The Columbus Blue Jackets took the lead twice on Sunday, but fell victim to a five-goal barrage from the Edmonton Oilers in the second period. To the surprise of no one, the Blue Jackets, who have only won twice all season when trailing after 40 minutes, ended up losing 6-3. As a result, Columbus now has the kind of peace of mind that no other team in the NHL has obtained. They know that their remaining games can’t help or hurt them from a rankings perspective, because no matter what they do, they will finish the season with the worst record in the league.
Of course, Edmonton won’t fare much better in 2011-12, but it’s games like this one that give them hope for the future. Even without 2010 first overall pick Taylor Hall available, the Oilers’ youth still played a prominent role in this victory. Calder Trophy contender Ryan Nugent-Hopkins registered two assists and sophomore breakout Jordan Eberle did just as well. 25-year-old rookie Chris VandeVelde netted his first NHL goal while Sam Gagner, who is still just 22, set a new career-high with his 17th goal of the campaign.
Gagner is of course best known for his four-goal, eight-point game on Feb. 2 and the hot streak to follow. While he’s fallen back to Earth since then, he has heated up lately with two goals and four points in his last four games.
The highlight of the game from Columbus’ perspective was probably Rick Nash scoring on a penalty shot which, at the time, game them a 2-1 lead. You can view his goal and the other game highlights below.
Of course, if you’re a Blue Jackets fan, seeing Nash have a good game has to give you mixed feelings. Nash was looking to be dealt before the trade deadline and rather than hope to build a team around him, Columbus is probably just looking to squeeze as much as they can out of a Nash trade over the summer. But hey, at least the Blue Jackets are in a great position going into the draft lottery.
Matthews to sit out preseason tilt versus Sabres, as Maple Leafs give him ‘a little break’
The Toronto Maple Leafs play the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. But No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews won’t be in the lineup, according to multiple reports.
“Sooner or later, he’s going to get in, but not tonight,” said assistant coach Jim Hiller, as per the Toronto Sun.
“The lineups are day by day. They (World Cup players such as Matthews, Milan Michalek, Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk) went through a solid three weeks. It’s a little break, a little down time. There are tons of games coming. They’ll get a lot of ice time. They’ll get in shortly.”
(The report also notes that Matthews is not dealing with a health issue, which is obviously good news for the Leafs.)
Matthews played for Team North America at the World Cup held in Toronto. He had two goals and three points in three round robin games, but the young North American team was unable to advance to the semifinal round.
The Maple Leafs play the Montreal Canadiens at home on Sunday.
McLellan: Maroon’s lower-body injury not considered serious
It appears Patrick Maroon‘s injury from Wednesday’s preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks looked worse than it is.
The Edmonton Oilers forward was in obvious pain immediately after he went hard into the boards from an awkward hit delivered by James Sheppard just past the midway point of the third period. Maroon needed help to the bench and was unable to put much, if any, pressure on his left leg.
Anticipation has been building since the Winnipeg Jets officially took Patrik Laine with the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.
On Friday, Laine, the highly coveted Finnish forward, will make his preseason debut for the Jets when they play the Edmonton Oilers in Winnipeg, as the home fans get the chance to take in the occasion.
The Jets have done a nice job of amassing good young forwards in their organization. Laine, who has the gifts to be a prolific scorer in the NHL, is at the top of that prospect list.
Laine enters this season with high expectations placed on him from fans and media, after coming to the NHL following a standout career in Finland as a teenager. He’s aware of the expectations, but toned down the hype with the usual statements of just playing his game.
“Just be brave on the ice and show everybody I will earn my spot on the team,” he told reporters.
Laine has already seen game action this month. Not with the Jets, but with Finland’s entry at the World Cup of Hockey.
Following offseason knee surgery, Laine wasn’t happy with his performance in Finland’s first pre-tournament game. In three tournament games, Laine failed to register a point, despite a team-best 10 shots on goal, as Finland was quickly eliminated in the round robin.
With a big laugh, Murray on Friday said the only way Ristolainen could speed up contract talks is if “he got all lovey-dovey” and elected to take the Sabres’ latest offer.
Ristolainen is a restricted free agent whose rights were retained by the Sabres in June. After representing Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, Ristolainen reported to the Sabres on Thursday in what was regarded as a sign of good faith.
Though he’s not allowed to play because he’s not under contract, Ristolainen is practicing with the team and also taking part in meetings. Ristolainen is not making himself available to reporters.
Murray says he didn’t see anything wrong with allowing Ristolainen to practice, saying he’d rather the player be in Buffalo than working out elsewhere.
Murray says the two sides are still negotiating.
In three seasons, Buffalo’s 2013 first-round draft pick has established himself as the Sabres’ top defenseman. Last year, Ristolainen led the team in averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time per game, and led Buffalo defensemen with 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists).