As many local fans have already read in the papers, Jori Lehtera has been places on the injured reserve. This means the famed STL line will be put on hold. Losing a top 6 forward is never a good thing in the NHL, and as of now we don't know how long he will be gone. This does give those of us who have been calling for Tarasenko to see time with Stastny a chance to see it in action.
As reported by Jeremy Rutherford on twitter, the lines at today's morning skate were as follows:
This is the first time Yak is seeing top line work, and he is paired with fellow youngster Fabbri. This could be a big line to watch, as both Fabbri and Yakupov have major scoring ability and they are paired with the best set up man on the team in Stastny.
Steen is not longer a top line winger, he has been moved down to the second line between the returning Schwartz and Tarasenko. It will be an interesting look. No one knows how much rust Schwartz may have or how close to 100% he will be when he takes the ice. Steen is a natural winger, but has played enough time at center to be comfortable. Steen isn't an assist machine like Stastny or Lehtera, but Tarasenko has played with him before. There are those of you who should remember the S in the STL line before Schwartz was Steen. (mind you the moniker came after Steen's departure)
The 3rd line has taken a hit, in my opinion. Any time a major scoring talent like Yakupov is removed you immediately lose potential. This line looks much more bump and grind than it did a few games ago when it was the speedy Magnus Paajarvi and Yak on the wings. I am not saying I prefer to see Magnus over Perron (that is laughable) but the style of play will be much different with the more physical players taking the ice.
The 4th line remains intact. This line will get a shot in the arm with the return of Brodziak. While it is not a powerful scoring line, it is strong on board play and puck possession. Once they get the puck in deep they swarm to keep it there, even if not generating many shots on goal.
As Hitch often does, the look we see today will likely not be the same as we see in the future. He is an old school coach who uses his eyes instead of the numbers when making lines. He has made some real winners and some real stinkers in the past. I feel it may be too soon to bring Yak into the top line. He may need more time to acclimate before he is thrown to the wolves again like he was in the past. It is much easier to be a 3rd line folk hero than it is to be a productive first liner. He has the skill, and maybe he will seize the opportunity.
There is also a chance the 3rd line could produce. Berglund seems to be at home playing the cycle where he can use his large frame to out work others along the boards. Jaskin also seems to excel in the cycle with his large body. Perron, who will be the smallest on the line is still a physical player, if he can avoid penalties.
This injury will give the Blues time early in the season to mix their line and see who plays best with who. The glaring weakness this injury has revealed is the lack of depth at center. The Blues can run with Steen for the time being, but his home is on the wing. They could bring up a player from the minors, like Barbashev, who is a true center. Only time will tell how the lines shake out and just how long Jori will be gone. Drop in the comments below and tell us what line combinations you want to see.