Columbus Blue Jackets hope to bring back Nikita Filatov

filatov.jpgThere are a few common threads hanging around this free agent summer. It’s been a bad July for goalies, at least the big-ticket guys, as players such as Dan Ellis and Chris Mason provided cheap alternatives for teams who balked at the asking price of Marty Turco and Evgeni Nabokov. From my viewpoint, it’s been a fairly lucrative month for solid-but-unspectacular defensemen as Paul Martin and Dan Hamhuis received healthy paydays.

It also seems like this might be The Summer of Dynamic-Yet-Flawed Russians. Obviously, we’ve covered Ilya Kovalchuk to the point of exhaustion (and will continue to do so) since last Thursday. It doesn’t stop there, though, as Nikolai Zherdev makes headlines while people also wonder what exactly is going on with another flighty rightie, Alex Frolov.

One other wayward young Russian is Nikita Filatov. Like Zherdev, the right-handed winger boasts bushels of offensive talent but bristled under the stern eye of former Columbus Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock. He managed two goals and 0 assists* in 13 troubling games before the team allowed him to flee to CSKA Moscow in the KHL for the remainder of the 2009-10 season. (Filatov had a solid end there, scoring nine goals, 13 assists for 22 points in 26 games in the KHL.)

* I find it a bit odd that Filatov has six goals and zero assists in his NHL career. Expect that to be fodder for people who love obscure statistics.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that the Blue Jackets sent their development coach Tyler Wright to Moscow so he could work with the promising but sensitive forward. GM Scott Howson says that they expect to have Filatov in training camp while new coach Scott Arniel will allow the 20-year-old to have a “clean slate.”

“From everything we know,” Howson said, “he’s excited about coming.”

Coach Scott Arniel has promised a clean slate with Filatov, but it remains to be seen where he might fit in the lineup.

The top six – centers Antoine Vermette and Derick Brassard, and wingers Rick Nash, Jake Voracek, Kristian Huselius and R.J. Umberger – would appear fairly settled two months away from camp, although Umberger opened on the third line last season to fit Filatov on the No.2 line.

Filatov has told the Blue Jackets that he has bulked up to 185 pounds, with the hope of being close to 190 when camp breaks.

“Nikita has the skill and the ability to play in a top-six role,” Howson said. “It’s going to be up to him to show it. NHL teams always make room for top-six players.”

Something tells me that the talent-poor Blue Jackets will do everything in their power to make things work with Filatov next season … but the young forward should try to meet them half-way.

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    Video: Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.

    Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.

    The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.

    Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.

    But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.

    “I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

    Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

    Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

    Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

    It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

    It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

    For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

    Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

    Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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    Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

    Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

    The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

    Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

    Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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    In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

    Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

    Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.