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Tarasenko says he has no problem with Blues

St. Louis forward, general manager Armstrong claim relationship is fine

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko said Tuesday there are no issues between him and the organization.

"It's never been even talked about," Tarasenko said. "We have really good relationships. [The] media just likes to talk. They have to talk about little stuff that's happened. They start talking about it big. They start to talk about problems between me and the Blues. Now it's never been a problem. If there was going to be problems, I would not sign for eight years."

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet told Sportsnet 960 in Calgary on May 24 that there was speculation that members of the Blues organization were not happy with Tarasenko.

Tarasenko signed an eight-year, $60 million contract with the Blues on July 7. He had nine goals and 15 points in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games but scored two goals in the Blues' six-game loss to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final. They came in the third period of Game 6 and were his only points of the series.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said Tuesday he's never had any problem with Tarasenko.

"I just heard about that recently. I've never felt that," Armstrong said. "He's a competitive player. He wants to win.

Video: STL@SJS, Gm6: Tarasenko tallies twice in 3rd period

"When we signed him for eight years, he and I had a conversation about why he was signing here. ... Is he happy with the coach every day? I would doubt it. Is the coach happy with him every day? I would doubt it. But I'm not sure if in any sport everybody gets along every day. There's the respect level that at the end of the day, when the dust settles, it has to be there. I met with [Tarasenko] and I know that respect level is here.

"I have zero issues that he's not 100 percent committed to taking this to the next level. He's 100 percent committed to the city of St. Louis and the Blues organization and our fans. He's 24 years old. He learned a lot about the NHL over the last six weeks. He learned how the game evolves as the teams get clicked off. He's going to be way better for it and these are learning things that you go through. I view everything that happened this year to [Tarasenko] as a great success, a great learning situation."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who signed a one-year contract for next season on Tuesday, also said he has no problems with Tarasenko.

"The playoffs are all about finding fault in people," Hitchcock said. "[Tarasenko] didn't have a good Game 5 [against San Jose] and neither did a few other players, but he was our best forward in Games 4 and 6 by a mile. We played great in Game 4, he had five scoring chances. He was on the ice for seven. He had two goals and six scoring chances in Game 6.

"He's like any other top player. When they're not having success there's a level of frustration. And the only thing that can change the level of frustration is maturity. We want them to score but then we want them to grow up quick. It's hard to do. It's very difficult. ... We all love how competitive he is. There aren't many players that have a burning desire to score that are in the National Hockey League like he does and having to learn to deal with the notoriety part of it. You've just got to buy time because it's going to happen."

Tarasenko led the Blues with 40 goals and 74 points during the regular season. He did not speak to the media during the players' exit interviews Saturday.

"I just want to say [Saturday] I wasn't ready to talk and was too frustrated, too upset, too [angry] about our loss," Tarasenko said. "I don't want to give you guys hard time to talk with me because I was so mad. I'm ready to talk now."

Tarasenko said he feels he could have done more against the Sharks.

"More days you don't play hockey, the more you recognize how close you've been to Stanley Cup Final," he said. "It's a bad experience, but it's still experience for us. A lot of guys from our team have never been there, never been this far in the playoffs. It's good to have this experience in your life because you know now what it takes to go this deep and give you a chance to prepare better and go for it next time."

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