ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Blues will start the new year without two veterans, losing 2019 Stanley Cup winners Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko to weeks-long injuries.
The Blues placed their captain Ryan O’Reilly and longest-tenured active forward Vladimir Tarasenko on injured reserve Monday, tough blows as the team remains in the hunt, but currently outside the bubble for a playoff spot.
O’Reilly has a broken foot and will be re-evaluated in six weeks. The three-time All-Star has been relatively healthy in his five seasons with the Blues, playing with perfect attendance up to this point and never missing a game with St. Louis for non-COVID reasons. It’s his first long-term injury as a member of the Blues, and it hadn’t been publicly known prior to Monday. The likely culprit, a late blocked shot in Saturday’s loss.
Tarasenko will miss at least four weeks after he suffered a hand injury on New Year’s Eve. He left midgame in a loss to the Minnesota Wild. It’s the first major injury Tarasenko has had in the 2022-23 season, though the former 40-goal scorer has missed significant time in two of the last three campaigns with ongoing shoulder woes.
“Injuries are part of the profession, part of the game,” Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said during a conference call with media members Monday morning. “Winning people and winning organizations don’t dwell on what they don’t have – they work with what they do have… Guys who have been [wanting] more ice time are going to get it.”
The losses are large not only for the experience, but how the Blues might handle the trade deadline and free agency later this year. O’Reilly and Tarasenko were both set to become unrestricted free agents, and some teams have reportedly shown interest in both in recent weeks.
If the Blues fall further out of a playoff race, perhaps they could still trade either, but the return might not be large with the status of both still uncertain before the March 3 trade deadline.
O’Reilly and Tarasenko haven’t quite performed to the tune of recent seasons either, at least on the scoresheet. O’Reilly was only on pace for around 38 points at his current clip, notably lower than a 0.87 points-per-game pace in his first four Blues years. Tarasenko is close to a point-per-game clip, but his 10 goals nearly halfway through the season are subpar compared to six 30-plus goal seasons.
Despite the big losses, the injuries will test the Blues depth and give an idea of whether the team could thrive without O’Reilly and Tarasenko beyond this season. More special teams assignments, at least power play time, could be awarded to other established core players like Robert Thomas and Pavel Buchnevich.
Jake Neighbours has been recalled from the Springfield Thunderbirds, and it appears the Blues will look internally for others who can step up in the absence of two veterans. The Blues currently start the new year 10th place in the Western Conference and five points out of a playoff spot. St. Louis embarks on four-game roadtrip to start the new year, which includes tough assignments against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Minnesota Wild.
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