Rookie winger hit hard in Wednesday's loss at Colorado
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues have gone virtually unscathed on the injury front but have been hit in recent weeks.
First it was Jamie Langenbrunner's season-ending hip surgery to repair a torn labrum. The next to go down is rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, who was placed on injured reserve with a concussion and facial laceration.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Vladimir Tarasenko reacts after scoring his first NHL goal against Detroit.
The Blues practiced Friday afternoon but Tarasenko was not among them. The team recalled forward Chris Porter from Peoria to take Tarasenko's spot.
"Well, he’s got a pretty severe facial laceration, some form of concussion, where we really don’t know yet … obviously the severity of it," Hitchcock said. "He’s definitely not a player tomorrow and then with all the time off, we’ll be able to read it. He’s doing OK, but obviously he’s not a player for tomorrow. Like everybody else, read it day by day and see how he feels.
"He has a headache today, he didn’t have one yesterday, but he does have a headache today and we’ll see in the next 48 hours how much better he gets."
Tarasenko, 21, has 12 points (six goals, six assists) for the Blues in his first NHL season. After a torrid start where he collected 10 points in the team's first eight games, he only has two in the last nine games.
It's the second concussion the Russian wing has absorbed this hockey season after missing one game playing in the Kontinental Hockey League.
The Blues were notified by the NHL Thursday no further action would be taken, feeling the hit was legal.
"I feel like it's a blow to the head, so I don't care how it is," Hitchcock said. "It's a blow to the head. I don't care how it got there, whether it was a legit hockey play ... it happens fast. It was a blow to the head. That was my concern."
The Blues were notified by the league that they felt the play was a legal hit and no further action would be taken, one Blues player voiced his concern that although steps are progressively moving forward, more still needs to be done.
"I have a biased opinion after going through multiple concussions and seeing what the results are," said veteran Andy McDonald, who's endured multiple concussions throughout his career. "I'd like to see the league get away from those types of hits. You can still have a physical game, an intense game. Obviously the fans love that, but the players that are making hits, we've got to get away from going in and making contact with the head.
"Could the guy have hit Vladi and not hit his head? Probably ... and (it) still (could have been) been an effective hit. It's too dangerous ... the health implications on those hits are too severe. It's not worth it. You can still have a physical game without that part of it. It's unfortunate for our team and for Vladi.
"I'm biased, I've been through it and you hate to see those hits. Every time I see it, it's frustrating."
Matt D'Agostini will be inserted into the lineup, but it is not known how long Tarasenko will miss. He's definitely out for Saturday's game against Columbus, but the Blues won't play again until Thursday night when they host Chicago.
"D’Agostini draws in there and he’ll play there," Hitchcock said. "(He) played very well the last game. We’re going to bring Porter up, and he’s going to be a member of the team now for the foreseeable future with Langenbrunner out too. (Jaroslav) Halak will start in goal and then we’ll see where it goes. We’ll know probably after the weekend on how long Vladi is going to be."
The immediate and long-term concern for the Blues is not only Tarasenko but the rest of the great young players in the league.
"Everybody says 'well it’s a hockey play,' or whatever. I think there’s a bigger picture for me here," Hitchcock said. "It’s not so much Vladi, it’s all the young players … these are young players who are in unsuspecting situations. It just seems like there’s a lot of young players that are getting hurt because experienced players know where they can catch them in vulnerable situations That’s the part that bothers me. The hit is the hit. The part that really bothers me is all the young players who don’t expect to get hit and have to learn these type of lessons. (Colorado's Gabriel) Landeskog or a Tarasenko, I’m sure there's other ones, there's lots of other ones and you just don’t like to see it. I wish there was a way that we could let the young guys play a little bit and not try to put them in unsuspecting (positions). I don’t think in a million years he thought he would get hit in that situation."
McDonald was asked if the rule on hits to the head (Rule No. 48.1) is still too vague.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Vladimir Tarasenko (top) suffered a concussion Wednesday in Colorado.
"The league has definitely made steps in the right direction. They've made some rule changes and they've tried to get rid of these hits. Hopefully progression is still made and rule changes are still made to get away from these hits."
Hitchcock's response seems to be pointed in a certain direction.
"I don't give a damn about the rule," Hitchcock said. "I'm just saying from a young player's standpoint, those are the harsh lessons that young players end up having to learn, and I wish there was another way. I don't even know what you can do. I'm not sure what you can do. I just wish there was another way so they could get to play the game and not have to learn the hard lesson. That's the part that bothers me.
"We saw it two or three times with Vlad, we talked to him about it that you're in a position where ... I know you don't expect to get hit here, but somebody's going to hit you, and you've got to hit. That's the tough part for me. I feel for the player. I don't really give a damn what the rule is or what some guy says on the video. Whatever happens, happens. But I feel for the young players who come into our league and aren't ready for ... if you have points, and you're a good player, sometimes you get hit and that's unfortunate because a lot of them are just trying to keep up with the pace of the game."