Rick Nash

Columnist: Rick Nash’s final days in Columbus barely causing a stir

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If these are indeed the last games Rick Nash plays in a Blue Jackets jersey — and judging by how acrimonious things got at the NHL trade deadline, it seems likely they are — he’ll probably look back on his final days in Columbus with a lack of fondness.

Why? Because fans are showing an equal lack of fondness, according to Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch.

Nash played in his 669th game and registered his 541st point as a Jacket last night. The team he has represented for all of his nine NHL seasons defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 before a crowd of 12,432 in Nationwide Arena. Half the patrons wore red.

The Jackets have five games remaining in what has been, by most measures, the worst season in their history. They have two more home games, Friday night against Kevin Dineen’s Florida Panthers and on April 7 when the New York Islanders visit for the season finale.

How boldly nondescript: Nash, the face of an anonymous franchise, will be playing his last Jackets game against a faceless opponent.

Nash requested to be moved prior to the trade deadline. Since general manager Scott Howson could not find a proper ransom by Feb. 27, Nash was left to culminate his captaincy with a six-week, lame-duck lap. It is almost over.

To be fair to Nash — who Arace describes as “our city’s best professional athlete” — he’s tried to be exactly that: Professional. He’s said all the right things, maintained his captaincy and continually praised the Columbus fans for supporting him and the team over the last nine years.

“The fans have been great,” Nash told the Dispatch. “It could have gone a much different way, and I realize that. But like I’ve said before, we’ve been through a lot here, me and the fans, and I appreciate their support more than anything.”

The problem now, though, is that the fans are tapped out. This has been arguably the worst year in Blue Jackets history, which is saying something for a franchise that’s lost 40-plus games in six of 11 seasons. Arace notes that people are “scalping glass-level seats for $15″ and, even though Nash has tried to save face, most can’t ignore his transgressions.

He did ask out of town, after all.

So with the Jackets playing out the string in front of a disillusioned fan base, there’s only one question left to ask. Is there any chance Nash could stay in Columbus?

“It’s a great question,” he told Arace. “I can’t answer. I will say that as long as I’m a Blue Jacket, I will give 110 percent for the organization and the fans, and that is the truth.

“I have no idea what will happen. I honestly don’t. My focus is on the 22 guys here and winning as many games as we can for the fans.”

Hey, at least he’s still saying all the right things.

Scrivens and slumping Habs face daunting task against McDavid and suddenly high-flying Oilers

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Connor McDavid is kind of good.

In the two games since his return to the Edmonton Oilers, he’s kind of — just kind of — had an impact. Five points in two games — that counts as an impact, right? Oh, and did you see this goal in his return earlier this week?

Since McDavid’s highly anticipated return Tuesday against Columbus, the Oilers have outscored the opposition 12-3 in two games. Small sample size? Yes. Against teams currently not in playoff positions? Yes.

But that’s still very impressive and with him in the lineup, there appears to be a sense of optimism in Edmonton.

Enter the free-falling Montreal Canadiens. Enter goalie Ben Scrivens, who only made his debut for the Habs at the end of December and will face his old team, the Oilers, on Saturday.

In four games with the Habs, Scrivens has been scored on 15 times.

The Habs, without Carey Price, have been in a tumble down the Eastern Conference standings for a long time now. And, really, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight.

Now, the Habs and Scrivens are tasked with facing McDavid and the suddenly high-flying Oilers.

And Canadiens fans probably aren’t the cheeriest right now, as their team has gone from on the verge of NHL history in October to becoming an afterthought in the playoff picture in February.

No pressure.

“Unfortunately, it seems like my whole career has been playing behind teams that don’t have that confidence, except for my time in L.A.,” Scrivens told reporters.

“It’s a challenge as a goalie but all you can do is worry about your job. I can’t go out there and start trying to break pucks out and do anything I’m not supposed to be doing. My job is to try and stop pucks and try and stop as many as I can.”

With the way McDavid and the Oilers have been scoring since the break and his return, it appears that will be a monumental task for Scrivens.

And with the Habs in a 1-8-1 slide in the past 10 games, the timing probably couldn’t get any worse.

 

Stars put Spezza on injured reserve, recall Faksa from AHL Texas

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Sitting three points out of top spot in the Central Division and on the eve of an important divisional clash on home ice with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars have placed center Jason Spezza on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday, the club announced on Friday.

Spezza, 32, was injured during Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Stars can move back to within a point of Chicago for the division lead with a regulation win on Saturday.

In 52 games this season, Spezza has 18 goals and 40 points, which ties him with Patrick Sharp for fourth on the team in total points.

With Spezza out, the Stars recalled 22-year-old forward Radek Faksa from the Texas Stars in the AHL.

Faksa has 15 goals and 26 points in 28 games this season with Texas. In 18 games with the NHL Stars, he has one goal and three points.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.