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Hitch says we’re ‘starting to see the maturity’ in Tarasenko

ST. LOUIS (AP) Vladimir Tarasenko is known for his goal-scoring ability. Now he’s starting to show other parts of his game.

Tarasenko had a goal and two assists and Alex Pietrangelo scored the go-ahead goal as the St. Louis Blues beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Jori Lehtera, Nail Yakupov and Patrik Berglund also scored for the Blues, who overcame an early two-goal deficit. Jake Allen made 24 saves as St. Louis improved to 13-1-3 on home ice.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Tarasenko is showing an all-around game.

“The part that was good for me was in the third period, he competed defensively,” Hitchcock said. “That’s a big step. He was willing to work for the next goal if it came, and I think that’s just maturity in a player. I think you’re starting to see the maturity in a player, which is a really good sign for this franchise.”

Adam Henrique and Miles Wood scored for the Devils, while Cory Schneider made 26 saves. New Jersey’s losing streak is at a season-high four games and the Devils dropped their seventh straight game against St. Louis.

Henrique gave the Devils a 1-0 lead with a short-handed goal at 7:39 of the first period. Tarasenko whiffed on a shot from the point for the Blues, sending Henrique and Travis Zajac in on a 2-on-1.

Wood scored 4 minutes later to give the Devils a 2-0 lead. Wood put it in an open net after Henrique’s initial shot went wide and caromed off the boards in front of the net.

Tarasenko got the Blues on the board when he scored his second goal in three games on the power play with 2:54 left in the first period. Brad Hunt got an assist and has a point in all four games with the Blues since being called up from the AHL on Dec. 8.

“I thought the one that got us going was the first goal,” Hitchcock said. “He’s (Tarasenko) not feeling great, he’s on for both goals, and then to get one back on the power play kind of just brought us back. To me, we were off and running after that goal.”

Schneider said Tarasenko has one of the best shots in the league.

“He can hold his stick up high, he can look you off or just shoot it at a moment’s notice without any windup or anything like that,” Schneider said. “He’s always been a tough guy to play against and to read and he’s obviously one of the premier players in the league.”

Lehtera deflected a shot by Robby Fabbri for the Blues at 2:05 of the second period to tie it 2-2. It was Lehtera’s fourth goal of the season and first since Nov. 22 at Boston.

Tarasenko found Pietrangelo through the back door for an even strength goal to give the Blues a 3-2 lead at 7:45 of the second period.

“Not a set play, but 4-on-4 is more of a creative game,” Tarasenko said. “We have really good players like Alex and he can read the game well so if he gets open its easier to get the puck to him.”

The three-point night gave Tarasenko 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in his last five games.

“When you shoot the way he does, goalies and d-men really have to respect it,” Pietrangelo said. “It opens up a lot of seams.”

Yakupov made it 4-2 in the third period with his this third goal of the season and first since Oct. 20.

Tarasenko has 22 assists through 31 games and is on pace for a career-high 58.

St. Louis tightened defensively, holding the Devils without a shot for the first 11:23 of the second period.

 

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.