Thursday, February 12, 2015

Jaskin making most of opportunity to stay in NHL

Power forward has seven goals for Blues, four 
game-winners; patience paid off playing in AHL

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Once the puck was played ahead to him, Dmitrij Jaskin instinctively knew what to do.

The rest was history.

Jaskin, the Blues' second round pick in 2011, chipped the puck past Arizona defenseman Keith Yandle, was able to thwart off Lauri Korpikoski and throw a backhand at Mike Smith that the Coyotes goalie couldn't handle.

As the puck squirted through to give the Blues a 2-1 lead Tuesday that they never would relinquish, it was then that Jaskin, 21, could appreciate.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Dmitrij Jaskin (23) battles with Arizona's Brendan Shinnimon for a loose
puck along the boards Tuesday. Jaskin scored a goal in the Blues' 2-1 win. 

It was the Omsk, Russia native's fourth game-winning goal of his seven on the season, and for Jaskin, patience paid off in a big way.

After being one of the final cuts out of training camp in October, when coach Ken Hitchcock broke the news to Jaskin that he would be going to the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves, naturally Jaskin was upset and disappointed.

But instead of pouting, he took the challenge and motivated himself to being a better player and when called upon again, give the Blues' coaching staff every reason to believe the 6-foot-2, (listed at) 196-pound forward deserved to stick.

"It's always good and you get motivation. You just want to be here," said Jaskin, who has 13 points (seven goals) in 27 games. "You do everything you can to get back. I played a lot, I think that's a big factor and get the confidence back. It makes your game better. I just see positive things in that and happy to be here."

Jaskin's recent success coincides with playing alongside partners Paul Stastny and Patrik Berglund.

The three play a hard, physical, cycling the puck game that's hard to imagine whoever the opponent is going against them, they're not worn out by the end of the shift.

When the line is effective controlling the puck and keeping the opposition deep in their own zone, it gives the Blues three bonafide lines that can score.

"He's more comfortable and playing with two guys that have been playing here for a while now," Berglund said of Jaskin. "He's been getting comfortable and the puck is going in. I'm sure it boosts his confidence.

"He's pretty responsible. When you've got a pretty big body, I think he's using it the right way to protect the puck. We're grinding the corners and that tires the other team out and after that, we start to cycle. We've been together now for some time and with everybody healthy, it's been a good line. We're creating a lot of chances and building some energy. So far, it's a good line."

When Jaskin began his NHLcareer -- he scored his first NHL goal against Chicago last season -- there were hesitencies ad tendencies in his game that reflected his rookie status. And even at 21, Jaskin still has plenty to grow into that large frame of his.

"I think he's up to speed, where he's just playing hockey now, he's not thinking," Hitchcock said of Jaskin. "He's just playing. I think when you start to get that feeling where things take time to register, I think once you get past that then it's just read and react and I think that's exactly where he's at. Everything's automatic. You see some of the stuff he does now is the same stuff he did as a 19-year-old junior player. I view him as a guy that's getting better and better everyday. He's got weight, he's got size, he's 220-something pounds, he's coming at you with a lot of bulk. It's good for us."

Stastny called Jaskin's growth and ascension something that's not surprising. The line of communication has been open and will continue to do so.

"I guess from training camp to the first time he was called up to the second time he's been up since then, he's kind of put his head down and just gone to work," Stastny said. "He's listened to me, he's listened to other guys, especially when we're playing together. With him, he's so young, still learning and sometimes you've still got to talk to him. He's using his assets to the best of his capabilities, whether it's puck possession or taking it to the net. That's what makes him good and what makes him create chances, he's found that recipe and he's trying to replicate that out there.

"You've constantly got to talk to him. I've been in the league for nine years and sometimes, I get into bad habits. I need someone to ... whether it's my dad or whether it's a coach telling me something different, I think if I hear that all the time as a young person, you've got to constantly keep talking to him and never be satisfied."

Jaskin is playing in the top nine and has taken minutes away from some veteran guys sitting on the sidelines waiting in the wing, and one thing's for sure, with his patience and hard work, he's not about to let it go again.

"It comes with time," Jaskin said. "You get more confidence, especially with Paul and Bergie. They play well, too. It's a lot of factors.

"The most important things are make the strong play in our zone, their zone, don't force the pucks, be strong on the walls. That is probably the most important thing. ... It helps when you have the same type of guys. They're strong on pucks and you know what to expect from them."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Dmitrij Jaskin (right) battles with Arizona's Kyle Chipchura
for a loose puck on Tuesday. 

And now, Jaskin knows what's expected from him.

"With everything, it takes some time," Stastny said. "When you have all three guys working together, good things will happen. That's when you will be successful. You can't have two out of three guys. You need all three guys, whether it's all checking together or all cycling together and kind of going to the net together. That's the big thing we preach on is trying to create those turnovers, trying to forecheck, playing on your toes. If you're skating backwards, you might as well just get off the ice because we're going to be stuck in the D-zone. We're trying to and we're telling him to keep being aggressive."

"It's not necessarily making plays. I think he's just playing hard and simple," right wing T.J. Oshie said of Jaskin. "I think before, he was doing a little bit too much, kind of letting the play come to him. Now he's moving the puck and getting open. That line's got some good chemistry and they're fun to watch and they're definitely fun to follow up on the ice after because they wear guys down."

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