Former Blue Jackets forward Espen Knutsen gets closure with family of Brittanie Cecil

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Back on March 16, 2002 one family saw their lives altered by a errant puck. 13 year-old Brittanie Cecil was struck in the head by a shot off the stick of Blue Jackets star player Espen Knutsen. Knutsen’s shot deflected off a stick and fired into the crowd striking Cecil just above her nose. Two days later she died because of the blow.

Because of that incident, the NHL had safety netting installed in every rink in order to better protect the fans. Both Cecil’s family and Knutsen saw their futures changed because of what happened and yesterday, the two finally met to gain closure over what happened. Mike Wagner of The Columbus Dispatch tells the story of Knutsen’s meeting with Cecil’s mother Jody Naudascher and her family, a sad and touching must-read.

Espen Knutsen, the former Columbus Blue Jackets player who shot the puck that struck Brittanie, embraced the trembling mother the moment he saw her, and the two began the closure that had escaped them both.

“I don’t hold you responsible; I never did,” Naudascher told Knutsen at Nationwide Arena during a private, one-hour meeting. “It was an accident, and you should never have blamed yourself for anything. I wanted to tell you all this back then.”

It’s heart breaking to this day to read about what happened to Brittanie Cecil and just how suddenly and saddening it was to see what happened to her and the rest of her family over such a freak thing. Knutsen’s career in the NHL after that day was never the same as the guilt he held over being the guy who shot the puck that careened into the stands and killed never truly went away.

While it was nagging injuries that led to Knutsen spending his final year in the NHL during the 2003-2004 season playing in just 14 games, you could assume, and perhaps rightly, that his head just wasn’t in it anymore. Knutsen went on to play just a smattering of games over the following year in Sweden before retiring.

It’s hard to see and read about what Cecil’s family have dealt with following Brittanie’s death but it makes you feel better for the human condition to see the Naudascher’s and Knutsen finally come together after eight years to clear the air over that tragic night in Columbus.

Teuvo time: Teravainen to open with Toews, Hossa

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six
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Teuvo Teravainen has played both center and right wing over the course of his brief NHL career.

Now, he’s got a new position — left wing — and a pair of shiny new linemates to boot.

Teravainen will open the year playing alongside captain Jonathan Toews and right wing Marian Hossa, per the Sun-Times.

The move could be a boon for the young Finn. Several ex-Chicago wingers thrived playing alongside Toews and Hossa, most notably Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of production Teravainen, who just turned 21 last month, can manufacture on Chicago’s top line. His numbers from last year weren’t spectacular (nine points in 34 games), but he did a solid job of racking up points en route to the Stanley Cup, with 10 in 18 games.

It’ll also be interesting to see how long he sticks with Toews and Hossa.

Head coach Joel Quenneville has been known as a frequent user of the line blender, often switching up his combos at at moment’s notice.

That said, Quenneville is hoping to find some stability with this new-look group.

“[Teuvo will] play there to start the season,” he said. “Hopefully, all year.”

‘Great story’ Janmark surprises, makes Dallas roster

Brian Elliott, Mattias Janmark-Nylen
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Pretty cool story out of Texas, where Mattias Janmark, the 22-year-old rookie that’s played a grand total of nine games in North America, has defied the odds to make the Stars’ opening-night roster.

“It’s a great story,” Dallas GM Jim Nill said, per the Morning News. “We really only planned to have him here for maybe two preseason games and then send him back. But he just kept being one of the best players out there, and he changed our minds.

“It’s a great example of what you can do if you just play hard.”

Nill acquired Janmark, 22, from Detroit at last year’s deadline as part of the Erik Cole trade. Nill was familiar with the Swedish forward from his time with the Wings — he was part of the front office team that drafted Janmark in ’13 — but didn’t think the deal would pay such immediate dividends.

As for Janmark, he didn’t even think he’d be in North America this year.

He has a contract with SHL club Frolunda, where he scored 36 points in 55 games last year. Given he’s barely played in the AHL — a few games with Grand Rapids, a few with Texas — Janmark figured he’d be back in Europe this season.

His strong play in the exhibition season changed all that. Janmark beat out two of Dallas’ touted prospects — former AHL rookie of the year Curtis McKenzie, and ’12 first-rounder Radek Faksa — for a roster spot, and showed good chemistry with third-line center Cody Eakin.

Janmark also performed well on a line with Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky.