St. Louis Blues’ sniper Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice in the first period to give the Blues a 2-0 lead.
The 23-year-old opened the scoring tipping home an Alex Steen feed at 13:18 for his first of the playoffs.
Less than five minutes later, Tarasenko caught Devan Dubnyk off the post just enough to sneak a shot short side on the Wild starter.
Steen and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk have the assists on both goals.
The St. Louis Blues will have a shot at clinching the top seed in the Western Conference on Saturday, and they’ll go after it with two of their best offensive weapons back in the lineup.
Vladimir Tarasenko, out since Mar. 31 with a leg injury and Alex Steen, out since Mar. 28 with a lower-body ailment, will both play when the Blues face the Wild at Scottrade (3 p.m. ET, NBC).
Tarasenko, who leads the Blues in goals with 36, has missed all five of the team’s games in April. He’s going to be an incredibly important player come playoff time; the Russian winger emerged as St. Louis’ most dynamic sniper this season and, last spring, showed an ability to raise his level by scoring a team-high four goals in six games during a Round 1 loss to Chicago.
Steen, who had 24 goals and 62 points in 73 games this year, will also be a key figure for the Blues — but in a different sort of way. He needs to show something more after struggling to make an impact in previous playoff appearances. In 25 career postseason games for St. Louis, Steen has just five goals and a minus-5 rating — last year he only scored one goal against the ‘Hawks, after netting a career-high 33 in the regular season.
NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight as the St. Louis Blues host the Chicago Blackhawks at Scottrade Center with puck drop at 8 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.
The Blackhawks and Blues conclude their season series tonight in St. Louis. Both teams have won two games in the series.
St. Louis used a 2-1 win over Chicago on Sunday to take over top spot in the Central Division. Jake Allen, who won that game for the Blues, gets the call again Thursday for his third straight start. Allen may have stolen the starting job from veteran Brian Elliott as the playoffs approach.
Chicago has two games remaining (including tonight) and can finish anywhere from the top seed in the Central to the first wild card spot in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks head to St. Louis looking to avoid a third straight loss.
Defenseman Kimmo Timonen is day-to-day with an upper body injury following a hit from Ryan Reaves on Sunday. Chicago is also without Brad Richards (upper body) for the remainder of the season. Patrick Kane (clavicle) is skating with the team, but has yet to be cleared for a return.
St. Louis can clinch home ice in the first round with a win tonight. A Blues victory coupled with a Predators regulation loss against the Wild would win St. Louis the Central Division on Thursday. The Blues are looking for their second Central Division crown in four seasons.
The Blues will be without Robert Bortuzzo (upper body) who was injured Sunday night in Chicago. Additionally, Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko are expected to miss the contest due to lower body injuries.
St. Louis enters tonight’s action one point up on Nashville and three points ahead of Chicago.