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Tarasenko focused on Blues' success more than his

Forward closing in on NHL career-high goals

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- Vladimir Tarasenko has scored at least 30 goals in back-to-back seasons and has a chance in the final 15 games to surpass his NHL career-high of 37.

But don't talk to the St. Louis Blues forward about personal success. To him, it's all about the team. Winning means everything.

"I'm not thinking about it right now," Tarasenko said. "It's thanks to my teammates to let me do this [for a] second year in a row."

Tarasenko, who scored his 30th goal March 1 at the Ottawa Senators, said he has his focus solely on Wednesday, when the Blues play the Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports).

Tarasenko was one of the St. Louis players who took it the hardest when the Blues were eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season.

Video: STL@OTT: Tarasenko snaps one in off the post

"At the end of the day, we were out in the first round of the playoffs last year (by the Minnesota Wild) and nobody will ever remember [personal success] again," Tarasenko said. "I'm focused now on our team success. We have one goal here, everybody."

That goal is winning the Stanley Cup, something Tarasenko, who has 96 goals and 190 points in 244 NHL regular-season games, immediately spoke of when he signed the richest contract in Blues history (seven years, $60 million) this summer.

With each highlight-reel goal he scores, Tarasenko offers reasons he is worthy of being in the conversation with Russian forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.

"His offense is dynamic as anyone I've ever played with, and probably more than anyone I've ever been on the ice with," Blues captain David Backes said. "It's great to have him on our team. When he gets the puck inside the blue line, I wish he'd shoot more because he's that lethal. If he gets it on net, it's got a great chance. ... You just smile and laugh when he's got it and he's able to let it go."

The Blues have come to love Tarasenko's character. As long as the commitment level remains high and the production remains, the star qualities will continue to grow.

Video: STL@FLA: Tarasenko swoops in and rips home rebound

"He's consistent in the fact that he's getting a goal pretty much every second game," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I think the thing that surprises me is that with all the scoring chances he's getting, he hasn't had as many multiple-goal games as I thought he would (two this season). ... I thought there would be more multiple goals.

"I think there's still that opportunity. I still think he's going to break out with a two- or three-goal game for three or four games in a row because he's got that many chances to score, and hopefully he keeps it up. The other thing he's doing is skating real well in the offensive zone, and when he plays at that tempo and at that pace, that's a good thing."

Much of Tarasenko's success has come from playing on the "STL Line" that includes former KHL teammate Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz, who was selected two picks ahead of Tarasenko (Nos. 12 and 14) in the 2010 NHL Draft.

"We understand each other, Jaden, Jori and me," Tarasenko said. "It's always nice to play with somebody for a long time. You get to know your linemates better and can create more plays."

A native of Yaroslavl, Russia, Tarasenko and his father, Andrei, would watch highlights on a nightly basis at 11:55 p.m. in Russia because five minutes was all the allotted time given for the NHL.

Tarasenko is close friends with Artemi Panarin of the Blackhawks and Evgeny Kuznetzov of the Washington Capitals, and plays with many Russians in international competition and against them in the NHL. Tarasenko said it's easy to root for his countrymen as long as they're not on opposite ends of the ice.

"All I'm thinking about is just I'm happy when Russian guys have success that play on other teams," Tarasenko said. "They're all really good guys. You can't be jealous. When somebody has success, I'm just happy for them. I wish them more, but when you go on the ice, there's no friends on the ice."

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