Johansen, Karlsson, Parise named NHL’s three stars of the week

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Columbus’ Ryan Johansen, Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson and Minnesota’s Zach Parise have been named the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Jan. 25, the league announced on Monday.

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Capping a weekend that celebrated the sport and the fans, Johansen was named the MVP – via Twitter vote – of the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game. The 22-year-old Vancouver, B.C., native led Team Foligno (captained by Blue Jackets linemate Nick Foligno) with 2-2—4, including a pair of goals in the opening period, in a 17-12 loss to Team Toews Jan. 25.

Karlsson tied for first among all players with three goals/points in two contests, helping the Senators (19-18-9, 47 points) pick up three out of a possible four standings points.

Parise also tied for first among all skaters with three goals/points in two outings for the Wild (20-20-6, 46 points). He notched his 17th goal of the season in a 3-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Jan. 19.

So yeah, pretty good last few days for ol’ RyJo. He also went first overall at the Fantasy Draft and, thanks to his MVP win on Sunday, scored himself a new 2015 Honda Accord EX-L.

Related: From contract dispute to All-Star MVP, Johansen’s had quite the year

Bobrovsky out 4-6 weeks, Jackets recall goalie Forsberg

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After hosting the 2015 All-Star Game, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (groin) has been put on the injured reserve list and will miss four-to-six weeks. That follows an earlier prognosis that predicted he would miss at least a month.

Losing its top goaltender for that length of time is a crushing blow for a Columbus squad that was fighting to get back into the playoff picture, but this is also an opportunity for goaltender Anton Forsberg. The 22-year-old has been summoned by the Blue Jackets and while he struggled in two contests with Columbus back in November, he has stood out in the minors. Forsberg has a 2.04 GAA and .927 save percentage in 27 AHL contests in 2014-15.

Columbus also called up forward Josh Anderson, who has 11 points and 58 penalty minutes in 39 contests with the AHL Springfield Falcons this season. He has no points and a minus-one rating in four games with the Blue Jackets.

Columbus will play against Washington on Tuesday.

Ovechkin finally gets car once Honda learns why he wanted it so badly

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The atmosphere was loose during the All-Star weekend and it was a perfect opportunity for players to show off their personalities. Among it all, we had Alex Ovechkin’s quest to win one of the Honda Accords that were given out during the festivities. As it turns out though, Ovechkin had a specific use for that car in mind, per the Washington Post.

Ovechkin wanted to give it to the Washington Ice Dogs, which is a hockey team for kids with developmental disabilities. He has a connection with them after 10-year-old Ann Schaab approached him during a skating session with the American Special Hockey Association to see if he’d have sushi with her. He accepted the invitation.

Ovechkin lobbied to be one of the final two picks in the fantasy draft in the hopes of winning a car that way. Only he didn’t tell anyone why he was after the car, so All-Star team captains Nick Foligno and Jonathan Toews thought it was a joke.

“He was lobbying to go last in the draft to get the car, so we had a plan that he was going third last, no matter what,” Drew Doughty explained.

“Everybody felt like I just want a car to drive it,” Ovechkin later said. “Obviously I have lots of cars. Of course it kind of show time, do it for charity as well.”

So Ovechkin continued his quest by pursuing the All-Star MVP award, but he ultimately didn’t get a car that way either. In the meantime though, Honda decided to figure out why someone playing out a 13-year, $124 million contract cared so much about winning a car. When they found out his intentions through his representative, David Abruytn, they decided to give a car to Ovechkin.

“I’m pretty sure they’re going to be really happy and smiling,” Ovechkin said of the Ice Dogs. “But again, it’s great when you make those people smiling and happy. It’s good.”

Related:

PHT Morning Skate: Girgensons rap, more Ovechkin kindness

PHT Morning Skate: Ugly Christmas sweaters and Ovechkin’s heart of gold

PHT Morning Skate: Ovechkin’s mother reveals son’s quietly helping seven orphanages

Blue Jackets proud as Columbus shows it’s a hockey town

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COLUMBUS — Nick Foligno was born in Buffalo, and he was drafted by and played a few seasons for the Ottawa Senators. But after being traded to the Blue Jackets in 2012, Foligno now considers Columbus his “home city.” And he, along with teammate Ryan Johansen, are proud of what their city accomplished this weekend in hosting the NHL’s All-Star festivities.

“We’re so proud of our city for showing that hockey is such a big deal here. For it to be the main focus, and then for us to have been involved in it, has been really gratifying for both of us,” Foligno said Sunday following the All-Star Game at Nationwide Arena.

Johansen, the game’s MVP, concurred: “That’s all we’ve been talking about over the last few days is seeing the fans and how much they’ve been enjoying all the festivities and stuff. We did a two-hour signing today at the convention center up there, and everybody just seemed to be having a great time, and all the kids were laughing and smiling and having fun.”

A little trivia for you: Nationwide Arena was built on the site of the old Ohio Penitentiary, once home to infamous criminals like gangster Bugs Moran. Completed in 2000, the rink became the centerpiece of the city’s Arena District, a $500 million development featuring restaurants and bars on a parcel of land that 20 years ago was the definition of urban blight.

“I remember coming here a number of years ago, even before Nationwide Arena was under construction,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. “We went up to the top of the Nationwide building and had a great view of the Union Station Arch, because that was pretty much all there was to see.”

With the construction of the arena came the expansion Blue Jackets, who played their first game on Oct. 7, 2000.

What didn’t come was a very good hockey team. In the decade and a half since their inaugural game, the Jackets have been to the postseason just twice, and they’ve won a grand total of two playoff games.

Because Columbus isn’t Toronto, attendance for Blue Jackets games has dipped at times. But it’s never dipped to levels like we’ve seen in places like Arizona or Florida. The lowest average attendance was 13,658, in 2010-11.

Maybe it’s the chilly winter weather, or perhaps it’s the close proximity to prominent NHL cities Pittsburgh and Detroit, but there’s always been a sense that Columbus could one day join the ranks of great American hockey markets.

If only it had a team that could legitimately contend for the Stanley Cup.

There was a glimpse of that potential in the 2014 postseason, when the Jackets won their first ever home playoff game (and their only one to date), beating the Penguins in overtime to even the teams’ first-round series at two.

Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, Jackets beat writer since the beginning, was there.

“Just being above the crowd in the press box and looking down on those people, the sheer joy of the win in Game 4 was something that those people had waited so long to witness,” Portzline told NHL.com. “To taste a victory and the way it happened; it felt like a coming of age for the city and the sports fans in the city in that this is what it has felt like for other cities. It made people realize the next level that there is, gave them a taste of it and that the best is yet to come.”

This All-Star weekend has similarly shown Columbus’ worth as a hockey market. Known in mainstream sports circles as the home of college football powerhouse Ohio State, the city has embraced the NHL over the past three days.

“I thought the fans were great,” Foligno said Saturday following a skills competition in which Johansen played to the home crowd by ripping off his hockey jersey to unveil a Buckeyes football jersey.

“It was just great to see the support for hockey and how excited the fans were that hockey was being celebrated in the city.”

The Jackets, hammered by injuries to an almost comical degree this season, are once again in tough to make the playoffs. There’s hope for the future, though, with a young, talented roster to go with a well-regarded group of prospects.

Lightning winger Steven Stamkos sees Columbus in a similar light to Tampa Bay.

“Obviously, you have to have a winning product, first and foremost,” said Stamkos. “We’ve been able to build something in Tampa over the past couple of years where we’re selling out every night and you can feel the buzz around town. We definitely felt that here this weekend.”

In December, Foligno signed a $33 million contract extension that tied him to the Jackets through 2020-21. The 27-year-old was happy to have this weekend to show everyone why he made that commitment.

“I signed here and when you make that kind of a commitment for that long of a time you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished and the team that you play for, and I wanted the guys to see that,” he said.

“I wanted them to see the city, and all the comments that came from the guys, they love it here. They really were impressed with how nice Columbus is.”

It’s not a bad hockey town either.

From contract dispute to All-Star MVP, Johansen’s had quite the year

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COLUMBUS — To call the last five months of Ryan Johansen’s life ‘eventful’ would be an understatement.

In September, the Blue Jackets’ top center was embroiled in an ugly contract dispute. Columbus president John Davidson accused Johansen’s agent of extortion, and Johansen missed all of training camp and the preseason.

Now, the 22-year-old is the MVP of the 2015 NHL All-Star Game.

“You know what? It’s been really cool and it hasn’t hit me yet for sure — this is something I’ll remember for a very long time,” Johansen said, when asked to contrast how he felt now compared to September.

“We’ve just been really enjoying every moment of this weekend and just being in Columbus, in front of our fans and our first [All-Star] game, it really has been a special weekend.”

While teammate Nick Foligno was primarily the face of Columbus this weekend — he served as captain, and was at the center of numerous media requests — Johansen was Columbus’ star. He captured MVP honors following a two-goal, four-point performance in Sunday’s game, but the award came largely on the strength of Blue Jackets fans who flooded social media to vote in his favor.

The MVP nod was a fitting end to the Johansen love-in, which began on Friday — when he was taken No. 1 overall at the Fantasy Draft — and continued into Saturday’s skills competition, when Blue Jackets fans responded earnestly after Johansen wore an Ohio State football jersey during the Breakaway Challenge, then trotted out the 7-year-old son of Columbus trainer Mike Vogt for his second attempt.

“I saw Vogter’s kid ripping around in the dressing room, and I thought, perfect, he would love to have that opportunity,” Johansen said. “So I talked to Mike and we agreed upon it, and he was pumped up to be able to get a chance to do that, and something I think we all really enjoyed.”

Now, not to read too much into this series of events, but…

This was the same Columbus crowd, remember, that spent the majority of the weekend lustily booing Rick Nash — the former franchise star that requested, and received, a trade out of town. It’s a passionate fanbase here, one that has a pretty long memory, and Nash bore the brunt of it over the course of 72 hours.

In September, there was concern “another Rick Nash situation” was at play with Johansen. The impasse between him and the club appeared huge, and the venom spit by Davidson — calling the situation “baffling,” and “so one-sided it’s nonsensical” — had many wondering if another ugly split was in the cards.

Johansen did eventually sign, and played well. But there was no telling what residual effect would come from that spat, or how much damage was done.

This weekend proved there wasn’t any.

“It’s meant a lot, us being a part of it,” Johansen said. “That’s all we’ve been talking about over the last few days is seeing the fans and how much they’ve been enjoying all the festivities and stuff and we did a two-hour signing today at the convention center up there, and everybody just seemed to be having a great time, and all the kids were laughing and smiling and having fun.

“So it’s just been a great thing to see these last few days.”