The Blues and head coach Ken Hitchcock had a mixed bag of announcements following Thursday’s morning skate.
While the head coach did officially announce that Vladimir Tarasenko would be returning to the lineup for the first time since Mar. 15, he also declared forwards T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund out for Game 1.
"It's fluid, but the lines you saw today, the first four and the first six D, that's what we're going to start the game with," Hitchcock said in an interview posted on the Blues’ website. "Oshie and Berglund won't play tonight."
Oshie is still believed to be dealing with some discomfort after sustaining an upper-body injury last week in Minnesota. The forward was the recipient of an illegal high hit by Minnesota’s Mike Rupp in last Thursday’s game, and returned home early from the Blues’ two-day road trip. However, it was believed that the forward was not battling severe, or possibly any, concussion-related symptoms. Oshie did not play in the Blues’ final two regular-season games, but was not originally expected to miss the first game of the playoffs.
Oshie did skate with the Blues during Tuesday’s optional practice, but was not on the ice with the team on Wednesday. The Blues’ practice on Wednesday was of a higher pace and had more of a game-like feel, and, as of Tuesday, Oshie said he had not been cleared to participate in drills involving contact.
Oshie said he felt good following Tuesday’s skate, but was still day-to-day. He was also on the ice with his teammates during their morning skate on Thursday, but he was not involved in the practice lines, indicating that he would not be a player.
Oshie had 21 goals, 60 points in 79 regular-season games, setting a new career high in every offensive category.
With Oshie out, Hitchcock has inserted Steve Ott onto the first line with David Backes and Alexander Steen, which he hopes will allow the latter two players to focus more on offense.
The club, unsurprisingly, will also be with Berglund for at least Game 1. Berglund has yet to skate with the team since suffering an upper-body injury in Dallas last Friday. He is expected to return at some point in the first-round series.
Meanwhile, the club does get the young Tarasenko back into the fold. The Russian forward missed 15 games with a hand injury, which he sustained in mid-March. The injury required surgery to repair, and had a six-week timetable for return, meaning Tarasenko is about two weeks ahead of schedule.
"There's no limitations," Hitchcock said. "He deserves an awful lot of credit. He did the double-extra duty to be physically conditioned to be ready to play. Between the training staff and his commitment to conditioning, he himself deserves an awful lot of credit. He has worked extra hard to be in the best shape of his life right now."
The club will also get Backes and Brenden Morrow back for Game 1. Both players were walking in boots just days ago, but healed enough to where they won’t be doing any more damage to their respective injuries by playing.