ST. LOUIS — Vladimir Tarasenko's transition to the NHL cleared another positive hurdle Monday when the St. Louis Blues winger was named the league's Rookie of the Month.
Tarasenko leads the Blues in scoring with five goals and 10 points in his first eight NHL games. He also has a five-game scoring streak and won Rookie of the Month honors thanks to his five goals and nine points in seven January games.
Goals like the one Tarasenko scored last week against Columbus are attracting more and more attention, making him an early favorite for Rookie of the Year.
The talented Russian winger used a move where he stopped quickly, then avoided a Columbus defenseman before snapping a wrist shot past stunned Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
"That's a goal-scorer's goal," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, impressed that Tarasenko changed his stick angle on the shot. "I know everybody thought the goalie could have stopped it, but the goalie thought it was going the other way.
"When you look at it closely, he changed the angle on his stick and when you talk to our goalies, that's what's surprising to them. For such a young player he does mature things."
The 21-year-old made his NHL debut Jan. 19 and became the second player in Blues history to score two goals in his first game in a 6-0 victory over Detroit,
Doug Palazzari is the only other Blues player with that distinction, scoring two goals in his NHL debut in 1974-75.
Tarasenko added one goal and three points in his second game, becoming the first Blues rookie in nearly 35 years to rack up five points in his first two games.
Tarasenko was the Blues' first-round draft pick (16th overall) in 2010.
"I think he's the winner in a really close race," Hitchcock said when asked about Tarasenko winning the league's top rookie honor. "We're real happy for him, but he's just been a good player since Day 1 for us. Not just the scoring part of it, but his overall play's been very sound and very dependable.
"He plays 14 minutes a night. For a guy in his first year in the league, that's pretty good minutes."
Also considered for the NHL award were Tampa Bay center Cory Conacher (three goals, nine points in six games, Edmonton center Nail Yakupov (our foals, five points in seven games), Edmonton defenseman Justin Schultz (two goals, five points in seven games) and Montreal center Alex Galchenyuk (one goal, five points in six games).
A home game Tuesday against the Nashville Predators kicks off an extremely busy seven-game stretch by the Blues that will see the club play every other day between now and Feb. 17. February features 12 games in 28 days, including seven at home.
"Playing every second night probably puts us in playoff mode here for the next three weeks," Hitchcock said. "I think we'll get a real good evaluation of where we're at."
The Blues' four-game homestand won't be easy. Up first is Nashville for the third time this season, followed by Detroit, Anaheim and defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles.
Home has been a great place for the Blues, who are 3-0 at Scottrade Center while outscoring opponents 14-4.
"It seems like all four teams are really competitive, hard to play against teams," Hitchcock said. "These are all tough teams. I'm more looking at our response, how are we going to respond to some heavy, hard hockey played at a very high level.
"I think our players are excited about getting this thing going."
Around the rink
Blues veteran defenseman Wade Redden was hit in the head with a deflected shot Monday and left practice early.
"He got a few stitches, but he'll be ready for tomorrow," Hitchcock said.