Monday, April 6, 2015


Steen, Tarasenko skate, remain sidelined for Tuesday; Bortuzzo 
out, day-to-day; Blues need more from Gunnarsson; Rattie impressing

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Before the a small amount of players took the ice for an optional skate Monday, there was a notable exception skating beforehand.

Vladimir Tarasenko, who's been out a week with a lower-body injury sustained on March 30 against Vancouver, was on the ice for the first time since the injury. 

Tarasenko, who leads the Blues in goals (36) and points (71), was going through skating drills and taking wrist shots with head athletic trainer Ray Barile for roughly 45 minutes to an hour before leaving. He will not play when the Blues (49-23-7) host the Winnipeg Jets (41-26-12) on Tuesday at Scottrade Center.

Alexander Steen, who is also nursing a lower-body injury sustained March 28 against Columbus, skated on his own at the other end of the ice doing skating/shooting. He will not play Tuesday either.

"Our preference is that they play tomorrow, but they're not going to," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after practice Monday. "But our preference is as soon as they can play, they're gonna play. The quicker and sooner, the better. 

"If we have to wait til playoffs to put them in, we'll do whatever it takes, but we're going to play them when they're healthy and we're not going to hold them back and wait. If they're healthy, they're gonna play and if they're not, they're not gonna play. It's the same for first game of playoffs. We're not gonna put them in if they can't protect themselves. When they're ready to go, they're ready to go."

Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who left late in the first period Sunday in Chicago with an upper-body injury, is also day-to-day with an injury Hitchcock called "pre-existing."

Bortuzzo went to check Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and went awkwardly into the side boards and had his arm twisted in a funny position.

"It's not that incident," said Hitchcock. "He's not going to play (tonight) and then we'll see from there."

* More needed from Gunnarsson --  Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, a healthy scratch in two of the past three games, is a candidate to get back into the lineup with Bortuzzo's injury.

Gunnarsson, who last played in Dallas, hasn't played well in the last stretch of games he's played in. He's a plus-7 for the season but minus-4 the last four games played.

Hitchcock was asked what does the team need from Gunnarsson.

"Getting back to quickness of decisions, quickness of play, better execution," Hitchcock said. "We need him to dig in like he did for most of the year. 

"One of the situation with players, when they come back from injury, sometimes you want to ease your way back in. We don't have enough days in the week to ease back into anything. We've got to get up and running. We're hopeful in the next three games he's going to be able to do that."

* Rattie's encore presentation -- Ty Rattie's second stint with the Blues has come out of necessity with Tarasenko and Steen's injury, but with his recent play with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League and three games in the lineup with the Blues, Hitchcock calls Rattie, who had an assist against the Blackhawks on Sunday, a different player.

"Quickness in small spaces, which is a big change," Hitchcock said. "He's confident in small spaces. 

"We've always felt like for a skilled player, he's good on the boards, but now he's getting to pucks that there was some thinking involved; very similar to where (Dmitrij) Jaskin was at. Things needed to register first before he moved his feet. Now he's anticipating and playing with instincts and that's where Rattie's at. He's helped us. He's come in and helped us. We're comfortable playing him. I think we're really fortunate. 

As long as Steen and Tarasenko are out, Rattie will continue to get a look and get important minutes.

"With Steen and Tarasenko out, we're fortunate that Rattie's playing as well as he's playing," Hitchcock said. "It's a real good situation for us right now, and we're going to continue to play him right through the end of the year to see how much we've got until Vladi and Steen come back. We're going to continue to play him and get him as much confidence and ice time as we can."

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