Blues enter second half on fire and in first place
ST. LOUIS - The defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues, winners of 12 of their last 17, are firmly in the driver's seat in the Central Division as they exit the All-Star break and move into the unofficial second half of the season.
Through 49 games played, the Blues have accumulated 68 points, six more than the second-place Colorado Avalanche. Winning streaks of 8 and 4 games in December and January have propelled them to the best record in the Western Conference.
The Blues' success has come in the absence of star forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who has been out of the lineup with a shoulder injury since Oct. 24. The Russian sensation has been terrifying the Central Division for years, leading St. Louis with 33 goals throughout last season's championship season and contributing 11 more during their playoff run.
Tarasenko underwent surgery on Oct. 29, and has been on long-term injured reserve ever since. He hopes to return near the end of the regular season, and is expected to be back for the playoffs.
Once the 28-year-old star returns, he will add to a lineup that is scoring the tenth-most goals per game in the NHL without him. The Blues have relied on their depth in his absence, with five players - forwards David Perron, Ryan O'Reilley, Brayden Schenn, and Jaden Schwartz, and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo - having scored 40 or more points so far this year.
The Blues will open their post-All-Star Break schedule with a four-game Canadian road trip to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg. They're likely to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs - the best non-playoff teams, the Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets, are 14 points behind St. Louis - but the Blues look to maintain the top seed in the West as the season inches closer to April.