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Tarasenko feeling good after arduous road back from shoulder injury

The Blues' sniper is back and ready to go as the defending champs start their quest to repeat

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. — By his own admission, Vladimir Tarasenko said it was hard.

How could it not be?

After suffering from a dislocated left shoulder Oct. 24 against the Los Angeles Kings, the Blues' leading goal scorer the past five seasons knew something was wrong.

How? Because he'd been through something similar before.

And when the diagnosis was confirmed and Tarasenko having surgery Oct. 29 and facing the possibility of a long rehab and possibly -- at the time -- faced with the prospect of missing the rest of the regular season after playing only 10 games was hard on the Russian winger.

"It was hard in the start. I'm not going to lie," Tarasenko said Thursday after the Blues' third practice under Phase 3 of the NHL's Return to Play Plan. "I wasn't watching some hockey right after I get injured because it was really hard to watch. I know there was a long, long rehab ahead of me, but thanks to my doctors, therapists and everybody that worked with me in my rehab. They helped me a lot, but mostly to my wife and kids. I don't know what I (was) going to do if I was single, but they really helped me to not get frustrated. They always support me. Just going step by step, get excited from little progress and now we're here. 

"Everything is in the past. Sometimes it was really hard, but now I'm skating with the team and I'm excited about it and I don't have to think about this anymore."

Now, Tarasenko, who had 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 10 games this season, looks like he hasn't missed a beat. The puck comes off his stick as quick as ever on that lethal wrister, he's skating quicker and playing both sides of the ice. 

"He looks great," Blues coach Craig Berube said of Tarasenko. "He's shooting the puck really well, skating well and I'm sure he feels really good with that much time off, the healing process and everything and the strength. He's in a good spot."

Blues forward Ivan Barbashev also said Tarasenko, "looks great. His shot is still on a top level, skating fast and he's on top of his game right now."

Tarasenko said he was ready to return for the Blues in March, and it was thought he would return against the Florida Panthers on March 21, but to get these extra four months to fully heal, recover and rehab was a blessing in disguise.

"It's not about get ready, I was ready before the break," Tarasenko said. "I was like 5-7 days before playing a game, but it's nice to just make sure everything is in place. I have a lot of time to think about everything. Mostly I was excited for spending time with family. Now we're with the teammates here every day. It's been really nice, it's been a couple emotional practices, fast-paced, but everybody have fun working together finally. 

"We're just preparing for something big. The biggest challenge in the NHL is playoffs, so we're going to start a new season with playoffs from the break, which is nice. Everybody understand how important it is and everybody understand we have to be ready to go right away. Just do what we can to prepare and play our best in the playoffs."

During his down time, Tarasenko's wife, Yana, posted on Instagram her husband bench-pressing her above his shoulders. It's the kind of down time people need during these unprecedented times.

"It's like a special workout," Tarasenko joked. "It's something fun you have to do through quarantine. My wife had an idea. I just worked (with) her. It's not my every day routine but sometimes you can do this."

It was a good reprieve for Tarasenko to get away from thinking about life around him and how it's affected not only him but the planet.

"I think especially with this virus situation, I think everybody is supposed to think what's important to them in life," Tarasenko said. "Sometimes you just rethink about your thoughts, about life and now myself, I just understand the most important thing is everybody in your family is healthy and you can't ask for more. A lot of conversations, a lot of playing with kids. Just get ready mentally for playing some games. My family helped me with it and my teammates were helping me too. Now I'm here. I hope there's not going to be these long breaks anymore and we can play some hockey.

"I feel fine. Like you guys said, I had like 8-9 months to practice, so I've been skating a while." 

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