The Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, and St. Louis Blues have managed to hang in there when it comes retaining spots in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but help appears to be on the way for all three teams.
It’s not clear if that help will arrive by Tuesday’s games for each team, yet it seems like each outlook is fairly promising, which is huge because some star players are involved. Let’s go in alphabetical order.
Boston Bruins: Head coach Bruce Cassidy said that it “looks like” David Pastrnak will play against the New York Islanders, although Pastrnak’s considered a game-time decision. As you can see from the Morning Skate, Pastrnak has been hard on himself for missing time with a thumb injury related to a fall off the ice. (Although it might have happened on ice, just not on a rink.)
Pastrnak has been sidelined since Feb. 10. The Bruins have been able to manage a slew of injuries in recent years, so this is no different, but Pastrnak could really help Boston take those extra steps to ensure that they’ll get home-ice advantage in the first round against the Maple Leafs.
It also seems like Torey Krug might be getting closer to a return. Imagine how dangerous this Bruins team might be if everyone’s at, or near, full-strength?
Pittsburgh Penguins: Kris Letang has been sidelined since Feb. 23, and it seems like he’s another game-time decision after practicing in a normal full-contact jersey on Tuesday.
You’d have to think that Letang would have been a serious Norris candidate if he didn’t miss so much time this season, as he boasts great possession stats to go with 53 points in just 60 games. (Even missing all those games, Letang ranks seventh in scoring among defensemen.)
Letang probably suffered his latest injury during the Penguins’ loss to the Flyers outdoors, when he was tangled up with Shayne Gostisbehere:
With two consecutive losses and a prominent (though, with Montreal fading out of contention, not really “must-win”) game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, it might be tempting to push the elite defenseman back into action. The Penguins would be wise to consider his unfortunately bumpy health history, though, and try to delicately walk the line between getting him back up to speed while reducing the risks of re-injury.
The Penguins recently got Bryan Rust back, so this team’s getting healthier as the postseason approaches. At least, they hope so.
St. Louis Blues: When the Blues announced that Vladimir Tarasenko would be “re-evaluated” about 10 days after March 10, it sure seemed ominous.
Instead of merely being looked at again, Tarasenko’s set to return for the Blues during Tuesday’s (March 19) game against the Edmonton Oilers. Hockey players, right?
“He will be in tonight. That’s really good news for us,” Craig Berube said. “He’s fine, he obviously never had a lot of practice time, but he looks fine. He’ll be alright.”
With a middling 4-4-2 record in their last 10 games, St. Louis will welcome the shot in the arm. They also only have a two-point edge on the Dallas Stars for the Central’s third spot (both with 10 games remaining), so there’s added incentive to bring Tarasenko back, and heat up once again.
More: Find out where these teams rank in the Push for the Playoffs.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.