As the Blues’ leader in points (41) and goals (23), it goes without saying the team is happy to see Tarasenko selected.
“He’s been at a great pace this year as far as point production, and he’s come up big for us a lot of times this year,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “It’s an honor to go there, so I’m happy for him. He definitely deserves it.”
“I don’t know where we’d be without what he’s been able to do,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “He’s one of those guys that’s not afraid of the spotlight, and he deserves to go there and enjoy himself and have a good time. He’s paid his dues here for us. When we need him the most, he’s come through just about every time. You’ve got to be really happy for him and really proud of him.”
This year’s All-Star Game will be held at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Jan. 31 and will feature a revamped 3-on-3 tournament format. Four teams (one from each division) will play in a tournament to determine a winner, which will split a $1 million prize.
“It was pretty exciting. I want to say thanks to my teammates for helping me be a participant in the second all-star game of my life,” Tarasenko said of being selected Wednesday morning. “It will be fun. It will be fun for fans because we’re playing for them, and it’s a really good experience.”
But before Tarasenko can worry about what tricks he has up his sleeve for the All-Star Skills Competition (remember the selfie and blindfolds last year with Brian Elliott?), he has to worry about helping the club get back in the win column tonight against the Colorado Avalanche (9 p.m., FSMW, KMOX).
A win would reclaim second place in the tight Central Division.
“If our forwards have the most touches, we’re going to win the game,” Hitchcock said. “If their forwards have the most touches, it’s going to be hard for us to win the game. Both teams have forwards who can really control the puck.”
“The Blues have won two of the last three games against the Avalanche, but Colorado took a 3-1 win in the last meeting at Scottrade Center on Dec. 13.
As far as power-play numbers go, there isn’t a defenseman in the League more efficient than Shattenkirk.
How about this stat? Shattenkirk has 15 power-play points this season, which ranks third among all NHL defensemen. San Jose’s Brent Burns ranks first with 17 power-play points in 144 minutes, 48 seconds with the man-advantage, while Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson is second with 16 power-play points in 191:02.
Shattenkirk? Fifteen points in just 75 minutes, 36 seconds of power-play time.
“He’s a great defenseman. I think he’s really underrated, because people aren’t really talking about him,” Tarasenko said of Shattenkirk. “I think he’s one of the best ‘D’ in the League. I really enjoy playing with him, and we’re close friends, too, so it makes it easy.”
“(He makes) great reads and has very good hockey sense,” Alexander Steen said. “When you add that to the mix, the plays just get that much quicker. The penalty-kill has a tougher time trying to adjust to what we’re trying to do.”
Ask Shattenkirk about his contributions to the power-play and he won’t take much credit. Instead, he points to the chemistry of the club’s top unit.
“We don’t do anything too crazy, we just have a lot of different options and weapons we can use,” Shattenkirk said. “If you take one guy, it opens up another guy. Over the last two or three years, we’ve figured out how to expose those advantages on our side. It’s nice when you have a group that has chemistry, I think that goes a very long way.”
Although the Blues lost in overtime Monday, Hitchcock liked the potential of lines used in the game.
“We had a lot of things from a line combination standpoint that looked in sync. It looked like it had the potential,” Hitchcock said. “If we could finish on some of the opportunities we had, do a little bit better job of hitting the net, shooting for rebounds little bit more, it looked like it had the real potential to grow.”
Kyle Brodziak will return to the lineup tonight, which means Scottie Upshall will sit out.
Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Patrik Berglund - David Backes - Magnus Paajarvi
Dmitrij Jaskin - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson - Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
Tonight will be Paul Stastny’s 100th game as a Blue. He’s currently on a four-game assist streak, which ties a career high.
Ken Hitchcock is just two wins short of becoming the Blues’ second 200-win coach. The first was Joel Quenneville, who has 307 wins behind the Blues’ bench.