilevskiy: 38 wins, 2.41 GAA, .925 save percentage
Pekka Rinne: 35 wins, 2.33 GAA, .927
Connor Hellebuyck: 34 W, 2.40 GAA, .922
Frederik Andersen: 32 W, 2.74 GAA, .920
Braden Holtby: 29 W, 3 GAA, .908
Devan Dubnyk: 28 W, 2.61 GAA, .917
Sergei Bobrovsky: 28 W, 2.44 GAA, .920

Right or not, voters still weigh wins fairly heavily, so it would probably be tough for “Bob” and others to catch Vasilevskiy. Rinne stands as the biggest threat right now, as he’s been a huge part of the Predators currently leading the Western Conference and Central Division.

Rinne is often the source of derision on Hockey Twitter, but it’s difficult to imagine too many harsh criticisms of his play this season (they’re out there, mind you). Consider this: many prefer even-strength save percentage as it ignores poor penalty killing that can submarine a goalie’s stats. Rinne is tied with Carter Hutton for the best even-strength save percentage among goalies who’ve played at least 30 games with an impressive .939 mark. Vasilevskiy isn’t far behind at .933, yet Rinne does edge him there.

The next month or so could conceivably swing things to Rinne’s favor, or possibly to someone else.

While the Predators continue on a hot streak, Vasilevskiy has stumbled lately, at least by his lofty standards. Via Hockey Reference’s split stats, Vasilevskiy went 29-9-2 with a .931 save percentage, 2.18 GAA, and seven shutouts in 41 games heading into the All-Star Break. In the 13 games since, he’s 9-3-1, but with a .911 save percentage, 3.11 GAA and zero shutouts.

There’s no shame in those post-break numbers, especially since he’s continuing to pile up wins. That, along with his continued health, is what the Lightning really care about.

That said, if Rinne finishes the season with more wins, more shutouts, and a better save percentage, who knows? The Finnish netminder’s already been piling up milestones this season, and with zero Vezina wins to his name, the 35-year-old might get a sentimental vote or two over Vasilevskiy, who’s just beginning his prime at 23. Such thoughts might be significant if the goalies end up with very similar stats.

To reiterate, Vasilevskiy still stands as the goalie who would justifiably win the Vezina if it were decided today. He leads the NHL in multiple categories, including when you go deeper. According to Hockey Reference, Vasilevskiy is tied for point shares alongside workhorse Frederik Andersen with 12, and he leads the league in Goals Saved Above Average at 22, edging second-place Rinne at 21.

Vasilevskiy is a big part of why the Lightning currently sit atop the NHL’s standings. In fact, his strong work is cited by many when they’re trying to argue against Nikita Kucherov‘s Hart credentials.

Still, the final stretch of the season could shrink his lead even more, whether it means Rinne grabbing edges or Connor Hellebuyck continuing his contract year for the ages by passing both of them with a red-hot March. It should be a fun race to watch, and maybe a palate cleanser if you want to mix things up after going blue in the face arguing semantics over “most valuable” in Hart debates.

Enjoy.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blues end skid at seven by beating Red Wings

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Even in closing a back-to-back set, the St. Louis Blues had to have this one. And they did.

It wasn’t exactly easy, mind you, as the Blues and Detroit Red Wings engaged in what was often a grinding affair on Wednesday. The Red Wings pushed early to try to rally from down two goals, but Carter Hutton and the Blues ended a deeply disturbing seven-game losing streak by winning 2-1.

This pretty play between Jaden Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo ended up being the game-winner:

Phew.

It had to have been a confidence-booster for Hutton, who’s been strong for much of this season (some might argue good enough to steal more starts from Jake Allen), yet experienced a humbling relief appearance as Minnesota shredded St. Louis 8-3 last night.

That performance wrapped up a rough stretch of play for the Blues, with frustrations boiling over after Paul Stastny was sold to the Jets.

This win stands as crucial for what had been a sliding St. Louis group. Even with this win, the Blues are outside of the West playoff picture, and could slip a bit more if Calgary beats Colorado tonight. Still, they remain within a stride of Anaheim and other bubble teams, which has to be a relief considering a seven-game skid that resulted in a measly single standings point before this win.

The Red Wings can take heart in a solid effort, although this loss makes an unlikely playoff run that much less realistic. Considering the Tomas Tatar trade and other moves, management likely realized that, but Wednesday is a firm reminder that Detroit is likely stuck in the role of “spoiler” for the rest of 2017-8.

Such an effort wasn’t that short of the mark here, but the Blues got it done, giving them a chance to put these trying times behind them.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry – Red Wings at Blues

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Detroit Red Wings

Anthony ManthaHenrik ZetterbergGustav Nyquist

Tyler BertuzziDylan LarkinAndreas Athanasiou

Darren HelmFrans NielsenJustin Abdelkader

Martin FrkLuke GlendeningDavid Booth

Danny DeKeyserNick Jensen

Jonathan EricssonTrevor Daley

Niklas KronwallXavier Ouellet

Starting goalie: Jimmy Howard

[Red Wings – Blues preview.]

St. Louis Blues

Alexander SteenIvan BarbashevVladimir Tarasenko

Jaden SchwartzBrayden SchennNikita Soshnikov

Dmitrij JaskinVladimir SobotkaTage Thompson

Scottie UpshallKyle BrodziakChris Thorburn

Jay BouwmeesterAlex Pietrangelo

Vince DunnColton Parayko

Carl GunnarssonJordan Schmaltz

Starting goalie: Carter Hutton

Winnipeg Jets fill need with Paul Stastny acquisition from Blues

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This is what six losses in a row and contract talks going nowhere gets you. St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is shaking things up and hoping this is a soft retooling.

The trade: Winnipeg Jets acquire Paul Stastny* from the St. Louis Blues for a conditional 2018 first-round pick, a conditional 2020 fourth-round pick and Erik Foley. (*St. Louis retains 50 percent of Stastny’s salary. If the Blues fail to sign Foley before Aug. 16, 2019 they will get the Jets’ fourth-round pick in 2020. Should Winnipeg somehow end up with one of the top three picks in the 2018 draft, St. Louis gets Winnipeg’s first-round pick in 2019. If not, they will get that pick in 2018.)

Why the Blues are making this trade: Stastny had to waive his no-move clause in order to make the deal happen. Like Armstrong did last year at the deadline with Kevin Shattenkirk, Stastny probably wasn’t going to re-sign, and considering the Blues’ recent slide, it’s better to get something for an asset now than let him walk for nothing in the summer. St. Louis still made the playoffs last season and are only a point out of the wild card in the Western Conference right now. If Jake Allen and Carter Hutton can get their games straightened out, a similar situation could play out again this spring.

Let’s check in on how the deal is going over in the room:

Per Cap Friendly, this move means the Blues have just under $4 million in cap space to play with, so Armstrong could ideally add if there’s a deal out there to be made.

Why the Jets are making this trade: Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff tried to sign Stastny four years ago when the 32-year-old forward was an unrestricted free agent. It didn’t pan out then, but now he gets his man, who’s set to become a UFA this summer.

Stastny is still a fancy stats darling with a 55 percent Corsi and 5.29 percent Corsi Relative, per Corsica. He has 40 points in 63 games this season. He’s the center Cheveldayoff was looking for and is a nice addition for the Jets’ playoff run. He also played with Blake Wheeler in Germany for a short time during the lockout, so there’s some familiarity there.

Who won this trade: The Jets missed out on several players over the weekend and finally land a center they’ve been searching for. Stastny won’t need to be the main attraction in their lineup, which should suit him well. He’s also a big-time setup man, so having him center Patrik Laine and dishing out one-timers to the young Finn will be a delight to watch. Tough to definitively say that the Blues are sellers right now, but it’s clear that Winnipeg sees an opportunity out West this season and are going for it.

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.