By Lou Korac
The news wasn’t good for the Blues on Monday regarding Vladimir Tarasenko, who will miss at least five months after the team announced Monday morning he will need surgery on his left shoulder.
Tarasenko, who will have the surgery on Tuesday, was injured with 6:01 remaining in the first period last Thursday in a 5-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings following a partial breakaway in which he got tied up with Kings defenseman Sean Walker. Tarasenko tried to push Walker off his left shoulder and immediately pulled up and turned away from the play. He skated to the bench and didn’t immediately react in any pain but left for the locker room and did not return.
Tarasenko was placed on long-term injured reserve and will give the Blues some cap relief. It’s the same shoulder Tarasenko injured and needed surgery on in the 2017-18 regular-season finale against the Colorado Avalanche.
It’s a huge blow for the defending Stanley Cup champs, who were equipped to repeat with nearly its entire lineup in tact but takes a severe hit with Tarasenko, who led the Blues before Sunday with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 10 games.
“It’s tough,” Blues center Ryan O’Reilly said after a 5-4 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. “He’s a huge player for our team. It’s a tough loss and you can see tonight, it impacts us. We all have to be better for when we’re missing him.”
Robert Thomas got a crack at the top line with Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz; Oskar Sundqvist started there on Saturday in Boston. It will be a collective effort for much of the regular season now.
What this does is gives perhaps Jordan Kyrou an opportunity after he finally gets going and plays in some games down in San Antonio, or do the Blues thrust someone else from the Rampage, perhaps a Klim Kostin for roster depth? Can the Blues deal for a scorer? All those things will now be heavily weighed on. Regardless, it’s going to be a challenge to replace Tarasenko’s dangerous threat to score.
“Yeah, we don’t know what really is going on with that situation, but we’re going to need guys to keep stepping up and obviously it’s a great opportunity for young guys that will probably have better looks, better chances,” Blues right wing David Perron said after Sunday’s game. “That’s what you crave for as a young guy, to have more ice time, better players to play with, things like that. We’re looking forward to see what’s going to happen and the guys that will step up in those roles basically.
“… Here we are, we have a situation where maybe there’s going to be some time. Vladi is arguably our best player, so there’s going to be some offensive chances for a lot of those guys.”
It will fall on guys like Schenn, Schwartz, O’Reilly and Perron to pick up the goal scoring slack. Schenn leads the Blues with nine and Perron picked up his sixth Sunday. O’Reilly scored twice on Sunday.