Two significant injuries could change the landscape in the Western Conference. Gabriel Landeskog will miss the rest of the season and Vladimir Tarasenko expects to miss a minimum of ten days, after both suffered upper-body injuries last week. Speculation runs wild suggesting that Landeskog separated his shoulder while Tarasenko has an elbow injury. Landeskog currently is out for the rest of the regular season (4-6 weeks total).
Let us look at what impacts this has for both teams – starting with the St. Louis Blues.
St. Louis Blues
The dreaded word re-evaluation was used to describe the Vladimir Tarasenko injury. That never is a good sign. He will miss at least the next four games and could return as soon as March 19th versus the Edmonton Oilers. The odd part was the fact that Tarasenko never left the game. He played through the injury, basically. St. Louis holds a cushion in the race for the last playoff spot and could coast into the playoffs.
St. Louis enjoys the second easiest strength of schedule in the league. Their opponents have just a just over .500 winning percentage, as the Blues play seven games at home and six on the road. The Blues are now set for three road trips to Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Pittsburgh and Buffalo are on a back-to-back scenario and the Sabres would be the Blues’ third game in four nights.
There is little reason to believe that St. Louis cannot at least split those games. They may even be able to win three of those games possibly. Being 5-6 points up on playoff spots affords St. Louis some leeway. Also, if Tarasenko comes back on the 19th, the Blues would have seven of their final ten contests at home.
The key aspect to this injury is the re-evaluation. Does one expect the right-winger to play right after a positive result? That is a question mark. Robert Thomas is no Tarasenko but has enough speed and a decent shot. He should be serviceable on the top line. Ryan O’Reilly can carry a line if needed and is averaging around a point a game this year (67 points in 69 games). That includes 20 power-play points. Not all hope should be lost for St. Louis. The Blues conference future has dipped from +750 to +1100 but should not hold too much significance.
For the Colorado Avalanche, the Landeskog injury already has a longer lasting impact. First off, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen have been separated to balance out scoring. Some of that happened even when Landeskog was healthy but this shift may be more permanent. Also, with Landeskog out up to six weeks, that means if Colorado makes the playoffs, he may not play for most of round one.
Colorado benefits from having to face a favorable strength of schedule, which is the ninth easiest. The problem is they are a few points out of a playoff spot with some teams to pass. That is never simple this time of year. Colorado must pull this off without their third best scorer and the player who creates so much space on the power play and at even strength. Colorado must replace their leader in game-winning goals scored (9) and ten power-play goals (25-man advantage points). Those are significant chunks of offense gone. Landeskog was on pace for 40+ goals as well.
The Avalanche now look onwards after going 5-4-1 in their last ten games. This mixed run, plus the Landeskog injury has seen their Western Conference future odds drop from +2100, to +2900. Time will tell if that number drops again, and it just might as they are now set to enjoy home games against Anaheim and New Jersey before going on the road to face Minnesota and Dallas. Those four contests will prove as a good test for how the Avalanche deal with the loss of Landeskog and if his loss could be the final blow to their playoff hopes.
By Chris Wassel