Some good news for the St. Louis Blues as they prepare open their First Round series against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night. Star forward Vladimir Tarasenko will be back in the lineup after missing the last seven games of the regular season. His return will be a welcome addition as the Blues try to slow down the league’s best team and pull off an upset.
It is also significant because the Blues are expected to be without their leading scorer from the regular season, David Perron, who remains in the league’s COVID protocol. Coach Craig Berube had no update on Perron’s status only to say that Perron is still in the protocol and did not skate on Monday before the game.
Defenseman Vince Dunn will also remain out of the lineup.
[Related: Avalanche-Blues series preview]
But Tarasenko is the big story here given how he is one of the few potential game-changers offensively in the Blues’ lineup, especially with Perron likely to be out.
“He’s one of the guys that can turn something out of nothing with a quick little play or shot,” said Ryan O'Reilly on Monday, via the Blues’ website. “He’s so dynamic that way. Having him back, he’s a big spark for us. He’s a huge piece of this team and it will be nice to see him back with us.”
The Blues have not been able to see that very much over the past two years as Tarasenko has appeared in just 38 games since the start of the 2019-20 season. He played in just one of the Blues’ final nine regular season games this season.
The question now becomes whether or not he is fresh enough to make the same impact the Blues are used to seeing from him. When he has played over the past two years his production has taken a noticeable dip, resulting in just seven goals and 17 total points in those 38 games. That is a 15-goal, 36-point pace over 82 games. In the two years prior to that stretch he was averaging 34 goals and 70 points per 82 games.
He is expected to skate on a line with Ivan Barbashev and Tyler Bozak on Monday.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.