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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    Jaromir Jagr leaves game with lower body injury

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    Calgary Flames forward Jaromir Jagr played just four shifts on Saturday night before exiting their game against the Minnesota Wild in the first period.

    The Flames later announced that Jagr would not return with what the team is calling a lower body injury.

    They had no other update.

    After going through the entire summer unsigned as a free agent, Jagr finally landed a one-year deal with the Flames just before the start of the season. So far he has appeared in five games for the team recording a pair of assists.

    He recorded 46 points (16 goals, 30 assists) while playing in all 82 games for the Florida Panthers a year ago.

    Even though he appeared in every game a year ago he still showed some signs of finally starting to slow down, and you have to assume that there is going to be some sort of an injury concern for a player that is turning 46 years old in February.

    Senators top Maple Leafs but lose Bobby Ryan for a month

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    The Ottawa Senators’ 6-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night came with a price.

    After the game coach Guy Boucher confirmed that veteran forward Bobby Ryan broke his right index finger during the game and is expected to miss at least the next month.

    Ryan has yet to score a goal for the Senators in eight games this season but has recorded five assists.

    He fought through an injury plagued season in 2016-17 that ended with one of the worst individual stat lines of his career. He was able to salvage the season however with a tremendous postseason performance that saw him finish with 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 19 games as the Senators went all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals where they would lose in double overtime.

    The Senators are off to a great start this season earning at least a point in seven of their first eight games (4-1-3).

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    The Penguins seem to have a backup goalie problem

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    The Penguins worked to address one area of concern on Saturday when they acquired forward Riley Sheahan from the Detroit Red Wings.

    Now they need to start working on another major area of concern — their backup goalie.

    The Penguins had to know Antti Niemi was never going to step into Pittsburgh and replace what Marc-Andre Fleury gave them on the ice, but they had to be expecting a little more than what they have received thus far.

    After giving up seven goals in the Penguins’ 7-1 loss in Tampa Bay on Saturday night, Niemi has now given up 16 goals in 128 minutes of hockey this season. His save percentage is a brutal .797.

    In games Niemi starts the Penguins are 0-3 and have been outscored 22-6, losing games by margins of 10-1 and 7-1.

    In the games he hasn’t started they are 5-0-1 and have outscored their opponents 24-17.

    It would be unfair to put all of the blame on Niemi, because even with regular starter Matt Murray in net they have also had stretches where they have struggled defensively and not quite played at the level they showed the past two seasons.

    Niemi has also made all of his starts in the second half of back-to-back situations against teams that were not only rested the night before, but also teams that should be among the best in the league this season (the Chicago Blackhawks, two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning).

    But none of that can excuse the way Niemi himself has played thus far, either. At some point you  need your goalie to make a save no matter who your team is playing or what is happening around him. His rebound control has been shaky, he looks uncomfortable when he is making saves and it is not like he is coming off of a great performance a year ago. In 42 appearances with the Dallas Stars he finished with an .892 save percentage, one of the worst marks in the league, and was at .905 the year before. He is 34 years old and has not performed at a better than league average level (or even at a league average level) in several years.

    It has to be an area of concern for the Penguins because if Murray has a flaw early in his young career it is that he has missed some time due to injury. In the past they have had Fleury there to step in. They do not have that luxury now.

    Niemi is only signed for one year at $700,000 so it is not like they have a huge investment in him.

    If they decide to go in another direction already (they will probably give Niemi a little bit of a longer leash, I am sure) they have Tristan Jarry in the American Hockey League, or perhaps explore a trade if they are uncomfortable with such a young duo and inexperienced backup behind Murray.

    Either way, it is really difficult to see them sticking around with this sort of performance from their backup for much longer.

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    WATCH LIVE: Florida Panthers at Washington Capitals

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    The Washington Capitals, fresh off of a 4-3 overtime win on Friday night thanks to Alex Ovechkin‘s NHL record 20th overtime goal, return home on Saturday night to host the Florida Panthers.

    After winning their first two games of the season the Capitals have stumbled a little bit over the past couple of weeks winning just two of their past six games. They are looking to win consecutive games for the first time since those back-to-back wins to open the season.

    The Panthers, meanwhile, are coming off of a 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night that cost them goaltender Roberto Luongo who was placed on injured reserve on Saturday afternoon.

    You can catch all of the action on NBCSN. Game time is 7:30 p.m. ET.

    Click here to watch live.

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.