Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Barbashev Pencilling in as Top-Line Center for Blues

21-year-old Ivan Barbashev looks to be heading into his first NHL playoff game as a top-line center. According to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Russian practiced between Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz on the top line on Tuesday due to the absence of Paul Stastny, who has been out since March 21 with a lower body injury.

Barbashev has put up 12 points in 30 games since his call-up in St. Louis to go with 19 goals and 37 points with AHL Chicago and he is excited about a change in fortune that has seen him go from a fourth-liner in the minors last season to his current perch on the Blues depth chart.

"To be honest, I'm really excited," Barbashev said, "especially with those guys in the playoffs. It's awesome. I don't know, just really happy about it and I'm looking (forward) to the first playoff game."

The firing of Ken Hitchcock and subsequent hiring of Mike Yeo seems to have given Barbashev a new lease on life within the organization. He was asked to give his thoughts on this subject in an interview that he gave in Russian in March, but wisely declined to say that Hitchcok had it in for him.

That said, Barbashev, a second-round pick (33rd overall) in the 2014 draft, is not shy about sharing his enthusiasm for Yeo's coaching.

"Yeah, he's been doing that since he was here and it's awesome to be honest," Barbashev said. "He gave us a chance and we're just trying to improve."

The move means that Alexander Steen will likely slide down to the third line with Vladimir Sobotka and Jori Lehtera.

Barbashev was first moved to the top line ahead of the Blues' April 6th contest against the Panthers. He played a career-high 19:47 in the Blues penultimate regular season game and has two points in the three games.