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Tarasenko driving success of Blues with all-around play

Forward has 13 goals in 15 games to help St. Louis turn season around

by Lou Korac / NHL.com Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- A change in Vladimir Tarasenko's mindset has translated into a change of fortune for the St. Louis Blues.

Known for his offensive abilities since joining the NHL for the 2012-13 season, Tarasenko has played more of a 200-foot game during the past three months.

It's helped the Blues to an nine-game winning streak, their longest since winning nine straight in 2002-03. They can set the record when they visit the Minnesota Wild on Sunday in a nationally televised game as part of NBC's Hockey Day in America coverage (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN).

 

[RELATED: Tarasenko extends streak, Blues shut out Avalanche for ninth win in row]

 

The Blues were last in the NHL on Jan. 2 with 34 points in 37 games. They are 30-22-5 and in third place in the Central Division with 65 points, five ahead of the Wild, who hold the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference and have played one more game.

"The atmosphere is unreal," Tarasenko said. "I'm proud to be here right now. We enjoy our time together. I say this all the time, but it's true right now."

It has been a stunning turnaround in St. Louis, one epitomized by Tarasenko's success.

"He's got confidence in that stick, whatever stick he's got, he's made the most of it," said Blues goalie Jake Allen, a teammate of Tarasenko's since 2012. "He's scoring at key times, which is even more impressive. He's really doing his job and he's got confidence in his stick. When he does that, he's tough to stop."

Tarasenko, riding an NHL career-high 11-game point streak (19 points; 10 goals, nine assists), has 48 points (25 goals, 23 assists) in 56 games this season. He had 11 goals and 22 points in his first 37 games, one reason why the Blues were last in the standings.

Video: STL@ARI: Tarasenko whips home second on power play

The 27-year-old right wing is playing on one of the hottest lines in the NHL with center Ryan O'Reilly and left wing Brayden Schenn. The three have combined for 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) in their past nine games.

"We try to create some offense," Tarasenko said. "Sometimes from our effort, sometimes from just simple plays. You know it gives us some success and we try to do it more. Brayden and Ryan are good players and when we put a puck deep, we have a chance to get it back. So that's what we try to do."

Tarasenko is checking to retrieve pucks, is defensively responsible, playing angry and playing in unison with his teammates. It's leading to offense, but it's his all-around game that's impressing teammates.

They have also noticed a rise in confidence, which may have coincided in a return to full health for Tarasenko, who had shoulder surgery on April 11 and was sidelined until the start of training camp.

"I don't know how you play him," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "When he gets moving like that, he's tough to stop.

"Pretty impressive. We're going to need him to keep doing that. He's on a roll."

Tarasenko has scored 13 of his 24 goals in the past 15 games, including one in a 3-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

Video: STL@COL: Tarasenko extends point streak with goal

He looks refreshed, energized and, without admitting it was ever an issue, injury-free. He once again is displaying one of the quickest shot releases in the NHL, which is bad news for opposing goalies.

The goals and points are nice for Tarasenko, who has 398 points (203 goals, 195 assists) in 477 NHL games. But as the Blues climb the NHL standings and advance toward a berth in the postseason, winning is the only thing on his mind.

"It's an important time of the year for us," Tarasenko said. "It's time to step up like all our leaders and everybody else in this locker room. We want to get in the playoffs, so that's what we're playing for."

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