If Scott Arniel is done, now who will Columbus look to hire?

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Now that the St. Louis Blues have come out and Ken Hitchcock blocked the Columbus Blue Jackets, what now for the Jackets who were rumored to be thinking of replacing Scott Arniel with their one-time head coach? While Hitchcock was presumed to be their top option, they’re now left to look around elsewhere if a move at the top is on the way. But who?

Here’s our short list of potential candidates now that the Blues have swept through and stolen the Jackets’ idea.

Michel Therrien

Therrien hasn’t seen the light of day behind a NHL bench since being fired by Pittsburgh in 2009. Therrien’s defensive-minded style of coaching is similar enough to Hitchcock’s in that it would potentially help out Steve Mason. The big question is: Has Therrien grown up enough to lead such a young team? He was good enough to help set the Penguins up for glory, doing the same in Columbus would make him a savior.

Scott Gordon

Gordon was seen to have gotten a raw deal when he was fired by the Islanders and Gordon is still thought to be one of the brighter young minds out there. He’s coached Team USA at the World Championships and now he’s Ron Wilson’s assistant in Toronto. He’ll get another head job soon but would Columbus roll the dice? Tough to think they’d do that after doing the same with Arniel.

Cory Clouston

Clouston has a tough reputation after his time in Ottawa. He made Dany Heatley want out of town but he also took an otherwise brutally talented Sens team to the playoffs in 2009. He’s tough on his players but a very smart hockey man. He’s got a good gig coaching the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL, but if the NHL calls again he’d certainly answer. Much like Gordon, however, he might be seen as a roll of the dice.

Davis Payne

Hey, why not? It seems like Payne got a raw deal in St. Louis after the myriad of injuries the Blues have seen and his record in St. Louis, all told, was good (67-55-15). While he didn’t get the overtime/shootout losses needed to keep things afloat this year, the Blues played hard for him and were a threat to make the playoffs late the last two seasons. If he can snap things around in Columbus, that’d be the ultimate payback to the Blues for stealing their plans.

Todd Richards

He’s currently Arniel’s assistant right now and while Arniel likely didn’t feel the heat from that appointment before the season, perhaps that was the warning shot he needed. Richards struggled getting a system in place when he coached the Minnesota Wild for two seasons and having him fill Arniel’s shoes on an interim basis would likely be the easiest move to make. Whether that’s a long term fix, however, would be up for debate and might just be seen as a lateral move. The Jackets aren’t in need of a lateral move if they’re going to make the playoffs.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.