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.

Lightning give Vasilevskiy the (brief) hook after very rare Jurco goal

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By just about any measure, Monday’s been lousy to Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

He was pulled with a few minutes remaining in the first period after Chicago Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead, scoring those three goals on just eight shots on net.

You could summarize Vasilevskiy’s awful start by those numbers, or by how rare the 3-1 goal was for the scorer.

Tomas Jurco failed to score a goal or an assist in 16 games with the Red Wings, then went pointless in nine more games with Chicago before finally scoring his first goal of the season on Monday.

Now, Jon Cooper didn’t pull Vasilevskiy because Jurco scored that tally. Still, it rubs a little extra salt in his wounds all things considered.

Here’s the Jurco goal:

Patrick Kane‘s 2-1 goal might have hurt the most, actually, as it quickly dissolved a tying tally by Ondrej Palat:

Update: The Lightning decided to put Vasilevskiy back in net to begin the second period. Interesting.

Coach Q thinks Anisimov will be back by playoffs for Blackhawks

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The bad news is that Artem Anisimov seems likely to miss all – or at least most – of the regular season for the Chicago Blackhawks with his lower-body injury.

The good? Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville believes that Anisimov will be ready once the playoffs swing into motion, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports.

Anisimov was hurt when he got tangled up with Canadiens forward Alex Radulov on March 14:

The Blackhawks have been filling Anisimov’s typical spot alongside Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin with Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz lately. There have been flashes of brilliance with Schmaltz, but Chicago would probably feel most confident with Anisimov back in his familiar place.

Chicago’s Central lead is pretty secure over the Minnesota Wild at the moment, which likely reduces motivation to rush Anisimov back before he’s truly ready. The Blackhawks close out their regular season on April 8, so there’s still time for him to heal up.

Ducks demote Enroth, so Gibson’s close to a return

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The Anaheim Ducks are flying high – er, waddling with some swagger? – right now thanks to Jonathan Bernier‘s somewhat shocking turnaround, but the pending return of John Gibson is promising.

(Especially since the Ducks will likely want him to shake off some rust before the playoffs begin.)

While it’s not clear if he’s exactly 100 percent healthy just yet, the Ducks sending Jhonas Enroth back to the AHL is a strong sign that Gibson is close.

Enroth actually never got a shot to start for the Ducks, as his last NHL appearance came on Nov. 30, closing off his ill-fated run with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Considering that Enroth was once a fairly hot commodity as at least a promising backup, it will be interesting to see how his 2017-18 season pans out. Will he get more or less of a chance than he received this season?

Bernier, meanwhile, is richly rewarding the Ducks for sticking with him.

He’s provided them with a Vezina-caliber March: 9-1-1, 1.71 GAA and .943 save percentage with one shutout. You almost wonder if there’s at least some potential for a goalie controversy if Gibson stumbles whenever he gets back into action … but hey, having two good goalies to choose from is better than none.

(Which was the scenario that must have scared the Ducks when Gibson got hurt in the first place.)

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning

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The Tampa Bay Lightning almost certainly haven’t faced the Chicago Blackhawks in a game this important since the two teams were vying for a Stanley Cup.

While the Blackhawks have already punched their ticket to the postseason and are merely trying to pad their lead in the Central Division, the Bolts are fighting for their playoff lives. At the moment, they rank three points behind the Boston Bruins for the final spot in the East. With a game in hand, they can make up a lot of ground tonight.

With all of that in mind, it should be an entertaining contest. You can check it out on NBCSN, watch online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.