LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: Vladimir Tarasenko, drafted 16th overall by the St. Louis Blues, poses for a portrait during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
T.J. Oshie will return to the lineup when the Blues open their playoff series against the LA Kings on Tuesday night. With Oshie returning, the Blues were forced to make a difficult decision concerning which player would be scratched in order to make room for #74. Ultimately it appeared it would come down to either Vladimir Tarasenko or Adam Cracknell.
Coach Ken Hitchcock announced his decision this morning, telling reporters that Tarasenko would be a healthy scratch for Game 1.
While this move might anger some fans, it's the right decision. The team's fourth line of Cracknell, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves has been one of the team's best weapons down the stretch. It wouldn't make much sense to disrupt the obvious chemistry they've displayed. Facing the Kings, the Blues will need all of the toughness and size that they can find. Keeping the hard-hitting group of Cracknell-Porter-Reaves dressed should give the Blues a needed punch against a physical LA roster.
The decision also makes sense because Tarasenko is stuck in a lengthy offensive drought. The forward hasn't scored in his last 15 games, his last two goals coming back on March 28th, ironically against the Kings. It's fair to assume that Tarasenko is pretty fatigued, not only battling back from a concussion that forced him to miss 10 games, but also because he competed in the KHL while other players sat idle during the NHL lockout. It'd be safe to guess that the physical demands of the NHL mixed with the sheer volume of games might have caught up to the youngster.
Though Tarasenko is the odd man out for Game 1, you shouldn't assume that this will be the case for the rest of the series. Hitchcock has rightly placed his faith in the current dominant form of the team's fourth line, but that doesn't mean things won't change if they suddenly cool.