Oshie is in, Tarasenko is out for Blues
April, 30, 2013
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com
ST. LOUIS -- T.J. Oshie is in for the Blues, rookie Vladimir Tarasenko is out for Game 1 on Tuesday night.
Oshie hasn’t played since March 28 while recovering from an ankle injury. Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock wanted to see how Oshie felt Tuesday morning after going hard in practice the day before and saw enough to make the decision to bring him back into the fold on a line with Patrik Berglund and David Perron.
That makes Tarasenko the odd man out, the coach confirmed after the morning skate.
"I’ve always believed that the first kick in the can in playoffs is for veteran players. You give them a go," Hitchcock said. "Tarasenko will probably get some time during the playoffs. But you want to give the veterans a chance -- unless they’ve really underperformed -- to prove that they want to take the ball and run with it. That’s what we’re going to do. And if somebody underperforms, we won’t hesitate to replace them and move on from there."
Tarasenko, who had 19 points (8-11) in 38 games this season, has electrifying talent but hasn’t been quite the same player since returning from a concussion earlier this season.
"In reality, this has been a very difficult season for him," Hitchcock said. "Not from the competition side of things but from intensity, games played, no practice, no rest -- I think he’s found this season, at times, overwhelming.
"He’s played his best hockey when he’s rested. We expect him to come into the series and be a rested player."
Greene might get the red light
Kings head coach Darryl Sutter wouldn’t confirm on Tuesday morning his lineup for Game 1 but given that Matt Greene put in more time during the morning skate, it’s likely he’s out for Game 1 and Keaton Ellerby would replace him.
Greene was held out of the regular-season finale with an undisclosed injury. He had just come back and played four games after missing two months recovering from back surgery.
Showing their stripes
The series supervisor for the Kings-Blues series is Rob Shick, who met Tuesday morning with both head coaches.
It’s pretty clear what Hitchcock said to Shick.
"Message to the referees was, 'Stand on the third row, just get the hell out of the way, let us play,'" Hitchcock told reporters after the morning skate when asked about his meeting with Shick. "Because there’s two teams that know what’s at stake, two teams that play the game the right way, two teams that know how to play; this is a series that deserves to be played five-on-five.
"And I think the referees will act accordingly. I think they’re very good at understanding that these are two teams that really pride themselves on discipline and play with emotional control most of the time. Sure, we’ve got guys that take it over the edge, they’ve got guys that take it over the edge. But organizationally, [the Kings are] a team that gets on their players -- just like we do -- about taking bad penalties. I think if they just let us play, these teams will decide it five-on-five which is what we all want in the playoffs."
The refs for Tuesday night are Marc Joannette and Brian Pochmara.
The fourth line of Chris Porter, Adam Cracknell and Ryan Reaves remains intact for Game 1 -- a unit that Hitchcock has grown fond of.
"They’re more than our fourth line," Hitchcock said. "They score. Fourth line as an energy line, those days are gone. Those are dinosaur lines, they don’t work anymore in the league. The hockey is too good and your fourth line needs to contribute. And, boy, ours has come through in spades. They’ve scored, they’ve pressured on the forecheck, they’ve been able to play against top-six forwards, they’re a lot more than a fourth line."