Blues not at full strength for opener

Updated: April 17, 2014, 5:08 PM ET
By Scott Powers | ESPNChicago.com

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko will play against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series on Thursday after missing the team's last 15 games with a hand injury, coach Ken Hitchcock said.

Blues forwards T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund will not play Thursday.

Oshie will miss his third consecutive game after taking a hit to the head against the Minnesota Wild on April 10. Oshie was on the ice for the team's morning skate, but Hitchcock said he did not have an update Oshie's status. Oshie had 21 goals, 39 assists and a plus-19 rating in 79 regular-season games.

Berglund will miss his second consecutive game with an upper-body injury. He had 14 goals, 18 assists and a plus-10 rating in 78 games.

Tarasenko suffered an injury to his right hand against the Nashville Predators on March 15. He underwent surgery due to it and was expected to miss at least six weeks. He had 21 goals, 22 assists and a plus-20 in 64 games. Hitchcock said Tarasenko put himself through a lot to be prepared for Thursday's playoff opener.

"You're talking 6-7 hours a day at the rink, 2-2½ hours on the ice, mostly by himself," Hitchcock said. "Various conditioning levels, pushing the envelope, trying to get him into shift shape, which is very difficult when you don't have anybody to play with. The first month basically playing with nobody. He's basically had two practices with somebody. And now he's going to play in the playoff game."

The Blues were also without David Backes, Barret Jackman, Brenden Morrow, Alex Pietrangelo and Vladimir Sobotka in their regular-season finale. All five players will play against the Blackhawks on Thursday.

Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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