Todd Richards

Columbus coach wants Blue Jackets to play with “pride”

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The Columbus Blue Jackets have just 30 games left in their season.

Given how badly the first 52 have gone — the last-place BJs have just 14 wins and are 13 points back of 29th-place Edmonton — it’s fair to think some players might be, how should we put this, ready to play out the string.

But if that’s the plan, they best check themselves with interim head coach Todd Richards, who has come up with a one-word objective for the remainder of the season.


“For me, it’s pride,” Richards told the Columbus Dispatch. “It’s pride — it’s how we play the game. That’s what I’m hoping to establish with these guys and instill in some of them, and it’s a big word. It’s real important to the game of hockey.

“I want our guys to be able to say, when the night is over and they’re untying their skates in the dressing room, that they left everything out on the ice. No matter what the scoreboard says, that’s where I want us to be as a team, night in and night out.”

This isn’t the first time an interim Blue Jackets coach has gone the “one word to rule them all” route. After Ken Hitchcock was fired late in the 2009-10 season, replacement bench boss Claude Noel kept saying the team had to play with “joy” — and the BJs proceeded to joy it up by winning 10 of 24 games under his joyful watch.

While Richards’ pride idea might come off as hokey or tardy — shouldn’t the Jackets have played with pride right from the get-go? — he acknowledges the situation at hand calls for some different motivational techniques.

“I don’t think we’re mathematically eliminated, but we’re at a stage where everybody feels that way,” Richards said. “We’re not a team that can use the standings or a playoff race for motivation, so it’s not an easy thing.”

“All I’m asking of these guys is to give me the best of what they’ve got the rest of the way. If you can put your head on the pillow and have peace of mind knowing you did the best work you could do … to me, that’s when you sleep well.”

After healthy scratch, Severson vows to play ‘next 80 games’

Jimmy Hayes, Damon Severson
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Damon Severson was a healthy scratch on Saturday.

It’s the last game he wants to miss this season.

“I had a good chat with a few people and just pretty much said, ‘I want to be in the next 80 games,’” Severson said, per The Record. “I sat out my game and that’s all I want to be out for for the year.”

Severson is one of the Devils’ most important young players. But this is also the 21-year-old defenseman’s sophomore season, and that’s when slumps can occur.

Hence, the early message he was sent by the coaching staff.

Severson is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when New Jersey hosts Nashville.

“He doesn’t have to be perfect,” coach John Hynes told reporters. “We’d just like to see him have a high compete level. We know he’s ready to go. We had a couple of good meetings with him. He’s in a good spot mentally. I know he’s ready to roll.”

Virtanen to make NHL debut tonight versus Kings

Jake Virtanen
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Jake Virtanen, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when his Canucks meet the Kings in Los Angeles.

The 19-year-old winger was a healthy scratch for Vancouver’s first three games of the regular season. He had two goals and two assists in six preseason games.

“I can’t wait,” he told reporters. “My energy is high. I want to get a couple of hits on my first shift.”

Big and physical with goal-scoring ability, the consensus is that Virtanen will remain in the NHL and not be returned to junior after he’s played nine games. That consensus could always change based on his play, of course.

The Canucks — who won last night in Anaheim — did not have a full skate this morning, so it’s unclear who will come out of the lineup. The best guess is rookie Jared McCann, who’s been playing third-line center.

If McCann does come out, the Canucks could move Brandon Sutter to third-line center and Virtanen could take Sutter’s spot on the first line with the Sedin twins. Or, there could be more extensive line juggling.