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Rookie sensation Tarasenko back for Blues

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- Both the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues welcome new additions when they meet Saturday night at Scottrade Center.

The Blues (15-10-2), 4-1-0 in their last five games, will get a boost with the return of rookie Vladimir Tarasenko to the lineup.

Tarasenko has missed the previous 10 games dating back to Feb. 21 with a concussion suffered in Colorado following a hit from Mark Olver. He has been activated from injured reserve and T.J. Oshie (upper-body) has been placed on injured-reserve, retroactive to Tuesday.

"Yeah, he's playing tonight ... he'll come off injured reserve and participate today," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Tarasenko.

Tarasenko had 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 17 games and was the NHL rookie of the month in January.

"This is an unbelievable feeling," Tarasenko said. "I'm really happy to be back.

"I need a couple of games, maybe one, to remember the speed, passing and timing. I think I will be OK."

After skating with the team for a week, Hitchcock decided to put Tarasenko on a line with Vladimir Sobotka in the middle and Jaden Schwartz on the left wing.

"We've got to be realistic ... it's going to be an adjustment phase for him because this is the first time in his career he's been hurt where he hasn't been able to skate, so I'm not sure what we're going to get," Hitchcock said. "But we've got to get him back in and playing and make him part of the team again. We're not sure how much we're going to play him, how much we're going to play him on the power play. But he was an awfully good player until he got injured and hopefully we can get back up and running again and get him back to where he was before. But it's not going to happen overnight.

"Like I said, you've got the conditioning phase, so he's got to get through that. And then he's going to have to feel comfortable on the ice again with contact."

The Ducks (20-3-3), who have won five in a row, get a familiar face for coach Bruce Boudreau as center David Steckel makes his Anaheim debut against the Blues. Steckel, who was acquired Friday from Toronto for minor leaguer Ryan Lasch and a seventh-round draft pick in 2014, played for Boudreau when the Ducks coach was behind the bench in Washington.

"At least at the start, he's going to be our fourth-line center and see how he is," Boudreau said. "He hasn't taken a lot of faceoffs this year. But he's always in the top three in the League percentage-wise, but I see him taking those faceoffs with us once he gets into the whole scheme of taking a lot of them. I see him as a penalty killer and in the last 10 minutes if we have to go down to three lines and you need a responsible center in there, at least right now, I see him playing in that spot as well."

Steckel, who had one assist in 13 games with the Leafs, is happy for a fresh start after being in and out of Toronto's lineup.

"I'm just here to come in and try and contribute. They've been fantastic out here," Steckel said. "... It's going to be a little bit of an easier transition for me. I know the systems. In Toronto, I was kind of lost in a numbers game pretty much. I'm looking forward to this. I think it's something I'm going to thrive on."

The Ducks and Blues will go with these probable lineups.


Matt Beleskey - Ryan Getzlaf - Teemu Selanne

Bobby Ryan - Peter Holland - Kyle Palmieri

Andrew Cogliano - Saku Koivu - Daniel Winnik

Brandon McMillan - David Steckel - Emerson Etem

Sheldon Souray - Francois Beauchemin

Bryan Allen - Cam Fowler

Luca Sbisa - Ben Lovejoy

Jonas Hiller

Viktor Fasth

Scratched: Toni Lydman, Corey Perry (suspended)

Injured: Nick Bonino (lower-body), Brad Staubitz (facial laceration)


Alexander Steen - David Backes - Chris Stewart

David Perron - Patrik Berglund - Matt D'Agostini

Jaden Schwartz - Vladimir Sobotka - Vladimir Tarasenko

Chris Porter - Scott Nichol - Ryan Reaves

Barret Jackman - Alex Pietrangelo

Wade Redden - Kevin Shattenkirk

Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Jake Allen

Jaroslav Halak

Scratched: Brian Elliott, Ian Cole and Adam Cracknell

Injured: Andy McDonald (knee), T.J. Oshie (upper-body)

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