Kukla's Korner Hockey
The latest from Rick Gethin at Fox Sports Ohio regarding the Columbus Blue Jackets:
Ahead of Game 2, RJ Umberger is making his return to the lineup after being out with injury. Although he has been to the playoffs before, this is a big game for him. He's a Pittsburgh native that calls Columbus home now.
Columbus head coach Todd Richards was asked what he expects from Umberger in Game 2. "I'm expecting him to come out, play fast and play big. He's one guy, what he's done well consistently all year for our team is he's gone to the net and played hard at the net."
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Columbus Blue Jackets
When you're making just your second playoff appearance in franchise history, "dark horse" is a label that applies. If they are somehow able to take down the Metropolitan Division-winning Pittsburgh Penguins, we'll upgrade them to Cinderella status. Could it happen? When you have the defending Vezina Trophy-winning netminder in Sergei Bobrovsky, that's a good place to start....
Detroit Red Wings
When was the last time you heard "Detroit Red Wings" and "dark horse" in the same breath? Still, that's what they are, as they will face the NHL's top regular-season team, the Boston Bruins, in the first round. This has been a difficult season for the Red Wings, who have gone long stretches without top players Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Jimmy Howard. But a new generation of Red Wings has emerged, led by scoring sensation Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan, which has more than picked up the slack. With Datsyuk back in the lineup and Howard back to form after a rocky season, the Wings don't look like a wild-card team....
We're going to start charging Wild GM Chuck Fletcher for our services. The team has been on a tear since we wrote that the common belief was the Wild would boast the NHL's worst playoff goaltending and certainly the worst goaltending of the eight Western Conference playoff teams. The goaltending remains a potentially fatal flaw for a Wild team that has shaken off late-season stutters to play some of its best hockey of the season....
more on each of the three teams...
from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
The Jackets are hurting. Nathan Horton (abdominal surgery) is out. Nick Foligno (knee) and R.J. Umberger (upper body) are still mending. Among the three are 1,700 regular-season and 86 playoff games worth of experience. The youngest team in the league is missing its prime veteran forwards as the series gets underway. That is killer.
There is this notion that Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury — a former No. 1 overall draft pick who is in his prime — might somehow falter, and thus give the Jackets a chance. I don’t buy it.
<> Fleury is coming off one of the best regular seasons of his career. What is he going to be thinking about? That he has the worst playoff stats of any goaltender over the past 10 years? That he was so brutal, he lost his job in the middle of the first round last year? That he is somehow inferior to Bobrovsky?
Come on. That would be like saying the Penguins don’t like getting hit.
So, never mind that the Penguins have lost to a lower seed in each of the past four seasons. The Jackets don’t have a chance.
from Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
COLUMBUS, OHIO -- Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nathan Horton underwent surgery this morning to repair an abdominal injury, club General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced today. He is expected to be sidelined for approximately six weeks.
Horton, 28, has scored five goals and dished out 14 assists for 19 points in 36 games played this season, his first with the Blue Jackets. The 6-2, 229-pound forward has tallied 203-218-421 and a +54 plus/minus rating in 627 career NHL games with Columbus, Boston and Florida. He was the Panthers’ first pick, third overall, at the 2003 NHL Draft.
The 2013-14 NHL Regular Season wraps up this Sunday.
Remaining games left for teams in the Eastern Conference Wild Card race...
Detroit- at Buffalo on Tuesday, at Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Carolina at Detroit on Friday and at St. Louis on Sunday.
Columbus- Phoenix at Columbus on Tuesday, at Dallas on Wednesday, at Tampa Bay on Friday and at Florida on Saturday.
New Jersey- Calgary at New Jersey tonight, at Ottawa on Thursday, NYI at New Jersey on Friday and Boston at New Jersey on Sunday.
Toronto- at Tampa Bay on Tuesday, at Florida on Thursday and at Ottawa on Saturday.
Washington- at St. Louis on Tuesday, at Carolina on Thursday, Chicago at Washington on Friday and Tampa Bay at Washington on Sunday.
At this point int time, do you care to make a prediction? What teams take the two wild card spots and in what order?
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
The Columbus Blue Jackets dispatched the New York Islanders 4-0 Sunday, easing the pain of Friday night's painful loss to Chicago in which the Blackhawks scored with 3.9 seconds left to win the game in regulation. Thankfully for the Jackets, the Toronto Maple Leafs were unable to take advantage of that gift, dropping a 4-2 decision at home to the woeful Winnipeg Jets.
Sunday's win puts the Jackets three points ahead of both New Jersey and Toronto and pretty much in control of the second Eastern Conference wild card berth as the final week of the regular season beckons.
Columbus hosts Phoenix on Tuesday night before finishing the regular season on the road with games Wednesday at Dallas (where they will start with a 1-0 lead in the resumption of the game postponed by Rich Peverly's cardiac incident on the bench), then Friday at Tampa Bay and Saturday at Florida.
The Devils host Calgary on Monday night, followed by games Thursday at Ottawa and then home dates Friday versus the Isles and Sunday afternoon against Boston.
The Leafs are on the road to finish off their miserable stretch, at Tampa on Tuesday in Florida on Thursday and at rival Ottawa to wrap things up Saturday night.
I don't see the Jackets opening a window for either team, meaning we should see Columbus in the playoffs for only the second time in team history.
read on for Burnside on the Pacific Divisioon and Custance on the Dallas Stars...
from Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch,
The Blue Jackets have no captain and no superstar. Not a single player on the roster has played in an NHL All-Star Game. Rick Nash, the former captain, All-Star and Olympian whose name was synonymous with the team for nearly a decade, has been gone for almost two years.
So which face goes on the billboard, in the promotional email, or in the newspaper ad?
These days, as one of the youngest teams in the NHL awaits for its stars to emerge, almost all of them do.
The Jackets have used the likeness of nearly every player in some form of advertising. But none of them is the best embodiment of the Blue Jackets.
from Rob Oiler at the Columbus Dispatch,
For the bulk of their existence, the angle on the Blue Jackets has been their ability to bend the rules of geometry. The CBJ are always turning the corner, even as they keep running in circles.
The Jackets seemingly make strides in their quest toward something resembling consistent success, then something like last night happens.
How to describe it? The hurt of a hand slammed in a car door, perhaps? The score was tied at 3 and the seconds were ticking down ... 6 ... 5 ... 4 ... One huge point sat there on the doorstep. Then, a scrum, a poke of a stick against a wandering puck and, well, Jackets defenseman Dalton Prout didn’t need to see what happened to know what happened.
from Aaron Portzline of Puck-Rakers,
With 3.9 seconds remaining, Chicago’s Ben Smith scored through a pile of humanity in front of Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, the winning goal in a 4-3 Chicago victory before 18,695 in Nationwide Arena.
The building erupted when Smith scored, because the building was at least half filled (60 percent? 70 percent?) by Blackhawks fans. The Blue Jackets are 1-11-1 the last 13 times Nationwide has been sold out, including 0-6 this season. They're 1-4-2 in their last seven home games overall.
But this one ...
“Sadly, we’ve had a few of these (kind of losses),” Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu said. “We’ll bounce back. This is going to sting for a couple hours, but we have to get ready for the (New York) Islanders (on Sunday). There’s a big picture at stake here, and this one loss isn’t going to derail it.”
watch the winning goal below...
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Don't you love those games where history takes a front-row seat? Like in Philadelphia on Thursday night when former Flyers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, cast off by the Flyers only to win a Vezina Trophy last season in Columbus, blanked his old team with a 37-save effort in the Blue Jackets' 2-0 win.
Bobrovsky was especially strong in the second period, when he faced 17 Flyers shots.
The victory kept the Blue Jackets one point ahead of Toronto for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference and also moved Columbus to within two points of the Flyers for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Both teams have six games remaining and there is significant incentive for Columbus, Philadelphia and Detroit to avoid being the second wild card and drawing the Bruins -- the best team in the East by a country mile -- in the first round of the playoffs.
read on for Custance on Drew Doughty and the Kings, LeBrun on Chara and Strang on Patrick Roy...
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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