How many more injuries to star players can the St. Louis Blues take if they want to remain competitive in the cutthroat Central Division?
Patrik Berglund's shoulder surgery has him out until the New Year. Young gun Robby Fabbri is concussed. Paul Stastny broke his foot. Jaden Schwartz broke his ankle.
And yet, none of those significant injuries holds a candle to the potential dagger the Blues were dealt Thursday night.
In the second period of St. Louis' home tilt with Anaheim, checking center Shawn Horcoff collided with the Blues' prized asset, the $7.5-million dollar man: Vladimir Tarasenko. Gulp. The scariest part about the blow is that the impact got Tarasenko high, near the head, and low, knee on knee, all at once.
Thanks to GIF dynamo Stephanie Vail, we have multiple angles of the hit. Here's one:
The good news: Tarasenko returned for the third period and Blues Nation sighed with collective relief. That doesn't mean Horcoff's hit is exempt from supplemental discipline, however. That Tarasenko wasn't seriously hurt and that Horcoff wasn't penalized has nothing to do with the Department of Player Safety's decision to suspend a player or not, and injuries only affect sentencing after discipline is decided upon.
So was the hit clean?
The most concerning angle, I'd argue, is the second one, and more the elbow than the knee contact. Horcoff's elbow appears to separate from his body and target Tarasenko high. But watch the "ripple" just above Tarasenko's logo after the impact. It appears the contact is to the upper chest, not the head.
The educated guess here is Horcoff gets off without any supplemental discipline. Close, but an acceptable hit. And just a reminder, the fact Horcoff has never been suspended doesn't make him safer. Past history would only come into play after a decision to suspend and would only affect sentencing.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin