Ryan Johansen, James Wisniewski

After first playoff win, the bar’s been raised in Columbus


It was a long and often painful journey, but Columbus has finally joined the 28 other teams that have won a playoff game (leaving the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets’ franchise in the cold). That accomplishment shouldn’t be belittled given how far the Blue Jackets had to come over the last couple of seasons to reach this point, but it’s also not cause for contentment.

Making the playoffs is great, but players don’t grow up dreaming about winning a first round game and fans don’t long for the day their team will last six contests before bowing out of the postseason.

“The goal isn’t just to make the playoffs here,” Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson asserted, per the team’s website. “Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup. There were good intentions here in the past, but we go into every game now with the expectation to win. We expect to play well, and we expect to achieve success.”

Blue Jackets president John Davidson was equally optimistic during an interview in July. He pointed to Nathan Horton as a potential difference maker after the former Boston Bruins playoff hero was forced to miss most of the 2013-14 campaign and all of the postseason because of shoulder and abdominal problems.

More importantly, Columbus has a promising young core that’s led by forward Ryan Johansen and blueliner Ryan Murray. They also have a solid defense and a strong goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky.

Their offense was nothing special last season, but if Horton and their primary new addition, Scott Hartnell, have solid seasons and 21-year-old Boone Jenner is able to step up in his sophomore campaign, then that might change.

Clearly the Blue Jackets still have some significant question marks and on paper they don’t look like a Stanley Cup contender yet, but the bar has been raised. We’ll find out soon enough how they respond.

Sabres waive d-man Donovan

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Buffalo has put blueliner Matt Donovan on waivers, per Sportsnet.

Donovan, 25, signed a one-year deal with the Sabres on the opening day of free agency after spending his entire professional career with the Isles organization.

The fact he’s being waived isn’t a huge shock. Donovan failed to draw into a single Sabres game this year despite a whittled-down blueline; Jake McCabe, recently called up from AHL Rochester, drew into the lineup for Monday’s win over Columbus at the expense of Carlo Colaiacovo, who played the first two games of the year.

The fact both McCabe and Colaiacovo were ahead on the depth chart didn’t bode well for Donovan. Today’s move could also suggest that Zach Bogosian, who hasn’t played this year due to injury, is ready to return.

Stars to scratch Nichushkin after rough outing versus Avs?

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Looks as though slumping Dallas winger Valeri Nichushkin could be a healthy scratch tonight when the Stars host the Oilers at American Airlines.

Per the Morning-News, Nichushkin — who barely played in the second and third periods of Saturday’s 6-3 loss to Colorado — is likely to be replaced by Colton Sceviour in the lineup.

Stars head coach Lindy Ruff was fuming after the Avs defeat, calling it “embarrassing, worse than disappointing.” It didn’t take a genius to realize one of the players in his doghouse was Nichushkin, who had just 2:02 of ice time in the second period and 3:24 in the third.

Yesterday, Ruff dropped Nichushkin to the fourth line in practice.

“I’ve been trying to help him by shifting him around,” the head coach explained. “He had some struggles early in camp on right wing, so I put him on left, and he doesn’t seem real comfortable at left right now.

“His game, everything has got to get a little bit quicker.”

The 10th overall pick in 2013, Nichushkin has struggled to build on the form shown in his rookie campaign, when he scored 14 goals and 34 points in 79 contests.

He missed nearly all of last season with a linger hip ailment and has been a virtual non-factor through the first two games this year.