By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Vladimir Tarasenko missed his second straight practice because of illness and is listed as a game-time decision for the Blues (15-18-4) against the Washington Capitals (24-11-3) today at Enterprise Center (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).
Tarasenko is unlikely to play and the Blues will go with seven defenseman tonight after Carl Gunnarsson has been activated off injured-reserve after missing the past 20 games with a hand injury.
"Vlady's sick," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "He'll be a game-time decision.
"We're going to go with seven D anyway. 'Gunny' will be in tonight."
The Blues have lost two in a row and scored two goals after going 5-2-0 the previous seven games.
"Washington is 9-1 in their last 10 road games," Berube said. "They're a real good team obviously. Depth, scoring, they've got a lot of weapons. We have to do a good job. Our center icemen have to do a good job, playing against [Nicklas] Backstrom, [Evgeny] Kuznetsov tonight. Obviously with 8 [Alex Ovechkin, who has 15 goals and 13 assists in 17 games against the Blues] out there, power play, things like that, we have to do a real good job on him, checking him closely, they're a heavy team, so we have to be physical, have to win a lot of puck battles."
The challenges of playing with seven defenseman and only 11 forwards affect some guys, and tonight, it will affect the fourth line of Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist, who would normally have had Robby Fabbri playing with them tonight but that's not the case with Tarasenko likely not to play.
"I don't think it's going to be any big challenges," Barbashev said. "It's a good question, more ice time for someone else. Guys rotate. I haven't had a situation like this for a long time. I used to play like this in junior, but I was always on the first or second line so it didn't affect me."
Gunnarsson was injured Nov. 16 at Vegas.
"Now we're here. It feels good," Gunnarsson said. "It will be a challenge. I don't think it matters who you're playing, it's going to be that same pace, so you just have to throw yourself into the fire and hope for the best. I've been waiting for a while now. It feels good to be back."
Forward Zach Sanford was recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League as a precaution and is unlikely to play. Sanford is a Capitals farmhand that came to the Blues on Feb. 27, 2017 in the trade for Kevin Shattenkirk.
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The Blues will face Dmitrij Jaskin for the first time since the Blues put him on waivers on Oct. 1.
Washington claimed Jaskin because they were going to be without Tom Wilson for 16 games after he was suspended for the illegal check to the head of Sundqvist.
"You don't want to come somewhere the day before the season starts," Jaskin said. "That was kind of hard. A bunch of great guys (in Washington) and they made it pretty easy for me."
Jaskin has seven points (one goal, six assists) in 26 games with the Capitals. He was a second-round pick by the Blues in the 2011 NHL Draft and has 68 points (26 goals, 42 assists) in 292 NHL games.
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The return of T.J. Oshie can never be overlooked for the Blues and their fans, but Oshie returns to St. Louis for the first time as a Stanley Cup champion.
Oshie, a first-round pick by the Blues in 2005, was part of Washington's Stanley Cup-winning team last season and is living the dream.
"It's great, it's been fun," Oshie said. "Obviously we had a pretty fun year last year and this year, the team's feeling pretty good. It's a great place to play and great place to live."
Oshie, in his fourth season with the Capitals after he was traded by the Blues to Washington on July 5, 2015 for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley (who's back as Washington's backup) and a 2016 third-round pick, still had fond memories of St. Louis and will always hold the city and organization in high regard.
"For me, I feel a lot of love, a lot of great experiences here, a lot of really unbelievable people that I played with," said Oshie, who is married with two daughters now. "I have friends around town.
"You know you miss it. You miss those friendships and those bonds, but I'm happy where I'm at right now."
--------- More from Oshie later on how he still feels like there was unfinished business when he was in St. Louis and his thoughts on the Blues being close to accomplishing the ultimate goal.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Robert Thomas
Alexander Steen-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron
Robby Fabbri-Tyler Bozak-Pat Maroon
Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo
Jake Allen will start in goal; Evan Fitzpatrick will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Jordan Schmaltz and Zach Sanford. Vladimir Tarasenko (illness) is likely out.
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The Capitals' projected lineup:
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky-Lars Eller-Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson-Nic Dowd-Dmitrij Jaskin
Michal Kempny-John Carlson
Matt Niskanen-Dmitry Orlov
Brooks Orpik-Madison Bowey
Braden Holtby will start in goal; Pheonix Copley will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Jonas Siegenthaler, Devante Smith-Pelly and Travis Boyd. Christian Djoos (leg) is out.