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Tarasenko injury absence doesn't rattle confident Blues

Forward who had shoulder surgery will be evaluated in five months, testing St. Louis depth

by Louie Korac / Independent Correspondent

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Vladimir Tarasenko will be missed while he recovers from shoulder surgery, but the St. Louis Blues say that their quality depth will help cushion the blow of losing the forward for at least five months.

"He's obviously a top player in our game. He's going to be missed, but our team is built as the sum of all parts," general manager Doug Armstrong said. "It's going to be a great opportunity for some of our younger players. I think the key now is not taxing a small group of players. I don't think we can have [Ryan] O'Reilly, [Jaden] Schwartz and [Brayden] Schenn consume all this ice time. It's going to have to come from other guys and we're going to have to have strength in numbers and I believe we can get it done."

Tarasenko dislocated his shoulder with 6:01 remaining in the first period on Oct. 24 during a 5-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings when he got tangled with Kings defenseman Sean Walker on a partial breakaway. The 27-year-old left the game, did not return and had surgery on Tuesday.

"By looking at the replay, what basically happened was [Tarasenko] extended his arm. It looked like Walker's shoulder cap got right under his armpit and thrust up, dislocating his shoulder and thus the surgery was needed," Armstrong said of Tarasenko, who has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 10 games.

Tarasenko has averaged 71 points (36 goals, 35 assists) the past five seasons. His 33 goals led the Blues in 2018-19; and he scored 11 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to help St. Louis win the Stanley Cup for the first time in its 51-season history.

"Our depth will come from within right now," Armstrong said. "If they can get that job done, if we feel that we don't have the ability to perform at the ability that we deem necessary, we can always look outside."

In the first two games without Tarasenko, the Blues (6-3-3) were shut out by the Boston Bruins 3-0 on Saturday and defeated the Detroit Red Wings 5-4 in overtime on Sunday. They play the Minnesota Wild at Enterprise Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN). 

Video: O'Reilly, Perron help Blues top Red Wings in overtime

The ice time for Robert Thomas has increased by five minutes on average since Tarasenko was hurt. The 20-year-old forward has one goal in seven games this season. Forwards Zach Sanford, 24, and Robby Fabbri, 23, are expected to step up, as well, during Tarasenko's absence. Sanford scored his first goal Sunday, and Fabbri played more than 11 minutes in his return to the lineup against the Red Wings.

"We feel like we have depth on this team in all the positions," said Schenn, who leads the Blues with nine goals and 13 points. "Obviously, that's a long period of time, no doubt about it. The way he scores goals, we're going to have to even be better defensively now. He's out and scores 35 a year for us and you're going to have to replace him. I think the way you replace him is be tighter defensively and not give up as much and then you don't have to score four or five a game."

While increased production is expected across the board, the Blues need their top forwards to lead the way with Tarasenko out. David Perron has 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 12 games; O'Reilly also has 12 points (three goals, nine assists); and Schwartz has 10 points (one goal, nine assists).

Video: STL@DET: Perron scores overtime winner for Blues

"Injuries are tough. It's part of the sport, but it's always tough to see a guy out that long," Schwartz said. "He's such an important piece on our team. He was really hitting his stride, he was really getting into his own. It's tough, but we're going to have to do it together. Different guys are going to have to step up, whether it's power play or different kinds of minutes. Obviously, we're going to miss his impact and the way other people have to watch him on the ice."

Added Schenn, "You can't replace his star power, his goal scoring ability, but at the same time, it's an opportunity for a lot of guys, myself included, to step up. It's not an easy void to fill, but we've got to do it as a group."

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