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Tkachuk's future with Blues remains cloudy

by Mike G. Morreale
Keith Tkachuk's career in St. Louis might very well come down to the next three games on the schedule.

The Blues, who reached the .500 mark for the first time since Dec. 10 following a 2-1 victory against Phoenix Tuesday, currently sit 13th in the Western Conference -- five points from seventh-seeded Minnesota.

"The big question is can we get some points over these next three games and remain in the race before having to take a serious look at everything," said Blues President of Hockey Operations John Davidson. "We know the job ahead of us to get in and the teams ahead of us are playing very well. We want to send a message to our players and the fans that we want to make the playoffs."

Davidson's club seeks its first playoff berth since 2003-04, when it suffered an opening-round loss to San Jose in five games.

The Blues, who improved to 6-2-4 in February with the win against the Coyotes, will travel to Dallas Thursday and Phoenix on Saturday before returning home against the defending Stanley Cup-champion Red Wings on Tuesday -- the eve of the NHL trading deadline.

"We've had discussions with (Tkachuk's) representative (Bob Murray) and we're all on the same page," Davidson said. "Keith wants to win in St. Louis and he wants to be on a club that makes the playoffs. We've chatted and both sides have an idea where we're going and what we're thinking about doing, even though a lot of it hinges on our next three games. If we do something, it'll be something for both Keith and the Blues and if we decide not to, then it'll be us saying we're making a run for the playoffs."

Davidson and Blues chairman David Checketts have been extremely industrious over the past two seasons, acquiring a multitude of draft picks and tabbing certain players via trades. In fact, the fourth choice at last year's Entry Draft in Ottawa -- Alex Pietrangelo -- happened to be the sixth first-round selection in three seasons under their watch. Additionally, the acquisitions of high-profile performers Brad Boyes, Paul Kariya and Tkachuk in 2007 have only helped establish a greater on-ice and dressing-room presence.

"We respect what Keith has done; he's been a really good player for us on and off the ice," Davidson said. "Early on this season, he was scoring like crazy and then we were hit with injuries and asked him to become a checking center for us and he's done a great job with that and he's never complained."

Davidson admitted he has had discussions with Murray, Tkachuk's representative, regarding future suitors if it did reach that stage.

"When it gets down to crunch time -- the day of the deadline -- that's when we'll make a final decision," Davidson said. "We've had some calls, but nothing serious has been talked about because we still have the concept that we're gunning to make the playoffs. He's earned his no-trade clause and that's to his advantage to put himself in a position to go somewhere where he thinks he could perform well. If something comes down the pike and we're in a position where we feel we want to do something, we'll converse and I think if we do something, we would only go to the teams that make sense for Keith."

Tkachuk, who was named to his fifth All-Star Game last month, is currently third on the team in scoring with 35 points (18 goals). He ranks second with 11 power-play goals and is tied for second with three game-winners.

"(Tkachuk) has been a good mentor for the young players and he's had a very satisfying year," Davidson said. "The young kids are getting older and getting to the age where they play a lot of hockey so that adds into the complexity of trade deadline. We want to do what is right for the organization and if that means trading someone going forward, so be it, but nothing is guaranteed there either. If it's a draft pick, who knows if that pick will pan out three years down the road. We're not in a situation where we've had to make deals to double up on our draft picks to acquire assets since we've done a good job with that over the last couple of years."

The Blues had three regulars in the lineup aged 22-or-under this season, including forwards T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund and David Perron. Defenseman Erik Johnson would have been a fourth, but he's been sidelined since the offseason with a torn ACL.

"We've got a good thing going on in St. Louis right now and, remember, we have to sell hockey to the city and surrounding areas and they are on board with how hard we play, how entertaining we are and our youth movement," Davidson said. "If someone out there sees a player that would help their team, then we'll talk turkey. It's something we evaluate individually as we go along."

Contact Mike Morreale at
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