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09-09-2009, 04:39 PM
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Blue Jackets hopeful for return to playoffs: Season Preview

As part of the HFBoards partnership program, I've been granted the permission to post the below article.

After qualifying for last year’s post-season, the Columbus Blue Jackets dropped the title as the league’s only team who had not previously been in the playoffs. But that trip to the playoffs was short-lived, swept in the opening round by the Detroit Red Wings.

In a difficult conference, especially with a young goalie, the odds are against the Blue Jackets to make the playoffs again in 2009-10.

The Blue Jackets have replaced veteran checking centre Michael Peca with free agent Samuel Pahlsson, a solid addition. The team will also see the return of starting centre Derick Brassard, who was on a hot pace last year, scoring 25 points in 31 games, before a shoulder injury cut his season short.

Columbus will have forward Antoine Vermette for the entire season, who was acquired at last year’s trade deadline from Ottawa for goalie Pascal Leclaire. Vermette found his scoring touch in Columbus, tallying 13 points in 17 games.

Head Coach Ken Hitchcock should see the continued development of Jakub Voracek, while it is expected that scorer Nikita Filatov, drafted sixth overall in 2008, will also have full-time duty with the big club. Filatov gave fans a sneak peak of his skill last season, scoring four goals in eight games. The team is excited to see how that translates over a full season.

After not re-signing defensemen Christian Backman and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, Marc Methot and Kris Russell will have an increased workload. Mike Commodore, signed as a free agent last summer, had a solid first season in Columbus, as did Fedor Tyutin, acquired from the New York Rangers. Rostislav Klesla continues to suffer from injury problems.

It would be unrealistic to expect another 10 shutouts from Steve Mason, though the team is banking that last year was not a fluke, but has added veteran Mathieu Garon as backup should Mason falter.

Prediction: 10th in West
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