‘Like running into your old girlfriend’: Jackets, Rangers brace for reunion night in Columbus


There’ll be plenty of emotions running through Nationwide Arena on Thursday.

That’s because the Blue Jackets and Rangers — who have combined for two blockbuster deals over the last two years — will square off in calendar-circling affair for a number of individuals.

“You can’t say it’s just another game,” said Columbus’ Marian Gaborik, acquired from New York at last year’s trade deadline. “All that other stuff is fine — we have relationships with people, with the other teams, some of us — but we’re in a situation right now where we’re desperate for wins.”

Here’s a full rundown of the history between the two:

New York Rangers

— Rick Nash was Columbus’ long-time captain and remains the all-time leader in a number of statistical categories, but will not play tonight due to a concussion.

— Derick Brassard was drafted sixth overall by Columbus in 2006 and played over 300 games for the Jackets.

— Derek Dorsett was taken 189th overall in that same draft year, and went on to serve as Columbus’ assistant captain.

— John Moore was the Jackets’ first-round pick in 2009.

— Anton Stralman played 124 games with the Jackets between 2009-11, scoring a career-high 34 points in ’09-10.

— Associate coach Scott Arniel’s first and only NHL head coaching job was with Columbus from 2010-12.

Columbus Blue Jackets

— Gaborik signed a massive five-year, $37.5 million deal with the Rangers in 2009 and recorded two 40-goal seasons.

— Brandon Dubinsky played six seasons in New York, appearing in nearly 400 regular season games.

— Artem Anisimov was drafted by the Rangers in 2006 and had his best year as a pro (18G, 44PTS) in 2010-11.

— Fedor Tyutin began his NHL career with New York in 2003 and played four seasons with the club.

While some of the players listed above have faced their former mates already, this will be the first game back in Columbus for Brassard, Dorsett, Moore, Stralman and Arniel.

The man who took over behind the Columbus bench for Arniel, Todd Richards, isn’t exactly sure how the evening will play out.

“It had to come to this point eventually. It’s like running into your old girlfriend on the street,” Richards explained. “You’re probably not looking forward to the first time, but it’s got to happen. I don’t know if it’s expectations about how that first meeting is going to go.

“Sometimes there’s anxiety and nerves there, but once you get past it, it’s just hockey.”

Video: Gaudreau, Ryan, Orlov star in Goals of the Week

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Three stellar individual efforts in our latest offering.

First up, it’s red-hot Ottawa forward Bobby Ryan, with his third-period goal in an eventual OT loss to Detroit. Ryan now has 20 points in 21 games this season, and six in his last five.

Next, it’s Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, who walked off what was arguably the Flames’ best win of the year — a 2-1 OT victory over the defending champion Blackhawks.

Finally, it’s Caps blueliner Dmitry Orlov, with one of the weirdest-looking goals in recent memory.

From the Washington Post:

“No one knew where the puck was,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said.

“Houdini,” goaltender Braden Holtby said.

“I had no clue,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought it was in the stands. I had no idea.”

The goal was also Orlov’s second of the season, meaning he’s just one shy of matching his career best.

After 20-game absence, Elias to make season debut for Devils

Patrik Elias
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It took a while, but Patrik Elias‘ campaign is ready to get underway.

Elias, who’s yet to play this year because of a knee injury, says he’ll be in the New Jersey lineup tonight when the Devils host the Blue Jackets at Prudential (per The Record).

The 39-year-old’s presence should provide an emotional lift in front of the home crowd.

A lifelong Devil — only Ken Daneyko and Martin Brodeur have appeared in more games — fans may be witnessing Elias’ last year in uniform. It’s fair to suggest he could be on the verge of retirement, given he’s in the last of a three-year, $16.5 million deal and will turn 40 in April.

As for tonight, it’s not yet official who Elias will play with — or how much he’ll play. He did take line rushes with Jacob Josefson and Stefan Matteau at Tuesday’s practice.

After three-game absence, Johnson back for Bolts this week

Carl Gunnarsson, Tyler Johnson
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The Lightning have a busy stretch of the schedule coming up, with three games in the next four nights.

And it sounds like they’ll get a big lineup reinforcement to help them through it.

Per LA Kings Insider — the Kings are in Tampa tonight — Bolts head coach Jon Cooper confirmed that Tyler Johnson will be back in the lineup “at some point” this week, after missing the last three games with an upper-body injury.

Johnson has been out of the lineup since taking a Dave Bolland hit on Nov. 14. The timing of the injury was lousy, especially since Johnson looked to be rounding into form — after a rough October in which he failed to score a goal and had just five points in 12 games, Johnson was playing well in November, with three goals and five points in his first six games.

There’s no denying the Bolts could use Johnson back in the mix.

The club has been ravaged by injury lately and is currently without the services of Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin and Cedric Paquette at forward.

The injuries are a big reason why Tampa is off to a mediocre 10-9-3 start. That said, the team has looked good in each of its last two games — a 2-1 win over the Rangers in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Final, followed by a 5-0 blowout of the Ducks on Saturday.

As for when Johnson might get back in? The Bolts play tonight at home against L.A., on Friday in Washington, then back at home on Saturday against the Islanders.

Will the Bruins re-sign Loui Eriksson?

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Loui Eriksson, one of the key pieces Boston acquired in the Tyler Seguin trade, is in the last of his six-year, $25.5 million deal and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

And, at least for now, there doesn’t appear to be much certainty about his future as a Bruin.

“I’ll never, ever comment publicly in regard to individual players and negotiations and such,” B’s GM Don Sweeney told the Boston Herald this week. “Whether (comments) come out from the other side or wherever, they’re not going to come from me.

“He’s a big part of our team and he’s off to a really good start.”

Eriksson is certainly off to a good start — nine goals and 18 points in 20 games, his highest points-per-game average (.90) since coming to Boston, and the second-highest of his career.

He’s also playing nearly 20 minutes per night, enjoying great chemistry playing alongside David Krejci and, after an injury-riddled first year as a Bruin followed by last year’s playoff miss, seems to have really found his groove.

So why the silence on the extension front?

Two weeks ago, Eriksson told the Globe his agent, J.P. Barry, hasn’t had any discussions with Sweeney about re-signing in Boston.

“There’s not much you can really do about it now,” the 30-year-old Swede explained. “I’m trying to focus on playing good and trying to help this team as much as possible. Then we’ll see what happens after this year.”

Obviously, money is a factor.

Looking ahead, Boston’s current cap crunch doesn’t project to get much lighter. The club already has $61 million in salary committed for next season (per War On Ice), and Sweeney has to be mindful of other important contracts on the horizon.

Torey Krug is a restricted free agent at year’s end, and in line for a raise on the $3.4 million he made this season. Brad Marchand will be a UFA following the ’16-17 campaign.

And you’d think Sweeney would want to keep money free to eventually sort out Boston’s defense. The blueline has been an issue this season; it’s also getting old and will likely need an injection of new blood in the near future.

There’s also the question if, should he head to free agency, Eriksson couldn’t be replaced internally. The B’s are flush with young wingers — Jimmy Hayes, Brett Connolly, Seth Griffith, David Pastrnak, Frank Vatrano and Alexander Khokhlachev are all 26 or under — which could make Eriksson expendable.