Break up the streaking Blue Jackets!

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The Columbus Blue Jackets have officially climbed out of the NHL basement and passed the title of “cellar dweller” to the New York Islanders with a 5-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night. The goals came quick and often as the Blue Jackets jumped out to a four-goal lead before the Sabres were able to put a puck past Curtis Sanford. By that time, it was too late. But just in case the Sabres had their hopes set on a memorable comeback, Rick Nash scored his second goal of the game near the end of the 2nd period to put the final nail in the coffin.

The win is just the latest positive result in an impressive run as the Blue Jackets look to turn around their season. They’ve earned at least a point in six of their last seven games, including points in points in each of their last five. Their 4-1-2 record over the last seven games is impressive on its own, but even more impressive when put in its proper context after Columbus’ historically bad start.

How bad was the Blue Jackets start? It took them until their ninth game to get their first win of the season. They could only manage two pathetic victories in their first 15 games. Not only were they losing, they were losing the vast majority of their games in regulation. The 2-12-1 record was not the kind of start the Blue Jackets’ ownership had in mind when they signed James Wisniewski to a $33 million contract and acquired Jeff Carter (who is starting an 11-year, $58 million contract this season).

The Blue Jackets play over the last two weeks? This is more like what they expected. With six wins and 15 points, the Blue Jackets are only a point away from Anaheim in hopes of climbing out of last place in the Western Conference.

Columbus now sits at 6-13-3 through the first quarter of the season. The record still looks bad, but it’s not nearly as bad as it did two weeks ago. Up next, the Blue Jackets will get to face off against another hot Western Conference team: the St. Louis Blues. Curiously, the Blues exploded on their current streak when they hired Ken Hitchcock away from the Blue Jackets—a man who was heavily rumored to be in line to take over for Scott Arniel behind the Blue Jackets’ bench.

Much has been made of Hitchcock’s ability to turn around the Blues—but his departure may have helped Columbus get back to business as well. After losing their first game after St. Louis’ announcement, Columbus went on their current 4-1-2 streak.

Now if they can only continue this pace for the rest of the season, they may be able to get themselves back into the playoff hunt by the all-star break.

WATCH LIVE: Second round begins with Predators – Blues, Oilers – Ducks

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The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.

We start with a battle of the hottest goalies in the postseason so far as Jake Allen and the Blues host Pekka Rinne and the Predators. The duo of Game 1’s wraps up when Connor McDavid and the Oilers take on Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks.

Here’s what you need to know:

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks 

Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online)

U.S. adds Bruins’ McAvoy, Blackhawks’ Trevor van Riemsdyk for Worlds

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After a whirlwind of an NHL debut suiting up for the Boston Bruins in the playoffs, defenseman Charlie McAvoy is staying busy this summer.

McAvoy and Chicago Blackhawks blueliner Trevor van Riemsdyk are the latest additions to the U.S. roster for the upcoming World Championship.

This comes a day after a tough day for USA Hockey, as both Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews were ruled out from the competition.

Neither of these young defensemen can match that star power, but tournaments like these can be interesting showcases, particularly for McAvoy (who’s already shown great promise at just 19).

The Bruins threw McAvoy right into the deep end against the Senators; only Zdeno Chara‘s average time on ice of 28:46 exceeded McAvoy’s 26:12.

It’s understandable that Matthews and others may opt for rest, particularly after a season made more hectic thanks to the World Cup. In McAvoy’s case, the Worlds represent another chance for him to get his feet wet against NHL-level competition.

MORE:McAvoy shines in debut.

Agent says Kucherov blasted Bolts out of frustration from missing playoffs

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Quite the situation developing in Tampa Bay.

Earlier today, the translation of Nikita Kucherov‘s interview with Sovietsky Sport hit social media and caught a number of people by surprise. In it, Kucherov said some of his Lightning teammates “got their money and stopped working” this season, then complained about a lack of consistent linemates.

And that’s not all. (See below).

When reached for comment, Kucherov’s agent — Dan Milstein — didn’t deny the remarks were made. Instead, Milstein told the Tampa Bay Times they came out of frustration after Kucherov and the Bolts failed to make the playoffs.

More:

Here’s the full text of Kucherov’s remarks to Sovietsky Sport (translation courtesy the Times):

“Some guys overstayed in team. They’ve got their money and stopped working. They knew there’s no competition for their positions and the organization is not going to take someone else. They played not really well this year. You can see it in their stats and way of play. When we played together and I made a pass, they even were not expecting this. That’s why this season was hard for me despite good stats.

“We had great chemistry with [Vladislav] Namestnikov and [Steve] Stamkos at the start of the season. We understood each other really really well. And then Stamkos was injured, I was very upset. I think those nine games were my best in the NHL. After that coaches started shuffling lines. Partners were changing like in a kaleidoscope. It was very hard to get used to it, because guys didn’t play at Stamkos level. It’s hard to explain how I played with them. We had a lack of understanding of each other and there were some problems. I was suffering torments all season, because I couldn’t find perfect chemistry with other partners after Stamkos injury. We played with Jonathan Drouin once, and it was good. But coach didn’t put us together again for some reason.”

It’s unclear who Kucherov is referring to in the opening graph. He had numerous linemates this year, as mentioned in the second graph. As for the money angle, the most recent Tampa Bay forwards to get lucrative paydays were Alex Killorn (seven years, $31.5 million) and Stamkos (eight years, $68 million), both of whom were signed last summer.

Kucherov, as mentioned above, signed a three-year bridge deal at $4.766 million annually in October, then went out and provided the Bolts with terrific value. He emerged as a Hart Trophy candidate down the stretch, finishing the year with 40 goals (second only to Sidney Crosby) and 85 points (fifth-most in the NHL).

But while Kucherov had a great individual effort, the same couldn’t be said for the Bolts. Injuries and inconsistency derailed what was supposed to be a promising campaign, given the club advanced to the Cup Final two years ago, and the Eastern Conference Final last season.

If there is a bright side to any of this, it’s that Milstein told the Times Kucherov wants to remain in Tampa Bay long term.

Related: Yzerman won’t blame injuries for Bolts’ playoff miss

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Wednesday, April 26

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The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.

After disposing of the Calgary Flames in the first round, the Anaheim Ducks will look to take down another team from Alberta, while two red-hot goalies, Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne, go head-to-head.

Here’s what you need to know:

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks 

Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online)