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THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

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1 G STEVE MASON

JANUARY S M

 Born: May 29, 1988, Oakville, Ontario (age 21)  Vitals: 6 feet 4, 220 pounds (catches right)  How acquired: Third-round pick (No. 69) in 2006 draft  Where he fits: Franchise goaltender, who should make 60-plus starts. . . . Won the Calder Trophy last season and now wants to win the Vezina. . . . His size can be intimidating to shooters.  2008-09: 33-20-7 record, 2.29 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in 61 games with Columbus  Contract: Signed through 2010-11 season

2

» D KRIS RUSSELL

 Born: May 2, 1987, Red Deer, Alberta (age 22)  Vitals: 5 feet 10, 185 pounds (shoots left)  How acquired: Third-round pick (No. 67) in 2005 draft  Where he fits: On a third pair, with second-unit power-play time. . . . Among the fastest-skating defensemen in the NHL. . . . Can be physically overmatched in his own end.  2008-09: 2 goals, 19 assists and 28 penalty minutes in 66 games with Columbus; 3 goals, five assists in 14 games with Syracuse (AHL)  Contract: Restricted free agent this summer

3

» D MARC METHOT

 Born: June 21, 1985, Ottawa (age 24)  Vitals: 6 feet 3, 230 pounds (shoots left)  How acquired: Sixth-round pick (No. 168) in the 2003 draft  Where he fits: On the third pair, with second- or third-unit penalty-kill responsibilities. . . . Can skate the puck out of danger, which is a rare talent among Blue Jackets. . . . A physical specimen who isn’t afraid to fight.  2008-09: 4 goals, 13 assists and 55 penalty minutes in 66 games with Columbus  Contract: Signed through 2010-11 season

5

» D ANTON STRALMAN

 Born: Aug. 1, 1986, Tibro, Sweden (age 23)  Vitals: 6 feet 1, 200 pounds (shoots right)  How acquired: Trade with Calgary for a third-round draft pick (2010) on Sept. 28, 2009  Where he fits: Limited 5-on-5 minutes, but will get lots of power-play minutes. … A much-needed right-shot defenseman.  2008-09: 1 goal, 12 assists and 20 penalty minutes in 38 games with Toronto (NHL); 7 goals and 9 assists in 36 games with Toronto (AHL).  Contract: Restricted free agent next summer

8

2009-10 ROSTER, SCHEDULE 2009-10 schedule Home games

OCTOBER S M

14

15

T

W

T

F

S

1

2

3

1

2

COLO 7:00

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

24

25

26

27

28

29

DAL 7:00

VAN 10:00

STL 7:00

STL 8:00

PHIL 7:00 NASH 7:00

EDM 9:00

CHI 8:30

BOS 7:00 LA 7:00

CALG. 9:00

CHI 2:00

23

MINN 9:00

30

STL 8:00

31

FEBRUARY S M

T

W

1

2

3

COLO 9:00

T

F

4

5

DAL 7:00

S 6

BUF 7:00

7

8

9

10

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

14

15

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17

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20

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

25 LA 9:00

26

27

31

28

VAN 10:00

CALG 7:00 CALG 9:30

NOVEMBER S M

SJ 10:30

28

PHO 7:00

T

EDM 9:30

29

W

PHOE 9:00 LA 7:00

30

PIT 7:00

T

F

1

2

3

4

5

6

8

9

10

11

12

13

15

16

17

18

19

20

22

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24

25

26

27

29

30

WASH 5:00

EDM 7:00

NYR 7:00

SJ 7:00

DET 7:00

MONT 7:30

ATL 7:00

OTT 7:30

S

T 1

CHI 8:00

6

7

8

13

14

15

20

21

22

27

28

DET 7:00

MINN 8:00

29

NYI 7:00

W

T

T

5

8

9

10

11 ATL 7:00

12

VAN 7:00

32

14

15

16

17

18

19

28

21

22

23

24

25

26

28

29

30

31

CALG 7:00

EDM 7:00

F

S

APRIL S

ANA 10:00

NJ 7:00

TB 7:00

M

T

9

10

11

12

4

5

6

16

17

18

19

11

12

23

24

25

26

18

30

31

25

DAL 8:30

ANA 7:00 COL 9:00

DET 7:00

» C DERICK BRASSARD

» LW/C/RW ANDREW MURRAY

 Born: Nov. 6, 1981, Selkirk, Manitoba (age 27)  Vitals: 6 feet 2, 210 pounds (shoots left)  How acquired: Eighth-round pick (No. 242) in 2001 draft  Where he fits: Can play all three positions, but no higher than the fourth line. . . . An uncanny ability to come away from the wall with the puck. . . . Very rarely out of position defensively.  2008-09: 8 goals, 3 assists and 10 penalty minutes in 52 games with Columbus  Contract: Signed through 2010-11 season

» LW/C R.J. UMBERGER

» LW/RW DEREK DORSETT

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 Born: Nov. 10, 1978, Osterhaninge, Sweden (age 30)  Vitals: 6 feet 2, 184 pounds (shoots left)  How acquired: Signed as a free agent July 2, 2008  Where he fits: A first-line, playmaking winger and a fixture on the top power-play unit. . . . Quickly developed a chemistry with Rick Nash on the opposite wing. . . . A return to a 70-point-plus season is likely.  2008-09: 21 goals, 35 assists and 44 penalty minutes in 74 games with Columbus  Contract: Signed through 2011-12 season

MINN 7:00

CHI 7:00

W

T 1

COLO 7:00

NASH 7:00

» LW KRISTIAN HUSELIUS

SJ 10:30

21

NASH 8:00

LA 10:30

DET 7:30

22

7

8

13

14

19

20

26

27

STL 8:00

S

13

STL 7:00

20

NASH 8:00

27

NYI 7:00

F 2

S 3

 Born: Oct. 8, 1974, Sundsvall, Sweden (age 34)  Vitals: 6 feet 4, 218 pounds (shoots left)  How acquired: Trade with Tampa Bay, along with Fredrik Norrena, for Marc Denis on June 30, 2006  Where he fits: A third-line winger and specialteams regular, especially on the kill. . . . Injuries have taken a toll on the once-sturdy Swede; he will begin the season on injured reserve (sprained right knee).  2008-09: 9 goals, 16 assists and 28 penalty minutes in 50 games with Columbus  Contract: Unrestricted free agent next summer

40

» LW/RW JARED BOLL

 Born: May 13, 1986, Charlotte, N.C. (age 23)  Vitals: 6 feet 3, 210 pounds (shoots right)  How acquired: Fourth-round pick (No. 101) in 2005 draft  Where he fits: Can handle third-line minutes, but is best-suited for fourth-line duty. . . . Loves to check hard and rile up opponents. . . . Probably a middleweight, but will fight up a class or two.  2008-09: 4 goals, 10 assists and 180 penalty minutes in 75 games with Columbus  Contract: Restricted free agent next summer

» C ANTOINE VERMETTE

10

50

15

16

17

21

22

23

24

28

29

30

 Born: July 20, 1982, St. Agapit, Quebec (age 27)  Vitals: 6 feet 1, 200 pounds (shoots left)  How acquired: Trade with Ottawa for Pascal Leclaire and a secondround pick on March 4, 2009  Where he fits: Second-line center, with lots of special-teams work. … Very good on faceoffs. . . . Possesses understated skill.  2008-09: 9 goals, 19 assists and 42 penalty minutes in 62 games with Ottawa; 7 goals, 6 assists and 8 penalty minutes in 17 games with Columbus  Contract: Signed through 2014-15 season

DET 7:00

» D MIKE COMMODORE

» LW JASON CHIMERA

» C SAMMY PAHLSSON

 Born: Dec. 17, 1977, Ange, Sweden (age 31)  Vitals: 6 feet, 203 pounds (shoots left)  How acquired: Signed as a free agent on July 1, 2009  Where he fits: Third-line checker and top-unit penalty killer. . . . An in-your-face, puck-pursuit defender who thrives in big moments and late in games.  2008-09: 2 goals, 1 assist and 2 penalty minutes in 13 games with Chicago; 5 goals, 10 assists and 32 penalty minutes in 52 games with Anaheim.  Contract: Signed through 2011-12 season

28

» LW FREDRIK MODIN

9

DET 7:30

 Born: May 2, 1979, Edmonton, Alberta (age 30)  Vitals: 6 feet 2, 216 pounds (shoots left)  How acquired: Trade with Phoenix, along with Cale Hulse and Mike Rupp, for Geoff Sanderson and Tim Jackman on Oct. 8, 2005.  Where he fits: Third-line left winger. . . . Chimera has a rare combination of size and speed that makes him a potential “plus” third-liner. . . . A dangerous penalty killer.  2008-09: 8 goals, 14 assists and 41 penalty minutes in 49 games with Columbus  Contract: Signed through 2011-12

26

33

WASH 7:00

 Born: Nov. 7, 1979, Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta (age 29)  Vitals: 6 feet 5, 235 pounds (shoots right)  How acquired: Signed as a free agent on July 1, 2008  Where he fits: On the first- or second-pair, with lots of penalty-kill time. . . . Has embraced his role as a shut-down defender. . . . After a rigorous off-season, he’s in the best shape of his life.  2008-09: 5 goals, 19 assists and 100 penalty minutes in 81 games with Columbus  Contract: Signed through 2012-13 season

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» G MATHIEU GARON

 Born: Jan. 9, 1978, Chandler, Quebec (age 31)  Vitals: 6 feet 2, 202 pounds (catches right)  How acquired: Signed as free agent on July 1, 2009  Where he fits: A back-up to Steve Mason. . . . He’s been told to expect 20-25 games and no more than 10 days without a start.  2008-09: 6-8-0 record, with 3.17 goals-against average and .895 save percentage in 15 games with Edmonton; 2-1-0, with 2.91 goals-against average and .894 save percentage in 4 games with Pittsburgh  Contract: Signed through 2010-11 season

6

7

5

PHOE 7:00

F

4

4

NASH 8:00

T

3

3

FLA 7:00

W

VAN 7:00

2

2

TOR 7:00

SJ 7:00

14

 Born: Sept. 22, 1987, Hull, Quebec (age 22)  Vitals: 6 feet 1, 190 pounds (shoots left)  How acquired: First-round pick (No. 6) in 2006 draft  Where he fits: Top line center and likely powerplay quarterback. … His skill as a playmaking center is unmatched by anybody who has worn the Blue Jackets sweater. . . . What numbers might Nash put up next to Brassard?  2008-09: 10 goals, 15 assists and 17 penalty minutes in 31 games with Columbus  Contract: Signed through 2013-14 season

18

1

CHI 7:00

DECEMBER S M

PHOE 9:00

MARCH S M

CAR 7:00

STL 7:00

NASH 7:00

CHI 5:00

7

ANA 7:00

DAL 8:30

ANA 10:00

» LW RAFFI TORRES

 Born: Dec. 20, 1985, Kindersley, Saskatchewan (age 23)  Vitals: 5 feet 11, 187 pounds (shoots right)  How acquired: Seventh-round pick (No. 189) in 2006 draft  Where he fits: A fourth-line agitator. . . . His relentless, rambunctious style earned him a growing list of enemies throughout the NHL last season. . . . Could hit double-digit goals in the near future.  2008-09: 4 goals, 1 assist and 150 penalty minutes in 52 games with Columbus  Contract: Signed through 2012-13 season

S

3

MINN 7:00

 Born: May 3, 1982, Pittsburgh (age 27)  Vitals: 6 feet 2, 219 pounds (shoots left)  How acquired: Trade with Philadelphia, along with a fourth-round pick for a first- and third-round pick on June 20, 2008  Where he fits: On the second line, top power-play unit and second penalty-kill unit. . . . Umberger has quickly become a leading figure in the dressing room.  2008-09: 26 goals, 20 assists and 53 penalty minutes in 82 games with Columbus  Contract: Signed through 2011-12 season

 Born: Oct. 8, 1981, Toronto (age 27)  Vitals: 6 feet, 216 pounds (shoots left)  How acquired: Trade with Edmonton for Gilbert Brule on July 1, 2008  Where he fits: On the third or fourth line, with penalty-kill and occasional power-play time. . . . Willing to leave his post to land a big hit.  2008-09: 12 goals, 8 assists and 23 penalty minutes in 51 games with Columbus  Contract: Unrestricted free agent next summer

F

6

» C/RW MIKE BLUNDEN

10, 2008  Where he fits: Might get a shot early in the season to play right wing on the third line. . . . Ideally suited as the fourth-line center.  2008-09: 3 goals, 7 assists and 42 penalty minutes in 37 games with Rockford (AHL); 9 goals, 12 assists and 68 penalty minutes in 39 games with Syracuse (AHL).  Contract: Restricted free agent next summer

T

5

17

 Born: Dec. 15, 1986, Toronto (age 22)  Vitals: 6 feet 4, 211 pounds (shoots right)  How acquired: Trade with Chicago for Adam Pineault on Jan.

W

4

» D JAN HEJDA

12

Away games

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BREAKING NEWS: DISPATCH.COM

ALL TIMES EASTERN

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 Born: June 18, 1978, Prague, Czech Republic (age 31)  Vitals: 6 feet 3, 229 pounds (shoots left)  How acquired: Signed as a free agent, on July 5, 2007  Where he fits: A first- or second-pair defender, with heavy penalty-kill minutes. . . . Makes very good decisions with the puck, especially in tight spaces. . . . The coaching staff wants him on the ice late in games.  2008-09: 3 goals, 18 assists and 38 penalty minutes in 82 games with Columbus  Contract: Signed through 2010-11 season

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2009

» LW NIKITA FILATOV

 Born: May 25, 1990, Moscow (age 19)  Vitals: 6 feet, 185 pounds (shoots right)  How acquired: First-round pick (No. 6) in 2008 draft  Where he fits: Will probably bounce from line to line and draw second-unit power-play minutes. . . . A wild card whom many predict could win the Calder Trophy.  2008-09: 4 goals, 0 assists and 0 penalty minutes in 8 games with Columbus; 16 goals, 16 assists and 24 penalty minutes in 39 games with Syracuse (AHL)  Contract: Signed through 2011-12 season

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51 D FEDOR TYUTIN  Born: July 19, 1983, Izhevsk, Russia (age 26)  Vitals: 6 feet 3, 218 pounds (shoots left)  How acquired: Trade with New York Rangers, along with Christian Backman, for Nikolai Zherdev and Dan Fritsche on July 2, 2008.  Where he fits: On the first or second pair, and the top power-play and penalty-kill units. . . . The offensive side of his game is still emerging.  2008-09: 9 goals, 25 assists and 81 penalty minutes in 82 games with Columbus  Contract: Signed through 2011-12 season

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61 RW RICK NASH  Born: June 16, 1984, Brampton, Ontario (age 25)  Vitals: 6 feet 4, 218 pounds (shoots left)  How acquired: First-round pick (No. 1) in 2002 draft  Where he fits: On the No. 1 line and top units of both power play and penalty kill. . . . Second full year as captain. . . . Could easily exceed his career high of 41 goals if Brassard stays healthy.  2008-09: 40 goals, 39 assists and 52 penalty minutes in 78 games with Columbus  Contract: Signed through 2017-18 season

93

» RW JAKE VORACEK

 Born: Aug. 15, 1989, Kladno, Czech Republic (age 20)  Vitals: 6 feet 2, 213 pounds (shoots left)  How acquired: First-round pick (No. 7) in 2007 draft  Where he fits: Second-line winger, with secondunit power-play time. . . . Bulked up dramatically in the off-season, which should make him more effective in front of the goal.  2008-09: 9 goals, 29 assists and 44 penalty minutes in 80 games with Columbus  Contract: Signed through 2010-11 season

97

» D ROSTISLAV KLESLA

 Born: March 21, 1982, Novy Jicin, Czech Republic (age 27)  Vitals: 6 feet 3, 220 pounds (shoots left)  How acquired: First-round pick (No. 4) in 2000 draft  Where he fits: Second-pair defender with penaltykill duty and an occasional crack at running the power-play point. . . . Uses his frame in combative fashion, but can be an unpredictable player.  2008-09: 1 goal, 8 assists and 38 penalty minutes in 34 games with Columbus  Contract: An unrestricted free agent next summer — Aaron Portzline aportzline@dispatch.com


BREAKING NEWS: DISPATCH.COM

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Blue Jackets



THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2009

E3

Jackets now have opponents’ attention Teams see Columbus as more of a threat

two points — I know they did,” said Jackets defenseman Mike NHL media members give their thoughts Commodore, who spent three on the Blue Jackets this season: seasons in the East with Carolina and Ottawa. By Tom Reed “We came in here and didn’t THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH John Buccigross Craig Custance know much about them; they were ESPN THE SPORTING NEWS pretty anonymous. I knew Rick The Blue Jackets earned some Once again the Central will be the NHL’s deepest diviPut Columbus in any other division in hockey and Nash, but I don’t know if I could long-awaited perks in April by sion, with four of the five teams making the postseason. this is an automatic playoff team. But they’re in the have named another five players.” finally qualifying for the Stanley The Blue Jackets will be one of them. The question Central, where Detroit is Detroit, the Blues and the Umberger said one postseason Cup playoffs. now is, can they win a playoff series? Blackhawks are elite young teams, and Nashville appearance should not offer the They sold out Nationwide Arena The Jackets’ biggest need is to score more is never an easy point. Jackets a feeling of entitlement. for two postseason games, pedgoals and not be as predictable as Jim Tressel’s In a tight Western Conference, the schedule He was part of a young nucleus dled plenty of Cup-related merplay-calling. Every team that has won the will eventually doom the Blue Jackets and in Philadelphia that reached the chandise and fostered some good Stanley Cup since the lockout has scored lots their playoff hopes this season. playoffs in 2006 and assumed they will among their fans. of regular-season goals. The Blue Jackets had That said, there’s a great young core in would do it again the following But perhaps best of all, they only 226 last season (2.8 per game). They need Columbus around Rick Nash and Steve Mason. season. Instead, Hitchcock was never again will have to hear or to get up to 250 goals, minimum. Once Nikita Filatov becomes the scorer many fired after only eight games and read about being the NHL’s only The good news: They have the horses now to do it. expect and defenseman John Moore is ready to conthe Flyers finished with the NHL’s franchise not to make the playoffs. tribute in the NHL, this franchise will be a perennial worst record. “We were all tired of listening to playoff team — regardless of the division. Ken Campbell “There were a couple factors, that,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. SENIOR WRITER, THE HOCKEY NEWS but our young guys had a let“That’s all part of the past now.” Greg Wyshynski down year,” Umberger said. “We A playoff appearance and a The Blue Jackets were life-and-death to make the playEDITOR, PUCK DADDY (YAHOO! SPORTS BLOGS) thought it would come easier than stable of talented young players offs last season, and there’s little reason to believe things it did.” have given the Jackets an air of will be any different in 2009-10. But that has more to do Last season was the franchise’s first taste of the Late last season, the Jackets legitimacy. with how tight things are in the Western Conference and postseason, which, thanks to Detroit, was the delightreceived a preview of how swiftly But, as they are about to discovhow competitive the Central Division is. ful flavor of humble pie and bile. attitudes can change about them. er with the season opening SatI see Columbus finishing somewhere in the No. 6 to 8 But the Blue Jackets made the cut, which validates They embarrassed the Red Wings urday night against Minnesota, spot, mainly because they didn’t do anything to upgrade both general manager Scott Howson’s meticulous 8-2 on March 7 in Detroit, marking legitimacy comes with a price. what was the worst power play in the league last season. construction of the roster and coach Ken Hitchcock’s their third straight win over the Managed properly, the increased Opponents will be willing to take Rick Nash down going to snooze-alarm system. Cup champions. expectations and intensified efthe net if they know they can kill the penalty. This season? A week later, the Wings were forts from opponents can help a For Columbus to get better, Steve Mason will have to be Playoff team again for sure, and 30 points ahead of fully engaged in a 4-0 win in team rise in the standings. Hanas good as he was in his rookie season, but players such Adam Foote — even if the power play is like a virgin Nationwide Arena. They then dled poorly, they can serve as a as Derick Brassard, Jake Voracek, Nikita Filatov and Kris margarita (re: utterly pointless). dominated the Jackets in an opentrapdoor to an early golf season. Russell will have to contribute more this season. The Blue Jackets have great young talent in goal, ing-round playoff sweep, never “The worst mistake you can Are the Blue Jackets better than Detroit and Chicago? they’re deep at center and captain Rick Nash’s spiffy trailing in the series. make is to think the future will Probably not. But they’re certainly good enough to make new contract is symbolic of how committed this collec“They sent us a clear message of now take care of itself,” Hitchcock the playoffs in a year when all five Central teams could be tion of players is to turning the Blue Jackets into title what they can do,” Hitchcock said said. “It doesn’t happen that way.” in the postseason. contenders. of the 4-0 win. “And I knew if we Forward R.J. Umberger said the got them in the playoffs, that was days of opponents taking the Jackthe kind of game they would play.” ets lightly are over. Other teams Hitchcock and Howson agree Hitchcock concedes, however, worst division to the best diviclub dealing with elevated expecrecognize the skill of a Jake Vorathat getting an opponent’s best that the Jackets capitalized on a tations and changing reputations. sion,” Nash said. “It’s going to be cek and the ability of a Steve Maefforts on a consistent basis lack of respect exhibited by some tough because we play those The St. Louis Blues and Chicago son. should make the Jackets a better teams, with Detroit and Nashville, teams. They faced a number of Blackhawks are in the same posi“We’re going to have to earn it backup goaltenders and feasted on team this sesaon. tion. One team caught opponents more than anyone.” this year,” Umberger said. “We’re “Making the playoffs earns you the Eastern Conference. No WestUnder the watch of Hitchcock by surprise in the regular season, going to get teams’ best efforts, respect, and with that respect ern Conference club had a better and general manager Scott Howthe other did it in the playoffs. and none of our young guys are comes better competition,” Howrecord against the East (13-3-2) son, the Jackets have steadily imBlue Jackets captain Rick Nash going to be flying under the radar. son said. “We have to be ready for has witnessed a sea change within proved the past two seasons. They than the Jackets last season. They will be watched closely and “Teams used to think they could it.” have forged an identity and raised the Central Division. heavily checked against.” treed@dispatch.com slide in here and pick up an easy their talent level. “We’ve kind of gone from the The Jackets won’t be the only

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING }

MIDDLE MEN By Tom Reed THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

he Blue Jackets held their annual training-camp tryouts for a center. For the first time in recent memory, the winner, Andrew Murray, receives the honor of passing pucks to fourth-line wingers, not perennial All-Star Rick Nash. In his six NHL seasons, Nash has gone through more setup men than Mariano Rivera. The auditions were often as painful to watch as the early-season episodes of American Idol. This season, Nash had his center before the ink on his eight-year contract extension in July was dry. Derick Brassard, a gifted and driven second-year player, will handle the assignment. The Jackets also have their second- and third-line centers in Antoine Vermette and Sammy Pahlsson, respectively. Never has the franchise entered a season as organized and deep at the pivotal position. The days of converting skilled wingers to centers and asking fourth-liners to play firstline minutes are over, at least temporarily. The Blue Jackets won’t be mistaken for the Detroit Red Wings or Pittsburgh Penguins. But they also won’t be confused with the Blue Jackets of old. “This is the best we have been slotted at center,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We finally have players fit for the (position).” It’s hard to win in the NHL without depth at center, a point the Red Wings drove home like an ax splitting a log in their firstround sweep of the Jackets in the spring. In the regular season, checking center Manny Malhotra performed admirably between Nash and Kristian Huselius while subbing for an injured Brassard. But Malhotra and the Jackets’ top line were overwhelmed by the Red Wings and Henrik Zetterberg in the four-game series. In the offseason, the Jackets added Pahlsson, a tenacious center with a

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For first time, Jackets have talent, depth for matchups at center NO. 1 LINE CENTER DERICK BRASSARD

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NO. 2 LINE CENTER ANTOINE VERMETTE

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NO. 3 LINE CENTER SAMMY PAHLSSON

NO. 4 LINE CENTER ANDREW MURRAY

Stanley Cup ring and Olympic gold medal, and allowed Malhotra and Michael Peca to test the free-agent market. (Malhotra signed with San Jose; Peca remains without a contract.) Assessing his centers at Jackets media day, general manager Scott Howson said: “We don’t run and hide from any matchups now.” The past two Stanley Cup Finals, between the Red

Wings and Penguins, have emphasized the import of center-ice depth. “Almost every successful team is built the same way: goaltender, top-four defensemen and depth at center,” Hitchcock said. “Look at Detroit and Pittsburgh. Look at Carolina and Tampa when they were winning Cups. It was down the middle of the ice.” Brassard, 22, might have won the Calder Trophy for

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NHL rookie of the year if not for the shoulder injury that ended his season last Dec. 18. He possesses the offensive instincts, desire and élan of a top-flight center. His vision, sense of anticipation and creativity might help Nash reach 50 goals. The challenge for Brassard will be acclimating himself to first-line minutes and responsibilities. Will someone who hasn’t played

60 games since his second year of junior hockey wear down physically and mentally? “He’s going to have to prove himself, but we believe he can do it,” said Howson, who signed Brassard to a four-year, $12.8 million contract extension. Although Vermette, 27, is an established NHL forward, he has yet to play an entire season at center. He had 13 points in 17 games after being acquired at the trade deadline but struggled against the Wings’ Pavel Datysuk in the playoffs. Vermette is among the Jackets’ speediest and most versatile contributors. He has meshed with wingers R.J. Umberger and Jake Voracek and likely will see time with rookie Nikita Filatov. In signing a fiveyear, $18.75 million extension, Vermette expressed a desire to become a leader. His off-ice mentorship of Brassard, who shares the same heritage and agent, could prove invaluable. “He can help Derick manage the highs and lows that come with being a young player in this game,” Hitchcock said. The talents of Pahlsson, 31, are more nuanced and difficult to detect in the preseason. He was effective in Anaheim playing on a checking line with Travis Moen and Rob Niedermayer. Pahlsson probably won’t have set linemates early in the season, which could make his transition a bit tougher. His value will increase in hearty Western Conference games and come playoff time when matchups become key. The team’s last center slot was won by Murray, 27, a converted winger. The Jackets used to arrive at camp with competent third- and fourth-line centers, but few qualified candidates for the top two slots. Times are changing in Columbus. treed@dispatch.com

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E4 

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Blue Jackets

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: DISPATCH.COM

CENTRAL DIVISION FORECAST

BLUE JACKETS

How beat writers around the Central Division see the Blue Jackets’ chances this season:

How to draw the lines?

best minds in the game, coach Ken Hitchcock, they seem to have THE (NASHVILLE) TENNESSEAN the Blue Jackets on the fast track It’s hard not to be optimistic to success in the West. about the Blue Jackets’ prospects The fact that the Blue Jackets after their breakthrough playoff made their first-ever playoff season. appearance in a loaded conferColumbus should be even ence last season shows that more potent up front in 2009-10, progress is being made. Now the considering talented young center Jackets need another level out of Derick Brassard will, in all likelitheir players because neither they, hood, play more than 31 games, nor their hot young goaltender Antoine Vermette will be around Steve Mason, will be a surprise for the whole season, and Nikita this season. Filatov should start filling up NHL It was a good move to lock up nets. franchise player Rick Nash longGoaltender Steve Mason, term, but Nash needs help. My barring the dreaded sophomore concern about the Jackets is this: slump, will steal his share of Who will score the goals? games and make sure the Blue I’m not concerned that ColumJackets are competitive, even bus was swept by Detroit in the when they play poorly. playoffs. The Jackets probably The defensive corps is a little should have been playing Vansuspect, but, hey, it was last couver, if not for a late-season season, as well. slip. I’d be more concerned that Give me Chicago to win the the Blue Jackets scored only Central, followed by Detroit, St. seven goals in those four games, Louis, the Blue Jackets and and there wasn’t much done to Nashville. help in that area this off-season.

John Glennon

George Sipple

Tim Sassone

DETROIT FREE PRESS

THE DAILY HERALD (ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, ILL.)

Fans in Columbus probably think the Blue Jackets will be vastly improved this season, and that it will be reflected in the standings, right? Take a lesson from the Red Wings. They won the Stanley Cup in 2008, then added a 40-goal scorer in Marian Hossa and were considererd a lock to win the Cup again. Instead, they lost to Pittsburgh in seven games. Steve Mason is a great young goaltender, but you can’t count on him having 10 shutouts every season. The Jackets will be improved, but they’re not ready to challenge the Red Wings or the Blackhawks for the division title.

Jeremy Rutherford ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

General manager Scott Howson enters his third season in Columbus. Along with one of the

General manager Scott Howson and coach Ken Hitchcock have the Blue Jackets on the right track, and it will result in a second straight trip to the playoffs. The only thing that could derail the process is if second-year goaltender Steve Mason slips, which isn’t likely. Mason deserved the Calder Trophy last season, as his 2.29 goals-against average was a key for the Blue Jackets being 20-6-10 in one-goal games. Derick Brassard’s return to health gives Columbus strength down the middle. Antoine Vermette is underrated, and Sammy Pahlsson will help as a lock-down defender, although his health issues raise a red flag. There are concerns about the power play, but Rick Nash remains a stud.

OFFENSE

Key is finding right spots for Filatov, Umberger By Aaron Portzline THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

With No. 1 center Derick Brassard healthy and rookie left winger Nikita Filatov ready to burst onto the NHL scene, the Blue Jackets have a traffic jam among their top two forward lines. It’s a typical “problem” for other NHL teams, such as Detroit and San Jose, but one never before experienced by Columbus. As opening night looms — Saturday vs. the Minnesota Wild in Nationwide Arena — coach Ken Hitchcock remains uncertain as to how the Blue Jackets’ lines will fall into place. Consider this possibility: Left winger R.J. Umberger, who set a career high with 26 goals last season, could end up on the Blue Jackets’ checking line with center Sammy Pahlsson. “That is a legitimate thought right now,” Hitchcock said this week. It wasn’t easy for Hitchcock to acknowledge the possibility of an Umberger demotion — Umberger is the coach’s kind of player and a worthy NHL secondliner — but Hitchcock knows something has to give. The No. 1 line is set, with Brassard centering Kristian Huselius to his left and Rick Nash to his right. If Brassard stays healthy this season, how many goals might Nash score? 50? 55? “Brass and I have clicked,

WESTERN CONFERENCE — Tom Reed treed@dispatch.com

CHRIS RUSSELL DISPATCH

R.J. Umberger has top-six talent and set a career high with 26 goals last season, but he could end up on the No. 3 line if Nikita Filatov plays on the No. 2 unit. right from the start,” Nash said. “And Huselius and I know each other on the ice really well. It’s exciting to think about what we might be able to accomplish.” The plan for the No. 2 line all summer has been to play center Antoine Vermette between Umberger and right winger Jake Voracek, the “Um-V” line. But Filatov, 19, looked in training camp as if he’s ready to stick in the NHL. Not only did he show offensive flair (nobody doubts his ability with the puck), but Filatov also excited the hard-to-please Hitchcock with his attention to detail outside the attack zone. “Nikita looks like a player who’s pushing for full-time work,” Hitchcock said after

the Jackets’ final exhibition game. Here’s the rub: Filatov would be out of place next to Pahlsson on the third line, with the likes of Jason Chimera and Raffi Torres on the opposite wing. And he makes no sense on the fourth line, where Jared Boll, Michael Blunden, Derek Dorsett and possibly Andrew Murray figure to do lots of grinding and agitating. If anywhere, Filatov makes sense on the No. 2 line with Vermette and Voracek, but it’s unclear if Hitchcock would trust two youngsters — Voracek is only 20 — to play a regular shift so high in the lineup. Meanwhile, Umberger is a good two-way player and would work well with

Pahlsson. But how would a veteran player such as Umberger, coming off a 26-goal season, handle getting bumped by an 19year-old? How might that be processed in the dressing room? Hitchcock has never had to ponder such questions during his time with the Jackets. When he arrived one month into the 2006-07 season, they were three or four NHL-caliber forwards away from being able to compete. “We know we have enough pieces to put four really good lines out on the ice, no matter how it plays out,” Hitchcock said. “But we’re still trying to settle on the bottom three lines. We’ll get there.” aportzline@dispatch.com

PREDICTED FINISH 1. San Jose Sharks 2. Detroit Red Wings 3. Vancouver Canucks 4. Chicago Blackhawks

5. Anaheim Ducks 6. Columbus Blue Jackets 7. St. Louis Blues 8. Calgary Flames

OUT OF PLAYOFFS 9. Minnesota Wild 10. Dallas Stars 11. Edmonton Oilers

12. Nashville Predators 13. Los Angeles Kings 14. Phoenix Coyotes 15. Colorado Avalanche

Central Division

Northwest Division

Pacific Division

Chicago Blackhawks

Calgary Flames

Anaheim Ducks

 Coach: Joel Quenneville (second season)  Moving in: F Marian Hossa, F John Madden, F Tomas Kopecky  Moving out: G Nikolai Khabibulin, F Martin Havlat, F Sammy Pahlsson  Strengths: The Blackhawks have ample firepower with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Hossa. The defense led by Duncan Keith, also is solid.  Weaknesses: Without Khabibulin as a safety net, Cristobal Huet has to prove he can win the big games.  Name to know: F Dave Bolland. The Blackhawks hope he takes another step after potting 19 goals last season.  Burning question: Is there bad karma, brought on by a turbulent offseason, enveloping an otherwise promising young franchise?

 Coach: Brent Sutter (first season)  Moving in: D Jay Bouwmeester, F Fredrik Sjostrom, F Nigel Dawes, F Brandon Prust, F Brian McGrattan  Moving out: F Mike Cammalleri, F Todd Bertuzzi, F Wayne Primeau  Strengths: The Flames have a solid goalie in Miikka Kiprusoff and a bruising presence throughout the lineup.  Weaknesses: Calgary must improve its 23rd-ranked defense from a season ago. Bouwmeester should help.  Name to know: F David Moss. He scored 20 goals last season and could become a second-line regular.  Burning question: Can the Flames manufacture enough offense outside their top line with Jarome Iginla?

 Coach: Randy Carlyle (fifth season)  Moving in: F Joffrey Lupul, D Luca Sbisa, Evgeny Artyukhin, F Saku Koivu, D Nick Boynton  Moving out: D Chris Pronger, F Rob Niedermayer, D Francois Beauchemin  Strengths: The Ducks have an improved group of forwards and ample grit.  Weakness: The Ducks lost two mainstays in Pronger and Beauchemin.  Name to know: G Jonas Hiller. He rescued the Ducks last season and led them to a first-round upset of San Jose.  Burning question: Can this be an improved bunch even without Pronger?

Columbus Blue Jackets  Coach: Ken Hitchcock (fourth season)  Moving in: F Sammy Pahlsson, F Nikita Filatov, G Mathieu Garon  Moving out: F Manny Malhotra, F Michael Peca, F Jason Williams, D Christian Backman, D Ole-Kristian Tollefsen  Strengths: The Blue Jackets have assembled the best team in franchise history. They are solid defensively, strong in goal and improved at center.  Weaknesses: The Blue Jackets still lack a top-flight offensive defenseman, which could lead to continued power-play struggles.  Name to know: Nikita Filatov. The Russian winger, likened to Pavel Bure, has excellent skills but must play with consistency and not get pushed to the perimeter.  Burning question: Now that they are a playoff team, will opponents treat the Jackets with more respect, and how will the Jackets handle it?

Colorado Avalanche  Coach: Joe Sacco (first season)  Moving in: F Matt Duchene, G Craig Anderson, D Kyle Quincey, D Tom Preissing, F David Koci  Moving out: F Joe Sakic, F Ryan Smyth, F Ian Laperriere, F Tyler Arnason, Andrew Raycroft  Strengths: Forward Paul Stastny becomes the player the rebuilding Avs will build around.  Weaknesses: Take your pick. If Craig Anderson cannot shore up the goaltending, this could be the worst season in franchise history.  Name to know: F Matt Duchene. Other than Stastny, Duchene will be one of the few reasons to watch the Avs this season.  Burning question: Are we about to find out whether Denver truly is a hockey town?

Detroit Red Wings Edmonton Oilers

 Coach: Mike Babcock (fifth season)  Moving in: F Todd Bertuzzi, F Jason Williams, F Patrick Eaves  Moving out: F Marian Hossa, F Jiri Hudler, D Chris Chelios, F Tomas Kopecky, F Mikael Samuelsson, G Ty Conklin.  Strengths: Even with the loss of Hossa, the Red Wings have loads of experience and talent.  Weaknesses: G Chris Osgood, who was excellent in the playoffs, seems to treat the regular season the way some vets treat the preseason.  Name to know: D Jonathan Ericsson. He’s one of several young players who played well in the postseason after a promotion from the minors.  Burning question: Can the Red Wings prove to critics that their time atop the West has not passed?

 Coach: Pat Quinn (first season)  Moving in: G Nikolai Khabibulin, F Mike Comrie  Moving out: G Dwayne Roloson, F Ales Kotalik, F Kyle Brodziak  Strengths: Edmonton has good young forwards blossoming, and a potentially potent power play.  Weaknesses: The Oilers are maddeningly inconsistent. They have talent, but it appears only sporadically.  Name to know: F Sam Gagner. After a dreadful season, he’s a breakout player waiting to happen.  Burning question: Can the Oilers and their fans put the botched deal for Dany Heatley behind them?

Nashville Predators

Minnesota Wild

 Coach: Barry Trotz (10th season)  Moving in: F Marcel Goc, F Peter Olvecky, F Ben Guite  Moving out: F Scott Nichol, D Ville Koistinen, D Greg Zanon, F Vernon Fiddler, F Radek Bonk  Strengths: The Predators have one of the league’s best all-around defensemen in Shea Weber, as well as their trademark grit.  Weaknesses: The franchise lost depth with free-agent defections, and their defense took a hit with the loss of Zanon and Koistinen.  Name to know: F Mike Santorelli. He put up 70 points in 70 games in the AHL last season.  Burning question: Nobody does more with less than Trotz, but how much more can he take?

 Coach: Todd Richards (first season)  Moving in: F Martin Havlat, D Greg Zanon, D Shane Hnidy, F Kyle Brodziak, F Petr Sykora  Moving out: F Marian Gaborik, D Marc-Andre Bergeron, D Martin Skoula, D Kurtis Foster, F Stephane Veilleux  Strengths: Brent Burns is blossoming into a stellar defender and leads a good D unit. Goaltender Niklas Backstrom thrived under the system of former coach Jacques Lemaire.  Weaknesses: Secondary scoring is always an issue here.  Name to know: James Sheppard. He had 24 points last season and could be more effective now that he’s out from under Lemaire’s thumb. Burning question: Could this be one of the surprise teams in the Western Conference?

St. Louis Blues  Coach: Andy Murray (fifth season)  Moving in: G Ty Conklin, F Derek Armstrong, D Darryl Sydor  Moving out: G Manny Legace, D Jay McKee  Strengths: The Blues roared down the stretch on the strength of their checking, speed and contributions from youngsters such as T.J. Oshie.  Weaknesses: G Chris Mason was terrific in getting the Blues into the playoffs, but he’s far from a franchise goalie.  Name to know: Conklin. Don’t be surprised if the former Blue Jacket plays a key role.  Burning question: Can a team with so many youngsters, similar to the Jackets, handle increased expectations?

Vancouver Canucks  Coach: Alain Vigneault (fourth season)  Moving in: F Mikael Samuelsson, D Christian Ehrhoff, D Mathieu Schneider  Moving out: F Mats Sundin, D Mattias Ohlund, F Taylor Pyatt  Strengths: G Roberto Luongo remains a quality, albeit slightly overrated, goaltender. The Canucks have improved their scoring on the back end.  Weaknesses: After the Sedin twins, there’s not much offense up front.  Name to know: F Sergei Shirokov. The 23-year-old winger, who had played in the Kontinental Hockey League, led the Canucks in preseason scoring.  Burning question: Will Luongo be able to withstand the double grind of backstopping the Canucks and Team Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics?

Dallas Stars  Coach: Marc Crawford (first season)  Moving in: D Karlis Skrastins, D Jeff Woywitka, G Alex Auld, F Warren Peters  Moving out: D Sergei Zubov, F Steve Begin, F Chris Connor, F Joe Lundqvist, F Brendan Morrison, D Darryl Sydor  Strengths: The Stars have talent up front with Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson and Brenden Morrow. F Steve Ott plays a gritty game.  Weaknesses: Health is a big-time issue, and the defense is lacking after Stephane Robidas.  Name to know: F James Neal. He had 24 goals last season, including four against the Jackets.  Burning question: Will Mike Modano go out as an also-ran, like Joe Sakic did with Colorado?

Los Angeles Kings  Coach: Terry Murray (second season)  Moving in: D Rob Scuderi, F Ryan Smyth  Moving out: D Kyle Quincey, D Tom Preissing, D Denis Gauthier, F Kyle Calder, F Derek Armstrong  Strengths: The Kings should play exciting offensive hockey with Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Smyth.  Weaknesses: Inexperience and goaltending.  Name to know: G Jonathan Quick. He was 21-18-2 last season and could help solidify a trouble spot for the Kings.  Burning question: How long before Scuderi wishes he would have taken less money to stay in Pittsburgh?

Phoenix Coyotes  Coach: Dave Tippett (first season)  Moving in: F Radim Vrbata, F Scottie Upshaw, G Jason LaBarbera, F Lauri Korpikoski, F Vernon Fiddler, D Adrian Aucoin, F Taylor Pyatt  Moving out: D David Hale, F Todd Fedoruk, F Nigel Dawes, F Steve Goertzen, F Joakim Lindstrom, D Dmitri Kalinin, D Ken Klee, F Steve Reinprecht  Strengths: Litigation, courtroom drama, staggeringly low ticket prices for the opener against Columbus — $15 to $25.  Weaknesses: Everything else. The prospects are struggling to mature, the forward lines are bad and special teams are a joke.  Name to know: Redfield T. Baum. He’s the U.S. bankruptcy judge who must sort out the Coyotes financial/ownership mess.  Burning question: How did this crew beat the Jackets four times in 2008?

San Jose Sharks  Coach: Todd McLellan (second season)  Moving in: F Dany Heatley, F Manny Malhotra, F Scott Nichol, F Jed Ortmeyer  Moving out: F Jonathan Cheechoo, F Milan Michalek, F Jeremy Roenick, F Travis Moen, F Mike Grier, F Marcel Goc, D Christian Ehrhoff, D Brad Lukowich  Strengths: The Sharks once again have ample talent, and they added to it with Dany Heatley. The team has no serious weakness except an aversion to hockey in April and May.  Weaknesses: Grit never seems to be a strong suit of the franchise. San Jose added Scott Nichol and Jed Ortmeyer to help in this capacity.  Name to know: F Ryane Clowe. Finally healthy, the winger scored 22 goals last season.  Burning question: Will this be general manager Doug Wilson’s last stand if the Sharks go bust again in the playoffs?


BREAKING NEWS: DISPATCH.COM

BLUE JACKETS

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Blue Jackets

2008-09

DEFENSE

Top two pairs can expect some relief

E5

RANKINGS

Power-play percentage

Penalty-kill percentage

BEST DETROIT RED WINGS

BLUE JACKETS NHL RANK: 30TH

BEST NEW YORK RANGERS

BLUE JACKETS NHL RANK: 13TH

25.5%

12.7%

87.8%

82.1%

Hitchcock wants to balance playing time

that really help balance out our group.” Hitchcock relied heavily on the No. 1 pair last season. Commodore and Hejda not only took three out of By Aaron Portzline every eight shifts, they also were the THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH top penalty-killing pair. A healthy Klesla — pairing with By the end of last season, Blue JackTyutin — would provide two pairs ets defensemen Mike Commodore, who could, in Hitchcock parlance, Fedor Tyutin and Jan Hejda were a play heavy minutes. Klesla was limitragged bunch. Hejda was suffering ed to only 34 games last season befrom a wrist injury that required offseason surgery, and all were dragging cause of injuries. “Getting Rusty back is huge for us,” after a long season in which they set Hitchcock said. “He was out so much career highs for ice time. “I’m not going to lie to you — I was last season, it’s like we added another player, like a free agent.” out of gas,” Commodore said. It’s hard to imagine Stralman and If coach Ken Hitchcock gets his Kris Russell working together on a wish this season, he’ll lean less on third pair; Marc Methot would seem a these three and spread the playing much more likely partner for Straltime more evenly among the three man. pairs. But don’t scratch Russell just yet. “We don’t profess to have a Chris Hitchcock said the training-camp idea Pronger, but we have a lot of guys of pairing Russell with Commodore who can carry their own weight,” might still be in play. Hitchcock said. “So when we distrib“I really liked the way those guys ute the minutes, the third pair has to played together,” he said. “We’re not play more.” finished tinkering yet. The blue line got a jolt this week “To me, the important thing is that when general manager Scott Howson traded a third-round pick for defense- the group is not going to change. We really like the group now. It’s not goman Anton Stralman, a puck-mover ing to change at all, but the combinawho shoots right-handed and plays tions might.” on the right side. The best combinations would result That helps balance the back end. in a third pair that can be relied upon Previously, Commodore was the only defenseman with a right-handed shot, to give the first and second pairs fewand with Hejda and Tyutin preferring er minutes. Last season, Tyutin (23 minutes, 20 to play on the left side, Hitchcock was seconds per game), Commodore handcuffed in the pairs he could put (22:53) and Hejda (22:22) were all together. among the NHL’s top 32 players in ice It’s unclear where Stralman fits, time. Klesla was hurt, Methot was a Hitchcock said. rookie and Russell was in his second “The one combination that I think is going to stay the same is Tyutin and pro season. “We were not comfortable with it, (Rostislav Klesla),” Hitchcock said. because we wanted to bring up the “We’re not finished tinkering yet. minutes of the third pair,” Hitchcock “We’re now a group of seven with said. “We were OK last season. But we Stralman joining the mix. We’ll get him in here and see where he fits, but have to be better.” aportzline@dispatch.com he has some components to his game



THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2009

BLUE JACKETS

SPECIAL TEAMS

Power-play, penalty-kill units seem set for improvement which we can use.” The other wrinkle is rookie Nikita Filatov, who will start the season on the No. 2 powerA one-word reminder about the Blue Jackets play unit, but a bump up to the top unit is not out of the question. power play in 2008-09: brutal. Hitchcock’s plans before the Stralman trade A one-word description of the penalty kill, had Brassard and Fedor Tyutin on the point of which was supposed to be among the top five the first unit, with Rick Nash, R.J. Umberger in the NHL: uninspired. To think that the Blue Jackets made the Stan- and Kristian Huselius down low. The second unit would likely include Kris Russell on the ley Cup playoffs when their power play was a point, with Filatov, Antoine Vermette and Jake pop gun and their penalty kill a big pile of vanilla pudding is astounding. If the Blue Jack- Voracek down low. The penalty kill ranked 13th in the NHL last ets are to make dramatic improvement in 2009season. It was good, but not great, and certain10, this will likely be where it all starts. ly not the weapon Hitchcock planned to use to Although they didn’t make many changes frustrate opponents and allow the Blue Jackets during the offseason, the Blue Jackets could have up to three new power-play components. to play more aggressively at 5 on 5. It will be mostly the same cast in 2009-10. Center Derick Brassard, who missed 51 Center Sammy Pahlsson, one of the top games last season because of a shoulder injury, checkers in the NHL, will join Nash on the top has been running the right point on the top kill unit, along with defenseman Jan Hejda and unit since the start of training camp. Last seaMike Commodore. son, if he sniffed power-play time at all, he Hitchcock has plenty of options: Tyutin and played off the half-wall. “Derick is really patient with the puck and he Rostislav Klesla give him a second unit who can do the heavy lifting down low. Vermette, Umcan make plays with it,” captain Rick Nash berger, Jason Chimera, Michael Blunden, Raffi said. “When he gets pressured at the blue line, he’s still able to make a play. That could make a Torres and Andrew Murray provide capable options for second and third units. big difference.” “It was good last year, but it can be better,” On Monday, general manager Scott Howson Hitchcock said. “We have most of our personswung a trade with Calgary for defenseman Anton Stralman, who shoots right-handed and nel back, and maybe there’s an understanding more now of what we’re looking for right from can run a power play. the start of the season. So much of it is about “I watched (Stralman) run Sweden’s power continuity and working together as a unit. play at the World Championships in 2008,” “We have the players to be really good at it, coach Ken Hitchcock said. “He was very effecreally aggressive and disruptive.” tive at it. If I recall correctly, he’s got a very aportzline@dispatch.com good shot and he’s very poised back there,

By Aaron Portzline THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

EASTERN CONFERENCE — Tom Reed treed@dispatch.com

PREDICTED FINISH 1. Pittsburgh Penguins 2. Boston Bruins 3. Washington Capitals 4. Carolina Hurricanes

5. New Jersey Devils 6. Philadelphia Flyers 7. Montreal Canadiens 8. Buffalo Sabres

OUT OF PLAYOFFS 9. Florida Panthers 10. Toronto Maple Leafs 11. New York Rangers

12. Ottawa Senators 13. Atlanta Thrashers 14. Tampa Bay Lightning 15. New York Islanders

Atlantic Division

Northeast Division

Southeast Division

New Jersey Devils

Boston Bruins

Atlanta Thrashers

 Coach: Jacques Lemaire (first season)  Moving in: G Yann Danis, D Cory Murphy, F Ilkka Pikkarainen  Moving out: G Scott Clemmensen, F John Madden, F Brian Gionta, F Mike Rupp, D Niclas Havelid, F Bobby Holik  Strength: The Devils will play stout defense under Lemaire and in front of G Martin Brodeur.  Weakness: The Devils, never known for offense, could struggle even more.  Name to know: Pikkarainen. The Devils have a history of quality European imports. Pikkarainen could be the next in line.  Burning question: Will Travis Zajac and Zach Parise be exchanging antiLemaire sentiments with Marian Gaborik during Devils-Rangers games?

 Coach: Claude Julien (third season)  Moving in: D Derek Morris, F Steve Begin, G Dany Sabourin  Moving out: F Phil Kessel, F Stephane Yelle, G Manny Fernandez, D Shane Hnidy, D Steve Montador, F P.J. Axelsson  Strengths: D Zdeno Chara, the captain, is one of the league’s top defensemen, and the Bruins play strong team defense. The robust play of Milan Lucic and the creativity of Marc Savard also are key.  Weaknesses: Nothing major. Can 36-year-old G Tim Thomas, winner of the Vezina Trophy, hold up in an Olympic year?  Name to know: G Tuukka Rask is an emerging goaltending prospect.  Burning question: Does the Bruins’ strong regular-season play carry over to the postseason?

 Coach: John Anderson (second season)  Moving in: F Nik Antropov, D Pavel Kubina, F Tim Stapleton, D Noah Welch  Moving out: D Garnet Exelby, F Colin Stuart  Strengths: The Thrashers have one of the great snipers in Ilya Kovalchuk, who managed 43 goals while denying KHL rumors galore. They also have a good third-year defenseman in Tobias Enstrom.  Weakness: The Thrashers have one of the great divas in Kovalchuk, who rarely plays defense and disappears when things aren’t going his way.  Name to know: Second-year D Zach Bogosian. He suffered a broken leg, but finished the season playing about 20 minutes per game.  Burning question: If the Thrashers don’t re-sign Kovalchuk will they be the next Phoenix?

Buffalo Sabres

Carolina Hurricanes

 Coach: Lindy Ruff (12th season)  Moving in: D Steve Montador, F Mike Grier, F Cody McCormick  Moving out: D Jaroslav Spacek, D Teppo Numminen  Strengths: Offense makes the Sabres fun to watch. Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Tim Connolly should lead the attack. G Ryan Miller gives the Sabres a chance almost every night.  Weakness: The Sabres have a no-name bunch on defense.  Name to know: F Clarke MacArthur had 31 points in 71 games last season.  Burning question: Will the arrest of Chicago’s Patrick Kane be the most exciting hockey news in Buffalo this year?

 Coach: Paul Maurice (second season)  Moving in: D Andrew Alberts, D Aaron Ward, F Tom Kostopoulos, F Stephane Yelle  Moving out: D Frantisek Kaberle, D Dennis Seidenberg, F Patrick Eaves, D Anton Babchuk  Strengths: G Cam Ward used a strong finish to get the Hurricanes into the conference finals. Eric Staal and Ray Whitney keep the offense humming.  Weaknesses: The ’Canes don’t have any major weaknesses, though their special teams aren’t particularly special.  Name to know: F Zach Boychuk. He had a strong junior career and could play his way into the lineup.  Burning question: Will Carolina build on a surprisingly deep playoff run last season?

New York Islanders  Coach: Scott Gordon (first season)  Moving in: G Dwayne Roloson, G Martin Biron, F John Tavares  Moving out: F Mike Sillinger, F Andy Hilbert, F Dean McAmmond  Strengths: The franchise finally has a goaltender who will spend more time between the pipes than on the disabled list. Roloson was a good pickup. Young players, such as Kyle Okposo, show real promise.  Weakness: Playing so many young players likely will lead to more losses.  Name to know: F John Tavares. The first pick of the 2009 draft should be given every opportunity to succeed.  Burning question: Is G Rick DiPietro’s 15-year deal the worst in sports?

New York Rangers  Coach: John Tortorella (second season)  Moving in: F Marian Gaborik, F Vaclav Prospal, F Ales Kotalik, F Tyler Arnason, F Donald Brashear, F Christopher Higgins  Moving out: F Nikolai Zherdev, F Scott Gomez, F Colton Orr, F Markus Naslund, D Derek Morris, F Fredrik Sjostrom, D Paul Mara, F Nik Antropov  Strength: The Rangers are one of the league’s better defensive teams, anchored by three-time Vezina Trophy finalist Henrik Lundqvist.  Weaknesses: The Rangers were low-scoring last season, and unless Gaborik gets healthy, nothing should change. The power play is struggling.  Name to know: D Matt Gilroy. The Rangers should have one of the better rookies on defense this season.  Burning question: Will any of the spaghetti that general manager Glen Sather threw against the wall in the offseason stick?

Montreal Canadiens  Coach: Jacques Martin (first season)  Moving in: F Scott Gomez, F Mike Cammalleri, D Hal Gill, Jaroslav Spacek, F Brian Gionta, F, Travis Moen, D Paul Mara  Moving out: F Alex Kovalev, F Saku Koivu, D Mike Komisarek, D Mathieu Schneider, F Robert Lang, F Mathieu Dandenault, F Patrice Brisebois  Strengths: The Canadiens have the potential to score lots of goals with the additions of Gomez, Gionta and Cammalleri.  Weaknesses: The Habs will be small up front and all the changes will make chemistry an issue.  Name to know: F Guillaume Latendresse. He managed 26 points in 56 games a season ago and his role should increase.  Burning question: Can G Carey Price return to form, or was he a one-year wonder?

Philadelphia Flyers  Coach: John Stevens (fourth season)  Moving in: G Ray Emery, D Chris Pronger, F Ian Laperriere, G Brian Boucher,D, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, F Lukas Kaspar, F Jason Ward  Moving out: D Derian Hatcher, F Mike Knuble, G Martin Biron, G Antero Niittymaki, D Lasse Kukkonen, D Luca Sbisa, F Ryan Dingle, F Joffrey Lupul  Strengths: Mike Richards and Jeff Carter form a terrific 1-2 offensive punch. The Flyers also have talented blue-liners in Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen, and they are strengthened by the addition of Pronger.  Weaknessess: The Flyers are putting lots of trust in the combustible Emery. Of course, goaltending has been a persistent weakness in Philly.  Name to know: F Claude Giroux had 27 points in 42 games last season.  Burning question: Is Philadelphia in the conversation with Washington and Pittsburgh for Eastern Conference supremacy?

Pittsburgh Penguins  Coach: Dan Bylsma (second season)  Moving in: F Mike Rupp, Jay McKee, G Brent Johnson  Moving out: G Mathieu Garon, D Hal Gill, D Rob Scuderi, F Petr Sykora, F Miroslav Satan  Strength: The Penguins have one of the most dynamic offenses in the NHL. Centers Sidney Crosby,Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal make the Penguins as strong as any team down the middle. They also have gritty players, such as Stanley Cup hero Max Talbot, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke.  Weakness: The defense has taken a hit with the loss of Scuderi and Gill.  Name to know: F Eric Tangradi. He might not start the season with the Penguins, but Tangradi has good offensive skills and size.  Burning question: Will the Pens make a third straight trip to the Finals?

Florida Panthers  Coach: Peter DeBoer (second season).  Moving in: F Steven Reinprecht, D Jordan Leopold, G Scott Clemmensen  Moving out: D Jay Bouwmeester, G Craig Anderson, D Nick Boynton, D Jassen Cullimore, D Karlis Skrastins  Strengths: The Panthers have a solid stable of forwards led by David Booth, Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss.  Weakness: The Panthers suffered some serious losses on defense.  Name to know: F Michael Frolik had 21 goals in 2008-09. He’s from the same Czech town as the Jackets’ Jake Voracek and some guy named Jagr.  Burning question: Have the Panthers lost too much on defense to contend for a playoff spot?

Ottawa Senators  Coach: Cory Clouston (second season)  Moving in: F Jonathan Cheechoo, F Milan Michalek, Alex Kovalev, G Pascal Leclaire  Moving out: F Dany Heatley, F Mike Comrie, G Alex Auld, D Brendan Bell  Strengths: The Senators have an interesting mix up front and might be able to muster a second offensive line now.  Weaknesses: The defensive unit lacks offensive sizzle.  Name to know: D Erik Karlsson might add some offensive punch.  Burning question: Will the Senators’ makeover get them back in the playoff hunt?

Toronto Maple Leafs  Coach: Ron Wilson (second season)  Moving in: F Phil Kessel, D Garnet Exelby, F Colton Orr, D Mike Komisarek, D Francois Beauchemin, G Jonas Gustavsson, F Wayne Primeau  Moving out: G Justin Pogge, D Pavel Kubina, F Ryan Hollweg, G Curtis Joseph  Strengths: The new-look Leafs added scoring with Kessel, but paid a heavy price in draft picks. The Leafs should have a weighty defense with Komisarek and Beauchemin to go along with promising Luke Schenn.  Weaknesses: Is Vesa Toskala the answer in goal? The Leafs signed Gustavsson to a one-year deal in case he’s not.  Name to know: Schenn. Toronto moved ahead of Columbus in the 2008 draft to take him, and he could be a cornerstone in the Leafs’ defense.  Burning question: Can general manager Brian Burke handle everything on his plate, including running the U.S. Olympic team?

Tampa Bay Lightning  Coach: Rick Tocchet (second season)  Moving in: F Alex Tanguay, D Mattias Ohlund, D Matt Walker, D Kurtis Foster, G Antero Niittymaki, F Stephane Veilleux  Moving out: F Radim Vrbata, Evgeny Artyukhin, F Vaclav Prospal, F David Koci, D Noah Welch, D Cory Murphy, D Marek Malik  Strengths: The Lightning should be able to generate offense with Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Tanguay and Steven Stamkos.  Weaknesses: The Lightning goaltending tandem of Mike Smith and Niittymaki does not inspire.  Name to know: D Victor Hedman. He’s 18 years old, stands 6 feet 6 and is still growing.  Burning question: Can this dysfunctional group jell into a serious team?

Washington Capitals  Coach: Bruce Boudreau (third season)  Moving in: F Mike Knuble, F Brendan Morrison  Moving out: G Brent Johnson, F Viktor Kozlov, F Sergei Fedorov, F Donald Brashear  Strengths: Two-time reigning MVP Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin gives Washington plenty of punch up front.  Weaknesses: After Mike Green, the Caps are anonymous on the blue line. Name to know: G Semyon Varlamov rescued the Capitals in their first-round playoff series against the Rangers last season, but was exposed by the Penguins. If Varlamov is the real deal, the Caps can challenge the Penguins.  Burning question: Can Ovie overtake Crosby to reach the Cup Finals?


E6 

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

RECORD BOOK

HEAD COACH Ken Hitchcock, fourth season  With Blue Jackets: 103-96-27  Overall: 511-345-127 in 11 seasons; nine Stanley Cup playoff appearances; one Stanley Cup title (1999)

GOALTENDING

Shutouts

Power-play goals

Games

1. Rick Nash...........................61 2. David Vyborny ...................36 3. Geoff Sanderson ................34

1. Marc Denis .........................266 2. Pascal Leclaire ....................125 3. Fredrik Norrena...................100 4. Ron Tugnutt..........................97 5. Steve Mason.........................61

1. Marc Denis............................12 2. Steve Mason.........................10 3. Pascal Leclaire......................10

1. Rick Nash.........................194 2. David Vyborny ..................113 3. Geoff Sanderson ................88 4. Nikolai Zherdev..................76 5. Tyler Wright ......................57

Assists 1. David Vyborny..................204 2. Rick Nash.........................161 3. Nikolai Zherdev ................105 4. Ray Whitney ......................95 5. Manny Malhotra.................92

Dave King (July 5, 2000 to Jan. 7, 2003): 64-106-21-13 Doug MacLean (Jan. 7, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2004): 24-43-8-4 Gerard Gallant (Jan. 1, 2004 to Nov. 13, 2006): 56-76-10 Gary Agnew (interim, Nov. 14, 2006 to Nov. 22, 2006): 0-4-1

Points 1. Rick Nash ........................355 2. David Vyborny..................317 3. Nikolai Zherdev.................181 4. Geoff Sanderson...............168 5. Manny Malhotra ...............145

ATTENDANCE REPORT

» 2001-02 » 2002-03 » 2003-04 » 2005-06 » 2006-07 » 2007-08 » 2008-09 »

Plus/minus

Goals

Previous coaches

Penalty minutes

TOTAL: 715,513 CAPACITY: 96.2% SELLOUTS: 26 OF 41

AVG: 17,452 TOTAL: 743,576 CAPACITY: 100% SELLOUTS: 41 OF 41

18,136 TOTAL: 727,522 CAPACITY: 97.8% SELLOUTS: 23 OF 41

17,744 TOTAL: 712,415 CAPACITY: 95.8% SELLOUTS: 16 OF 41

17,376 TOTAL: 688,655 CAPACITY: 92.6% SELLOUTS: 9 OF 41

16,796 TOTAL: 672,443 CAPACITY: 96.2% SELLOUTS: 5 OF 41

1. Jody Shelley ..................1,025 2. Rostislav Klesla ...............456 3. Rick Nash ........................436 3. Tyler Wright ....................436

Goals/defensemen

16,401

1. Rostislav Klesla..................36 2. Ron Hainsey ......................19 3. Jaroslav Spacek.................16

TOTAL: 592,824 CAPACITY: 79.7% SELLOUTS: 2 OF 41

14,459

Points/defensemen TOTAL: 637,334 CAPACITY: 85.7%SELLOUTS: 7 OF 41

1. Rostislav Klesla.................115 2. Ron Hainsey ......................83 3. Jaroslav Spacek ................72

15,545

Consecutive games

Nationwide seating chart Floor, lower bowl

Club level 201

309

1

228 308 227 307 226 306

225

122

202 2

Upper bowl 203

3

204 4

5

Sky Terrace

205 6

206 8 10

108

11

305 224

120

109

12

304

119

110

13

303 222 221 302 220 301

118

117 116 115 114 113 112

71 PTS H: 19-15-4-3 A: 9-24-5-3 GF: 190 GA: 233

111

103

80

71

71

22-47-8-5 57 H: 14-18-5-4 A: 9-28-3-1 GF: 164 GA: 255

116

98

96

69

57

29-42-8-3 69 H: 20-14-5-2 A: 9-28-3-1 GF: 213 GA: 263

110

99

79

74

69

109

91

91

62

59

111

62 H: 17-18-4-2 A: 8-27-4-2 GF: 177 GA: 238

35-43-0-4 74 H: 23-18-0-0 A: 12-25-0-4 GF: 215 GA: 276

124

106

74

65

57

33-42-0-7 73 H: 18-19-0-4 A: 15-23-0-3 GF: 196 GA: 244

113

110

81

73

71

218

217

216

215

115

91

88

80

79

80 H: 20-14-7 A: 14-22-5 GF: 193 GA: 218

41-31-10 (MADE PLAYOFFS) 92 H: 25-13-3 A: 16-18-7 GF: 220 GA: 223

Wins 1. Marc Denis ...........................84 2. Pascal Leclaire .....................45 3. Fredrik Norrena ....................35 4. Ron Tugnutt..........................34 5. Steve Mason ........................33

Goals-against average 1. Steve Mason ......................2.29 2. Ron Tugnutt .......................2.62 3. Fredrik Norrena .................2.79

Save percentage 1. Steve Mason ..................... .918 2. Pascal Leclaire.................. .907 2. Ron Tugnutt ...................... .910

112

104

92

92

88

Goals 1. Rick Nash ..............41 (2003-04) 2. Rick Nash..............40 (2008-09) 3. Rick Nash..............38 (2007-08)

Assists 1. Ray Whitney ..........52 (2002-03) 2. David Vyborny .......48 (2006-07) 2. Andrew Cassels.....48 (2002-03)

Points 1. Rick Nash ..............79 (2008-09) 2. Ray Whitney..........76 (2002-03) 3. Rick Nash..............69 (2007-08)

Power-play goals 1. Rick Nash ..............19 (2003-04)

10% off because I’m a VIP

GOALLLLLLL! Haha

Television/radio coverage  Fox Sports Net will televise 75 games this season (50 in high definition). Jeff Rimer (play-by-play) will be joined by longtime radio announcer Bill Davidge (analysis) in the TV booth.  Versus will televise two games: Dec. 1 at Chicago and Dec. 28 vs. Detroit.  Five games won’t be shown on TV: Oct. 13 vs. Calgary; Dec. 15 at Minnesota; Jan. 5 at Vancouver; March 15 vs. Edmonton; and April 5 at St. Louis.  All 82 games will air on radio on WWCD-FM (101.1) and/or WBNS-AM (1460). George Matthews (play-by-play) will return for his ninth season with the team. He will be joined by new colleague Bob McElligott (analysis), who was a longtime announcer for Columbus’ top minor-league team in Syracuse.

Tickets

Blue Jackets Banking exclusively from Huntington.

• Blue Jackets checks* and Visa Check Card • Free Online Banking and Bill Pay • 10% discount at the FOX Sports Ohio Blue Line** ®

ECHL

 Location: Duluth, Ga.  Coach: Jeff Pyle  Web site: www.gwinnettgladiators.com

WEST 11th

NHL 24th

WEST 13th

NHL 25th

WEST 7th

NHL 16th

Save percentage

 Ownership: John P. McConnell (majority); Wolfe Enterprises, Ron Pizzuti, Crain family (minority)  President: Mike Priest  General manager: Scott Howson  Other front office: Chris MacFarland (assistant general manager); Don Boyd (hockey operations/player personnel); Paul Castron (amateur scouting); Bob Strumm (pro scouting)

Visit BlueJacketsBanking.com

NHL 25th

1. Pascal Leclaire ... .919 (2007-08) 2. Marc Denis ........ .918 (2003-04) 3. Ron Tugnutt........ .917 (2000-01)

Front office

Gwinnett Gladiators

WEST 13th

Goals-against average

Show your Blue Jackets pride.

 Location: Syracuse, N.Y.  Coach: Ross Yates  Web site: www.syracusecrunch.com

NHL 27th

1. Pascal Leclaire ....2.25 (2007-08) 2. Steve Mason ......2.29 (2008-09) 3. Ron Tugnutt ........2.44 (2000-01)

General information

AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE

WEST 14th

Wins

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Syracuse Crunch

NHL 28th

1. Steve Mason .........33 (2008-09) 2. Marc Denis............27 (2002-03) 3. Pascal Leclaire ......24 (2007-08) 3. Fredrik Norrena .....24 (2006-07)

214

Minor-league affiliates

WEST 15th

1. Marc Denis ............77 (2002-03) 2. Marc Denis............66 (2003-04) 3. Steve Mason .........61 (2008-09)

212

 Prices: Single-game tickets range from $20 to $200. Also, a minimum of 250 seats at $10 each will go on sale two hours before each game. The $10 seats will be sold only for that night’s game and are available only at the Nationwide Arena ticket office.  Where to buy tickets: At the Nationwide Arena ticket office; Chiller Easton, Chiller Dublin and Chiller North; Fox Sports Ohio Blue Line store at the Mall at Tuttle Crossing; at www.bluejackets.com and www.ticketmaster.com; at Ticketmaster outlets; and by calling Ticketmaster at 614-431-3600.  Season and group tickets: Call 1-800-NHL-COLS (645-2657) or visit www.bluejackets.com.

NHL 29th

Games

Season records

211

 Phone: 614-246-4625  Web site: www.bluejackets.com  E-mail: contact@bluejackets.com  Arena: Nationwide Arena (capacity: 18,136) 200 W. Nationwide Blvd., Columbus, Ohio, 43215 614-246-2000 www.nationwidearena.com  Practice facility: Dispatch Ice Haus (adjacent to Nationwide Arena) 614-246-3380 www.thechiller.com

WEST 15th

GOALTENDING

210

Go Jackets

NHL 23rd

2 Geoff Sanderson .....15 (2002-03) 3. Steve Heinze..........14 (2000-01)

209

BLUE JACKETS BASICS

WEST 13th

34-26-12

213 219

FINAL RANK

25-45-8-4

208

9 107

121

223

1. Jason Chimera .................243 (Oct. 9, 2005-April 5, 2008) 2. David Vyborny..................184 (Oct. 17, 2002-Dec. 20, 2005) 3. Jan Hejda ........................156 (Oct. 25, 2007-current)

} } } } } } } }

28-39-9-6

207

7

101 102 103 104 105 106

CENTRAL DIVISION FINISH

1. Jan Hejda ........................+43 2. Marc Methot ....................+11 2. Mike Commodore..............+11 2. Jakub Voracek..................+11

Games 1. David Vyborny..................543 2. Rostislav Klesla ...............444 3. Rick Nash ........................441 4. Jody Shelley ....................380 5. Manny Malhotra...............344

OTHER COACHES  Barry Brennan (strength and conditioning); Tyler Wright (player development)

BREAKING NEWS: DISPATCH.COM

BLUE JACKETS BY SEASON

Career leaders

ASSISTANT COACHES  Gary Agnew, Gord Murphy, Claude Noel, Dave Rook (goaltending)

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2009

2008-09 2007-08 2006-07 2005-06 2003-04 2002-03 2001-02 2000-01

BLUE JACKETS COACHES

2000-01

Blue Jackets


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Columbus Blue Jackets 2009 preview  

Columbus Blue Jackets 2009 preview

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