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At the Rink: Blues at Flyers

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko enters Monday against the Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET; FS-MW, CSN-PH) with goals in five straight games, the longest of his NHL career. But Blues (20-10-4) coach Ken Hitchcock said he thinks his star right wing can be even better.

Tarasenko has five goals and four assists in his past five games. His 21 goals are tied for second in the NHL, one behind the Dallas Stars' Jamie Benn, and he's tied for fifth in the League with 36 points.

"I actually don't think he's hot," Hitchcock said. "I think he's just playing good. I don't think he's hot yet. I've seen him when he's hot, where everything looks like it's going in. What he is now is consistent and timely. His timing, his consistency, his ability to score big goals at the right time ... I think that's what his strength is right now. He's not hot yet."

Tarasenko said he doesn't feel any differently than he has in the past and that his focus is making his present play the norm.

"Just feel like I need to work harder to keep playing at the same level," he said. "I just do my job. All the work and credit to my linemates."

Hitchcock said he believes Tarasenko really will get rolling offensively as his defensive play improves.

"He's going to get hot because he's starting to see the value of 200 feet and it's making him more dangerous," Hitchcock said. "... You see some of the stuff he does checking-wise; he makes guys make big errors and gets pucks turned over. That's when he's going to get hot. For a high-scoring player he doesn't get a lot of odd-man rushes. He's going to get those if he continues to check like that. He's committed, he's good. He's really matured as a player for two years now. He's got a real dynamic two-way game going right now and that's what's going to make him more effective."

The Flyers (14-12-7) are unbeaten in regulation in three straight games (2-0-1) party because of strong play from the line of center Sean Couturier, left wing Jakub Voracek and right wing Wayne Simmonds. They've combined for four goals and 10 points since being put together Dec. 15 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"I think we're three big bodies that can control the puck pretty well," Couturier said. "Once we get control of the puck offensively it's hard to get it away from us. Even if we don't get scoring chances right away, just by controlling the puck down low it gets opponents tired as the game goes on and it's tough to play against us."

The big change with that line was the move of Voracek to left wing for the first time. He had one goal in 30 games at right wing.

"These guys are smarter players," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "They can make different adjustments and Jake made that adjustment to the left side pretty quickly. And chemistry is a funny thing. It comes and goes. With these three guys there was some success early and they've continued it."

Goalie Steve Mason will make his third straight start for the Flyers. Goalie Jake Allen will start for the Blues after Brian Elliott played Saturday against the Calgary Flames.

Here are the projected lineups:


Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko

Magnus Paajarvi - David Backes - Troy Brouwer

Robby Fabbri - Jori Lehtera - Dmitrij Jaskin

Scottie Upshall - Scott Gomez - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko

Jake Allen

Brian Elliott

Injured: Patrik Berglund (shoulder), Jaden Schwartz (ankle), Steve Ott (hamstring), Kyle Brodziak (lower body)

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Jordan Caron


Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Brayden Schenn

Jakub Voracek - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds

Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan White

Matt Read - Scott Laughton - R.J. Umberger

Michael Del Zotto - Radko Gudas

Shayne Gostisbehere - Luke Schenn

Nick Schultz - Evgeny Medvedev

Steve Mason

Michal Neuvirth

Injured: Mark Streit (groin), Sam Gagner (upper body)

Scratched: Vincent Lecavalier, Brandon Manning

Status report: Hitchcock said Caron, who was recalled from Chicago of the American Hockey League on Sunday, will play Tuesday at the Boston Bruins. Gomez won't play the second game of the back-to-back. ... Edmundson was recalled Sunday along with Caron, and defenseman Petteri Lindbohm was sent to the AHL. Hitchcock said he's hoping to see the AHL version of Edmundson in the NHL. "Sometimes when you're in the NHL and you're a young player and not sure you belong all the time, you have a tendency to play more cautious," Hitchcock said. "We wanted to get him back in the NHL playing reckless like he does in the AHL. He played great the last three games in Chicago and if he's going to continue to play at that pace he'll be a great asset for us."... Berglund, who isn't expected back from offseason shoulder surgery until January, took part in drills at the morning skate but is not cleared for contact. ... Simmonds missed the morning skate but Hakstol said it was a maintenance day and that Simmonds will be in the lineup.

Who's hot: Steen has one goal and five assists during a three-game point streak. ... Voracek has two goals and four assists during a season-long four-game point streak.


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