Nikita Filatov scheduled to arrive in Columbus Wednesday to prepare for training camp

Thumbnail image for filatov.jpgIf you ask me, the Columbus Blue Jackets didn’t do a whole lot this summer to improve a team that fell well short of making the playoffs in 2009-10. You can blame a weak free agent market or a lack of cash all you want, but the bottom line is that the team doesn’t look very different.

So it seems that GM Scott Howson & Co. are hoping that a new coach (Scott Arniel) and internal improvement will get the job done. Perhaps they can increase their overall optimism in at least one player – former defector Nikita Filatov – as the Russian prospect arrived in the U.S. a few weeks before training camp to get acclimated. Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch provides the story.

Left winger Nikita Filatov has informed the Blue Jackets that he’ll arrive in Columbus on Wednesday, the Dispatch has learned, giving him roughly six weeks to get acclimated before the start of training camp.

Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson confirmed Filatov’s travel plans.

This will almost certainly delight the Blue Jackets coaches, players and executives, who sent development coach Tyler Wright to Russia last month to evaluate Filatov’s workout routine and gauge his feelings heading into the 2010-11 season.

And it confirms Filatov’s comments to the Dispatch shortly after Wright’s visit, that he would arrive the first week of August.

While he only has six goals (and somewhat oddly, zero assists) in 21 career NHL games, much is expected of the No. 6 overall pick of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Former head coach Ken Hitchcock’s combative, defensive-minded style rubbed Filatov the wrong way to such an extent that he left the team for CSKA Moscow in the KHL. (Filatov scored 22 points in an abbreviated 26 game stint with the team.)

It will be interesting to see what Arniel will make with what seems like an unshaped mass of clay posing as a hockey team this season. The group isn’t well-stocked with high-end offensive talent beyond face-of-the-franchise Rick Nash and notoriously fragile center Derick Brassard, so the Blue Jackets must hope against hope that Filatov can “figure it out” this summer. Arriving early and with a good attitude would be a great first step.

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    Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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    Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

    They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

    Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

    Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

    You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

    Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

    Read about that blowout here.

    Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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    Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

    Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

    It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

    The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

    This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

    Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

    On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

    We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

    Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

    Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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    After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

    Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

    The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

    Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

    Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

    Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

    Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

    Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

    Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

    Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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    It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

    After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

    Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

    Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

    The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.