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Embattled Columbus GM writes emotional blog post

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source: Getty Images

In an unprecedented move, Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson blogged on the team’s website today, asking fans to “stand and fight” as the team looks to rebound from an 0-7-1 start.

The state of Ohio hasn’t seen such raw, unfiltered emotion from a front-office executive since Dan Gilbert discovered Comic Sans.

Just under three weeks ago, we started the 2011-12 season with a high level of optimism and positive energy following a summer of transformation and development for our hockey club. What has transpired since has felt like we – management, coaches, players and fans – have been punched in the gut.

No one saw this coming. We had a strong training camp with good results in the preseason. The only negatives coming out of September were the James Wisniewski suspension and injuries to Mark Dekanich and Jared Boll. As we prepared to take the ice on Opening Night vs. Nashville, we talked about the emotions we felt at this time of year. We talked about words like excitement, anticipation, hope and optimism.

The first three weeks have been extremely difficult for all of us. The responsibility for where we are lies with me, our management staff, coaches and players. It does not lie with Brendan Shanahan or the NHL or the officials. It is not about luck. The responsibility for getting us out of it lies also with us… all of us doing it together.

This is where the post moves from “listening to old R.E.M records” to “listening to Tony Robbins on tape.” Howson goes on to say the organization understands that fans are angry and frustrated, but vows to turn things around.

How? According to Howson…

— The Jackets are “working together to look for solutions.” Which is good to know. You’d be worried if the organization’s plan was to “sit around hoping everything will be okay,” or “escape to Playa del Carmen for a week.”

— The organization is taking a page from Bill Walsh’s book The Score Takes Care of Itself, in which Walsh emphasizes standing and fighting after suffering a setback. If that doesn’t work, Columbus will try running the West Coast offense.

— Ninety percent of Columbus’ season still remains, which is “more than enough time to reach the goals we set for ourselves.” That’s better than pointing out Columbus is somehow seven points out of a playoff spot already.

All joking aside, it takes major guts to do what Howson did. The entire Blue Jackets organization might be accepting responsibility for this disastrous start, but Howson stepped up and became the face of it all. Heck, he even threw in his Twitter handle (@GMScottHowson) at the end.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Blue Jackets react tonight as they host the Red Wings. Speaking of, did you know Detroit has outscored Columbus 61-30 while going 15-1-2 in the last 18 head-to-head matchups?

Maybe the stand and fight thing can start on Thursday instead.

Replacing Beauchemin with Bieksa hasn’t worked out so great for Anaheim

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Are the Anaheim Ducks missing Francois Beauchemin more than they thought they might?

It’s a question we’ve been hearing more and more lately, as the Ducks’ goal-scoring woes of October have been replaced by defensive issues in November.

Anaheim is 3-4-2 in its last nine games. The Ducks have allowed 27 goals in regulation during that stretch — that’s three per game on average — plus two more in a pair of overtime losses.

In a related story, per the O.C. Register, here’s what coach Bruce Boudreau said the other day about offseason acquisition Kevin Bieksa:

“He’s a veteran guy that has to fight his way out of this. We count on him to not make mistakes. We will go as far as guys like him take us.”

Bieksa, 34, is minus-7 in his last four games combined. True, he’s forced to play a lot of hard minutes against good players. But then, that’s exactly what he was brought in to do. The Ducks even gave him a two-year, $8 million extension, locking him up through 2017-18.

Now consider what Boudreau said during last year’s playoff run, about the guy Bieksa was brought in to replace:

“He’s the voice. Everybody else is so young. [He] is the voice back there.”

And Beauchemin was more than just a talker. He led the Ducks in ice time. He had nine assists in 16 playoff games. Bottom line: he was a big part of a team that fell one win shy of making the Stanley Cup Final.

Beauchemin, of course, signed a three-year deal with Colorado on July 1, for a cap hit of $4.5 million. So far, he’s been as advertised for the Avs. The 35-year-old has two goals and 10 assists. He gets the most ice time on the team, an average of 23:33.

Looking back, Anaheim GM Bob Murray never did want to lose Beauchemin. The Ducks just weren’t prepared to offer what the Avs did.

“Beauch’ has been a pretty good warrior for us,” Murray said in June. “He has a one-time chance for free agency and maybe somebody will give him $5 million.… I couldn’t do that.”

One has to wonder now if Murray wishes he’d found a way.

The Ducks host the Blackhawks tonight on NBCSN.

Devils sign veteran Kennedy to one-year, $600K deal

Tyler Kennedy, Lee Stempniak
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A second forward has converted a PTO with New Jersey into a shiny new contract.

Tyler Kennedy, who’s on his second professional tryout with the club, has agreed to a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level, the Devils announced on Friday.

Kennedy, 29, first caught on with the Devils in the preseason, only to be released in early October. He then rejoined the club on a second PTO in mid-November, and earned himself a deal from GM Ray Shero (previously, the two were together in the Pittsburgh organization).

A former 20-goal scorer with the Pens, Kennedy fell on hard times last year. It began in San Jose — where he never fit in Todd McLellan’s plans — and ended on Long Island, where he sat for over half of the Isles’ opening-round playoff loss to the Caps.

As for where he’ll fit in the Devils lineup?

Kennedy said he’s ready to play tonight — the Devils take on Montreal — and it’s possible Stefan Matteau could be scratched, allowing Kennedy to stpe into a bottom-six forward role.

As for how the Devils will free a roster spot — Jiri Tlusty remains on IR with a shoulder issue, while David Schlemko could be away from the club for a bit, as his wife is due to give birth.

Rangers park Boyle, Stalberg in press box for Thanksgiving Showdown

Washington Capitals v New York Rangers - Game Seven
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I’m not going to make the “it really is Black Friday for Dan Boyle and Viktor Stalberg” joke, but had to recognize it as a semi-viable lede.

So that’s out of the way.

Now, onto the business at hand — per the New York Daily News, Boyle and Stalberg will be scratched today when the Rangers take on the Bruins in the annual Thanksgiving Showdown (1 p.m. ET, NBC). Dylan McIlrath will draw in on defense for Boyle, while Emerson Etem will take Stalberg’s spot up front.

It’s not really surprising Alain Vigneault made some lineup changes.

The Blueshirts’ last outing was arguably their worst of the season — a 5-1 home loss to the Canadiens, a game in which Boyle finished minus-2 and Stalberg played the least among all Rangers skaters, with just 11:20 TOI.

More: Dan Boyle isn’t thrilled with all these healthy scratches

What’s more, McIlrath hasn’t played in nearly two weeks (Nov. 15, versus Toronto). It’s been even longer for Etem — he’s been out of the lineup since a win over the Blues on Nov. 12.

Related: Just a friendly reminder about Friday’s Bruins-Rangers Thanksgiving Showdown, on NBC

Goal-starved Flyers recall AHL Phantoms leading scorer Cousins

Nazem Kadri

Desperate for offense, Philly made a fairly noteworthy move on Friday — Nick Cousins has been brought up from the minors.

Cousins, 22, has been a solid scorer at the AHL level in each of the last two seasons. He led Lehigh Valley with 56 points in 64 games in ’14-15 and, this year, has 18 through 15 — putting him in a tie for seventh in league scoring.

The former OHL Sault Ste. Marie standout does have some NHL experience, having played 11 games for the Flyers last season. He averaged just under nine minutes per game over that span, and failed to register a point.

Looking ahead, Cousins could make his season debut today, when Philly hosts the Preds. Right now it’s unclear where he’d fit in the lineup.

To make room for Cousins on the roster, the Flyers sent Taylor Leier down to the Phantoms.