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Fantasy: 'STL Line' reunites for Blues

Schwartz's return can ignite Tarasenko at even strength

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Fantasy Insider

Scoring is down for the St. Louis Blues, but the old band will be back together Friday in an attempt to get the offense rolling again. 

Jaden Schwartz, who hasn't played since Oct. 20 because of a fractured ankle, is expected to return to the Blues lineup Friday at the Florida Panthers and flank Jori Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko, his frequent linemates from last season. Schwartz, 55 percent owned with left wing eligibility in Yahoo leagues, averaged nearly 60 points per season (119 points in 155 games) from 2013-14 to 2014-15, but has been limited to seven games in 2015-16 because of injury. 

Tarasenko, a top-10 fantasy forward in the past two seasons, is in the midst of a severe slump, with one goal and no assists in his past seven games despite a heavy shot volume (24 shots on goal). Schwartz was tied for 20th in the NHL in even-strength points (88) in the past two seasons, and should boost Tarasenko's stock in that regard. 

With 16 power-play points through 54 games after 18 PPP in 77 games last season, Tarasenko is producing at the best rate of his career with the man-advantage. The problem has been his 5-on-5 production, which has declined after he finished tied for third League-wide in even-strength points (55) last season. This season, he has 31 even-strength points and is on pace for 46 if he plays a maximum of 80 games. 

Video: MIN@STL: Lehtera increases Blues' lead on power play

That decrease directly correlates to Schwartz's 49-game absence. It's a crowded power-play mix for the Blues, so they can lean on Schwartz specifically to boost their even-strength scoring. 

It's been a game of musical chairs on Tarasenko's line for much of the season, with Blues coach Ken Hitchcock rotating Paul Stastny and Lehtera at the center spot. Tarasenko is approaching 200 SOG (196; seventh) and has the fifth-most goals in the League, but is trending in the wrong direction as Schwartz finally returns. St. Louis has fallen flat offensively since Jan. 20, with a League-worst 10 goals in seven games. 

Schwartz is available in fewer than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues, so most fantasy owners will only be able to add Lehtera, who's center eligible and eight percent owned. Lehtera has three points in his past two games, all on the power play, with two SOG, and could see a further value spike in St. Louis' 26 remaining games if he sticks with his old linemates. 

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