Right wing lone player chosen for the All-Star Game in Nashville
ST. LOUIS -- Vladmir Tarasenko couldn't contain himself when he was named as a first-time NHL All-Star last season.
The Blues' right wing, who was bestowed the honor of representing the Blues for a second straight season in Nashville which will be played out today with the 3-on-3 competition, repeated his immediate reactions after being informed by general manager Doug Armstrong.
They included phone calls to his father Andrei and grandfather Vladimir, who he was named after; the mood was reminiscent.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)
Right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (91) is the lone Blues representative at the
NHL All-Star Game this weekend in Nashville.
"Last year I was really happy and surprised when Doug called; same as this year," Tarasenko said. "All my family and me (are) proud to represent the Blues there. This is a big honor for me. This makes me to work harder to stay on the same level, especially because the last couple three weeks, this was kind of good news for me."
"They were happy and tell me the same stuff, that I need to work even harder now because players know you. You can't be the same player all the time."
Tarasenko, who was accompanied to Columbus for last season's festivities by teammates Kevin Shattenkirk and Brian Elliott, was part of the skills competition on Saturday at Nationwide Arena. He was selected by Central Division captain Patrick Kane as one of passers (along with Los Angeles' Drew Doughty) in the accuracy shooting, he was one of the one-timer shooters from the left circle and was involved in the shootout; he was stopped by Florida's Roberto Luongo in the first round of the shootout.
But when the competition is for keeps this afternoon and evening, when the Central Division takes on the Pacific Division, with the winner meeting the winner of the Metropolitan and Atlantic Divisions for a chance at a cool million, Tarasenko, who leads the Blues in goals (25) and points (46), is all-systems-go.
"Yeah, it's really fun, fun to play," Tarasenko said. "But you really need to be focused for 100 percent because if you lose your guy for a second, you can lose game. This is really fun for me."
Tarasenko admitted he was in awe last season with the surroundings of the All-Star festivities and didn't know what to expect. He's got company with his in Nashville and is making the most of being surrounded by so many great players around the league while his teammates have been away on mini vacations resting and relaxing.
"I think this year (is) little bit easier because now I know a couple players," Tarasenko said. "First year is always tough. Now, my wife come with me and my best friend from Russia. It will be a really happy time for him, too, to see all the players and hang out there. I'm just looking forward to staying a week in Nashville because we play there next game."
Tarasenko, after a breakout season of 37 goals and 73 points in 77 games with the Blues last season, isn't the unknown commodity anymore. He signed the richest contract in franchise history (8 years, $60 million, or $7.5 million in average annual salary last summer) and thrust himself into the light of other stars around the league.
There comes pressure to perform at a high level, and the 24-year-old has handled himself well.
"It's always like this, if you do something good, people learn you, especially as a forward," Tarasenko said. "If you go through this, you will always be a better player. That's what I try to do and I think it's been good."
Tarasenko's time in Nashville has been eased by having his wife and best friend with him, but the biggest regret is not having any of his Blues teammates with him. But since he has to go solo at it, he's focused on representing the organization well.
"It's pretty tough when you're by yourself from a team," he said. "'Shatty' and 'Ells' were there last year and we had great time together. We have a lot of good players and I'm really proud to represent all of them down there."