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Vladimir Tarasenko A Trade Deadline Winner for Florida Panthers

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Anton Lundell and Vladimir Tarasenko celebrate a goal earlier this season in Sunrise. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

FORT LAUDERDALE — From the moment he walked into the Florida Panthers locker room, Vladimir Tarasenko made himself at home.

The 32-year-old winger could be found in all corners of the locker room talking hockey with anyone he could find.

“It’s a very good group of guys,” Tarasenko told FHN. “It’s fun in the room. The team works hard and plays hard for a chance to compete for a Stanley Cup. It’s a really, really cool group of guys and I’ve really enjoyed it.

“I think the most important thing is when everyone puts the team first, especially in the playoffs, that’s what makes things work. I feel like to have a successful team, you have to have good relationships inside of the team and this team has it and it has obviously made my transition easier. They were very friendly and it has helped me a lot when I came in.”

Since arriving in Sunrise, Tarasenko has maintained the same mentality, which has resulted in instant chemistry with whomever he has played with.

Tarasenko has six goals and 13 points in 18 games since the trade.

After fully settling in, he has four goals and 10 points in his past 11 games.

Whether it’s been on a line with stars Sasha Barkov and Sam Reinhart or youngsters Anton Lundell and Eetu Luostarinen, he has made it work.

“They’re good players,” Tarasenko said. “They’re very smart.

“Whatever line you play with, you can talk it out and try to make some plays. Of course, it takes time to learn where guys are going and what they’re doing during the game and just learning the system but I think the most important thing is communication and being open-mined when you talk about plays and enjoy playing.”

Tarasenko likes to communicate a lot.

“The starting point is that he is a yakker about hockey,” coach Paul Maurice said. “He and Sasha Barkov are talking from the time the whistle blows until they get to the bench and on the bench and in practice, and Sam Reinhart is on it.

“Part of his personality that would come out is that he loves the game. He loves talking about hockey and he laughs. We got a real good group of guys in that we can take a 22-year-old to a 38-year-old, fit him in and he will find somebody to connect with. The older guys get to make jokes about the kids running around the room and doing a bunch of silly stuff, but there’s a place for everybody in our room.”

Perhaps one of the biggest benefactors to Tarasenko’s personality is one of those kids is 10 years his junior.

Tarasenko’s locker in the team’s practice facility in Fort Lauderdale has been right next to Anton Lundell.

From the moment Tarasenko was traded there, Lundell, 22, has taken full advantage.

Without fail, the two of them can be found chatting with Lundell looking to draw any knowledge from the six-time 30-goal scorer.

“It’s pretty cool,” Lundell said. “I grew up watching him and I knew how good he was. He was one of the best goal-scorers, one of the best players in the league when I grew up.

“I’m trying to talk a lot and ask a lot of questions. I’m trying to see how he prepares, how he plays, how he practices. It’s the reason why he has been in the league this long and has been a good player.”

Even with the two players sharing the ice on the same line in a game briefly before injuries bumped Tarasenko up to Barkov’s line, the knowledge seems to have rubbed off on the 22-year-old.

Lundell has four goals and six points in seven games in April and looks as confident as ever.

“It may be because of our talks,” Tarasenko joked. “But I don’t know.

“They put us together, he’s a nice person and I really appreciate guys who are polite and nice. Everyone on the team is like this, but we talk a lot in the mornings, not only about hockey but life. It’s interesting to get to know each other a little more and I am enjoying those conversations.”

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  • This Season (Leafs Lead 2-1) — At Florida: Panthers 3, Leafs 1 (Oct. 19); Tuesday. At Toronto: Leafs 2, Panthers 1 (Nov. 28); Leafs 6, Panthers 4 (April 1).
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  • All-time Regular Season Series: Toronto leads 50-37-7, 7 ties
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  • Up Next for the Panthers: GAME 1, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals; TBA

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