The St. Louis Blues must cope with the loss of winger Vladimir Tarasenko when they host the road-weary Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night.
Tarasenko could miss the rest of the regular season after undergoing left shoulder surgery. He scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 10 games before getting hurt.
He is one of three active players (Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk) to score 30 or more goals in five straight seasons. Last season, Tarasenko scored 33 goals in his last 64 regular-season and playoff contests.
“Obviously, we’re a much better team with him in the lineup,” Blues center Ryan O’Reilly said. “He’s one of those guys that other teams look at. When he’s on the ice they’re scared. When he gets an opportunity, he’s going to bury it. He’s just always creating, doing something.
“It’s tough loss, but we all have to rally here. We all have to find a way to get better.”
The Blues are auditioning wingers to play with Brayden Schenn, who has nine goals in 12 games, and Jaden Schwartz in Tarasenko’s place on the top line.
“Our team is built as the sum of all the parts,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for some of our younger players. The key for our group now is not taxing a small group of players.
“I don’t think we can have O’Reilly and Schenn and Schwartz consume all of this ice time. It’s going to have to come from other guys. We’re going to have to have strength in numbers and I believe that we can get it done.”
Blues forwards Alexander Steen (lower-body injury) and Sammy Blais (thumb injury) are questionable to face the Wild. Goaltender Jake Allen (flu) is healthy again, but Jordan Binnington (5-2-3, 2.67 goals-against average, .912 save percentage) is likely to start this game at Enterprise Center.
He faced the Wild once last season and won 4-0.
The visiting Wild fell 6-3 to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night — blowing a 3-0 lead in the process — to fall to 1-7 on the road this season. Minnesota has allowed 32 goals in those seven losses away from home.
Minnesota got goaltender Devan Dubnyk (upper-body injury) and forwards Kevin Fiala (lower-body injury) and Jordan Greenway (illness) back to full strength — although Fiala was a healthy scratch Tuesday.
He has no goals and one assist in seven games.
“We expect more from him,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s a guy that we’re counting on. He’s coming off an injury but in the whole scheme of things, we need him to be one of our most offensive players, power play guy and everything else. So far it hasn’t worked but I think the message has gotten through, and he’ll be back in the lineup really soon because we could use the offense.”
Goaltender Alex Stalock played Tuesday night, so Dubnyk (2-5-0, 3.92 GAA, .880 save percentage) will likely start against the Blues. He was 3-0 with a 1.32 GAA and .947 save percentage against them last season.
Wild forwards Eric Staal (four goals, two assists in four games) and Jason Zucker (two goals, three assists in five games) have heated up after slow offensive starts this season.
–Field Level Media
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