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Can Vladimir Tarasenko breakthrough for Blues in Game 2?

Ken Hitchcock asked the assembled media how many minutes Vladimir Tarasenko played in Game 1 of the St. Louis Blues’ series against the Dallas Stars. 

The answer: 21 minutes, 4 seconds.

“Oh, did he? Quite a bit, eh? Can we maybe shut that story up now?” asked Hitchcock.

This was an all-too-obvious reference to the controversy that roared in the Blues’ opening-round win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Fans fretted over Tarasenko’s ice time. Hitchcock explained the reasons behind it, and the basic message was “leave the driving to me.”

Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Jori Lehtera were shut down in the Stars’ Game 1 win. Tarasenko as a plus-1 with seven shot attempts and played 19:38 at even strength, tops among Blues forwards.

So how did the Stars contain the 40-goal scorer?

The line of Radek Faksa, Antoine Roussel and Ales Hemsky appeared to get the majority of the ice time against the Blues’ top line. And while top defensive pairing Alex Goligoski and John Klingberg held their own, it was Kris Russell and Jason Demers that Dallas tried to get out there against Tarasenko.

"Well, obviously he's the one guy that we got a radar on, that we know when he's out there, we want to make sure we don't give him much ice, and I thought for the most part we didn't make any mistakes that allowed any big rush plays when he was out there," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Tarasenko, via NHL.com.

"We closed fast on him inside the zone. We went after him physically and he's a tough guy to knock off his feet, but I thought we played him as hard as we could when he came to the physical front."

Dallas gets the last line change again in Game 2 as the home team. Hitchcock vowed to do what it takes to get his best offensive weapon firing, as the Blues try to avoid an 0-2 hole before heading back to St. Louis.

“We anticipated this,” Hitchcock said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We made really good adjustments in the last series and we’ve got to make them again. We need to recognize what’s happening and then make the adjustments accordingly. It’s not so much breaking free, it’s just understanding where the pressure’s coming from and how you react from there.”

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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