COLUMBUS -- About a month ago, this was looking like a lost season for Columbus center Derick Brassard.
The 24-year-old had only 5 points in his first 24 games. There were nights when he watched his Blue Jackets teammates as a healthy scratch. His agent, Allan Walsh, was angry with how the organization was utilizing a guy who was the No. 6 pick in the 2006 Entry Draft and once considered a cornerstone in the team's quest to find consistent success.
Well, it was apparently too soon to write off the 2011-12 campaign for Brassard. He's got 9 points in his past 12 games, and now that he's back centering the team's top line, Brassard has a chance to finish strong and provide some hope for Blue Jackets fans waiting for him to become a consistent top-six forward.
"I'm just having fun and enjoying being at the rink," Brassard said. "I've just had the chance to play more minutes, on the power play especially. I've just tried not to worry about anything and I'm not thinking -- just react. That's been the biggest thing."
Brassard's ascension to the top line coincided with Jeff Carter being lost to a separated shoulder. It was another injury in a season of bad luck and bad results for the Blue Jackets.
If Brassard can continue to produce the way he has the past month, there could something of a silver lining from Carter's injury. Columbus got off to a terrible start this season, and previous coach Scott Arniel was constantly shuffling his lines around in search of the right combinations.
"We have a lot of guys who can play center, and I've been all over the place, but it is good to be back with Rick [Nash] and Vinny [Prospal]," Brassard said. "They are two great players and I love to play with those two guys. I enjoy the challenge of playing against some top players, too. Just to be on the ice with those guys -- they create so much offensively, it is really fun."
For Brassard moving forward, the search for consistency continues. He's been close to fulfilling his vast potential before.
He led all rookies in scoring when he went down with an injury in the 2008-09 season. After a rough 2009-10, Brassard responded with 17 goals and 47 points last season. There have been plenty of playoff teams that would be happy with that from their No. 2 center.
Maybe that is where Brassard eventually settles in, especially given the presence of Carter and 19-year-old Ryan Johansen. One of those three guys can probably play on the wing to accommodate everyone in the top six -- especially if their play warrants it.
"He's been very good over the last two games," interim coach Todd Richards said. "It has been his play without the puck is where he's been really good. He's been battling and competing.
"This will be another great challenge for him tonight, and the question I have for him is can he continue to play like this, game in and game out? There is that initial push, but will he be able to do the things he did the other night every night?"