(HockeySTL)-- The Blues’ injury situation appears to be improving rather quickly and drastically, as shown by the number of injured players participating in Tuesday’s optional skate.
Of the Blues’ eight injured skaters, all but three – Patrik Berglund, David Backes, and Vladimir Sobotka—were on the ice at St. Louis Outlet Mall, and Ken Hitchcock expects all of his wounded back at some point in the series against Chicago, including Vladimir Tarasenko, who appears to be ahead of schedule.
"We're going to have everybody back at some point in the first round," Hitchcock said.
Alex Pietrangelo, T.J. Oshie, Barret Jackman, Brenden Morrow, and Tarasenko accompanied the crowded group of players onto the ice. All of them have a chance of playing Thursday, according to Hitchcock.
“I’m not ruling anybody out (for Thursday),” the head coach said.
The status of Oshie (upper-body) and Morrow (foot), who were both injured in Minnesota last Thursday, was not known prior to Tuesday. It was believed that Morrow, who took a shot off his foot in last Thursday’s morning skate, would be unavailable for the playoff opener, but that may not be the case after all.
"I got a couple of days to get a little better," Morrow said. “So I've got to knock the rust off and hopefully be ready on Thursday."
Oshie’s status was, and in many ways still is, up in the air after taking an illegal high hit from Mike Rupp last week. Oshie is not believed to be experiencing concussion symptoms, but he isn’t prepared to say he is out of the woods just yet.
While Oshie did skate on Tuesday for the first time since sustaining the injury, he wasn’t afforded the opportunity to participate in contact drills due to the structure of the optional skate. Until he does so on Wednesday, his status is unknown.
"It felt good to get around, sweat a little bit," Oshie said. "It feels like I haven't been doing anything in a long time. The first couple of days were pretty tough for me, but I've been getting a lot of rest, a lot of time at home with the family, relaxing. I woke up this morning, felt pretty good, and went out there skated and felt pretty good out there."
Oshie said he is ready, but the final decision will have to come from the doctors.
“You've got to see how I am tonight, how I am tomorrow morning,” Oshie said. “It really is a day-to-day thing. If I can, if medically it's okay and I'm not going to hurt myself worse, or hurt my team, I'll be in."
Other than Morrow and Oshie, the Blues are also awaiting word on the availability of Tarasenko, who injured his right thumb on Mar. 15.
Tarasenko was skating for the first time without a cast on Tuesday, ridding himself of the device the previous day. Tarasenko skated for the duration of Tuesday’s practice, and was able to shoot pucks consistently for the first time since undergoing a surgical procedure on his thumb five weeks ago.
"I feel pretty good and it's really nice to skate with the guys," said Tarasenko. “I skate before, but it's my first time (without wearing a cast) with the guys. It was pretty hard, but I'm so happy to be back. It feels good.”
Tarasenko did not rule himself out for Game 1, pointing to Wednesday as a tell-tale day.
"We'll see, I don't know yet,” he said. “We'll talk to (the doctors) on (Wednesday) and we'll make a decision.”
Aside from Tarasenko, the final decision on multiple other players is expected to be made following Wednesday’s skate, which will be run as a typical practice. Any player that skates with the team Wednesday has a chance of playing on Thursday, but it will come down to how Hitchcock views their readiness.
"Our roster's really fluid right now," Hitchcock said. "We're not as set as Chicago is. They've gone back to the same lineup that played us the last two home games and they're set. We're not there yet. We're hoping that we get more set by Thursday and get some really good news, but I don't think any of us can tell that right now until we get a real hockey practice in (on Wednesday), which will be the first and last one.”