Will he or won’t he? The coach of Russia’s national team said Monday that Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko wouldn’t be coming to the world championships, which are underway in Europe, because he needs surgery.
There was no confirmation from the Blues about their leading scorer and franchise foundation. Tarasenko’s North American-based agent, Mike Liut, said that more would be known after Tarasenko’s medical exam, which was expected early in the week.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong didn’t respond to a message Monday but is scheduled to talk to reporters Tuesday.
If Tarasenko has an injury, there was no sign of it in the playoffs. Tarasenko didn’t miss any ice time in the Blues’ series with Nashville, which ended Sunday with a 3-1 Predators victory in Game 6. He recorded more than 20 minutes of ice time in four of the six games, well above his season average.
He did get treatment on the ice after being jabbed in the chest by Nashville’s Austin Watson in Game 1. Tarasenko fell to the ice, drawing a visit from trainer Ray Barile, but stayed in the game.
With the Blues’ season over, Russian coach Oleg Znarko was asked Monday after a 6-3 win over Germany in the preliminary round of the world championships if Tarasenko would be joining the team. He said, “We called to his agent. He said that Tarasenko played with injury and needs a surgery.”
Tarasenko’s Russian-based agent, Alexei Dementiev, told Championat.com: “We’ll have specific info after medical check.”
Liut didn’t seem as concerned about an injury as the number of games Tarasenko has played this season. He appeared in all 82 games of the regular season, 11 playoff games and four in the World Cup of Hockey at the start of the season.
“These guys have played a ton of hockey over the last 14 months,” Liut said in an email to the Post-Dispatch. “... So I think this year’s world championships are a stretch for anyone who made it to the second round this year. I certainly prefer that he not play and have expressed that thought given the amount of hockey played over the last 14 months.”
SOME STILL PLAYING
As expected, the end of the season didn’t mean the end for three Blues youngsters. The team sent forwards Ivan Barbashev and Zach Sanford, plus defenseman Jordan Schmaltz, to Chicago of the American Hockey League to take part in the Calder Cup minor-league playoffs.
All three got in at least one game for the Blues in the postseason and had been made eligible for the AHL postseason as well.
Schmaltz got in one game in the Minnesota series and Barbashev got in six games — even centering the team’s top line in the early games of the Minnesota series. Sanford got in four games, three against Minnesota and one against Nashville. None of the three had a goal or an assist.
Schmaltz has bounced back and forth between the AHL and the NHL over the past three weeks, as the Blues called him in before games in case one of their top six defensemen got hurt and then returned him to the minors on off days. He played in all five games of that team’s first-round series, with Charlotte, but missed the first three games of the second-round series, with Grand Rapids.
Barbashev had 19 goals in 46 games for Chicago, and was fourth on the team in goals even though he missed 30 games to either injury or being in the NHL.
Sanford has yet to play with Chicago after being acquired in the Kevin Shattenkirk trade. He played 25 games in the AHL, with Hershey, before to the trade.
Those are the only three players with the Blues in the postseason who were eligible to play for Chicago in the playoffs.