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(Page 4 of 15)'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

30 in 30: Blue Jackets add Horton to lineup

Saturday, 08.24.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

The Columbus Blue Jackets became the NHL's lovable underdog last season, and their mad dash for a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a slow start to the shortened season came up just short.

What looked like a long-term rebuilding project for new general manager Jarmo Kekalainen might not be that now with a Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender, a potentially deep defense corps, and new frontline talents at forward. Marian Gaborik arrived before the NHL Trade Deadline, and Nathan Horton joined him as one of the marquee free agent signings.

Beyond signing Horton to a seven-year, $37.1 million contract, it has been a remarkably quiet offseason in Columbus. The Blue Jackets didn't add any players on one-way contracts or lose anyone to a one-way deal to another team. They had three first-round picks at the 2013 NHL Draft and ended up staying put and making each of the selections.

30 in 30: Gaborik's scoring X-factor for Blue Jackets

Saturday, 08.24.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

John Kreiser - Columnist

The Columbus Blue Jackets' hopes of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs would get a major boost if Marian Gaborik's offensive history repeats itself.

Gaborik is riding one of the most pronounced every-other-season stretches in NHL history. In 2007-08, 2009-10 and 2011-12, he's had at least 41 goals, 76 points and a plus-15 rating while missing no more than six games. But those seasons have alternated with 13-, 22- and 12-goal performances during which he's battled injuries and inconsistency.

After an "on" season in 2011-12, in which he scored 41 goals and led the New York Rangers within two victories of the Stanley Cup Final, 2012-13 was one of the "off" seasons. Gaborik underwent shoulder surgery following the Rangers' playoff run, and despite the longer rest due to the lockout, he never found his scoring touch, was a target of criticism from coach John Tortorella and was sent to the Blue Jackets at the NHL Trade Deadline -- waiving his no-trade clause to do so.

30 in 30: Murray tops Blue Jackets' prospects list

Saturday, 08.24.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

John Kreiser - Columnist

The Columbus Blue Jackets underwent a front-office shakeup last season, with John Davidson taking over as president of hockey operations and hiring Jarmo Kekalainen as general manager. One reason for the change was the Blue Jackets' inability to turn high draft picks into a winning team. In their first 13 seasons, they had a top-six pick 11 times, but they have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs once and only one of those 11 high picks (Ryan Johansen) remains in the organization.

Davidson and Kekalainen are hoping to change that. They had three first-round picks in the 2013 NHL Draft and are hoping those players, along with some holdovers, will give the organization the boost it needs to become a consistent playoff qualifier.

Here's a look at the best of the Blue Jackets' prospects, according to

30 in 30: Horton, Murray among Columbus' questions

Saturday, 08.24.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

John Kreiser - Columnist

You can't get much closer to the Stanley Cup Playoffs than the Columbus Blue Jackets did last season. A surge during the final two months of the regular season enabled the Blue Jackets to finish with 55 points in 48 games, the same number as the Minnesota Wild. But the Wild's 22 non-shootout victories were three more than Columbus' 19, giving Minnesota the final playoff berth in the Western Conference.

Realignment has moved Columbus to the newly formed Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference, meaning that the Blue Jackets will be spending a lot less time in airplanes this season. Whether they'll be spending the spring competing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs depends largely on the answers to these six questions:

30 in 30: Blue Jackets buzzing with optimism

Saturday, 08.24.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

John Kreiser - Columnist

For a team that has made the Stanley Cup Playoffs just once since entering the NHL in 2000, there's an awful lot of optimism surrounding the Columbus Blue Jackets as they prepare for their first season in the new Metropolitan Division of the realigned Eastern Conference.

It's amazing what a fast finish can do.

The Blue Jackets came up just short of the playoffs last season. They tied the Minnesota Wild for eighth place in the Western Conference, but lost on a tiebreaker (Columbus had 19 non-shootout victories, three fewer than Minnesota). Most of their 55 points came during the last two months of the 48-game schedule -- Columbus went 20-5-3 after February after a 4-12-4 start.

30 in 30: Hurricanes lineup adds Sekera, Khudobin

Friday, 08.23.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

The Carolina Hurricanes have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs six times in the seven seasons since winning their first championship. Twice they've been eliminated on the final day of the regular season, but it remains a remarkable lack of success for a team that won the Cup in 2006 and reached the Eastern Conference Final in 2009.

General manager Jim Rutherford is one of the deans of the NHL, and he made two big moves before last season, adding Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin. A leaky defense and injuries to Cam Ward and Joni Pitkanen capsized the Hurricanes in 2012-13, and Rutherford made moves to try to correct those potential problems.

The Hurricanes added defenseman Andrej Sekera from Buffalo for Jamie McBain and a second-round pick. The trade didn't receive a lot of fanfare, but Sekera could be a significant upgrade. Rutherford also added defenseman Mike Komisarek after the Toronto Maple Leafs bought him out, and Komisarek represents a low-risk move as a potential third-pairing guy, not unlike Wade Redden turned out to be for the St. Louis Blues last season.

30 in 30: Steady Skinner can be Hurricanes' X-factor

Friday, 08.23.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

The Carolina Hurricanes surprised many by selecting Jeff Skinner with the seventh pick of the 2010 NHL Draft. The forward responded not only by earning a full-time NHL job at age 18, but also by scoring 31 goals and leading all first-year players with 63 points to win the 2011 Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie.

However, Skinner has yet to reach that same level of play since his fast start. As the 21-year-old enters his fourth NHL season -- the first of a six-year, $34.35 million contract -- his coach said it's time for Skinner to take the next step in his development.

"I think for Jeff, it's a big year for him," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller told "He didn't get invited to the Team Canada [Olympic development camp], which I'm sure disappointed him. He knows that he's had stints of play that isn't at Jeff Skinner-caliber level. At times he didn't match up to where he probably should be. On a maturity level, it's around the time of his career where we're looking for consistency."

30 in 30: Ward's health key question for Hurricanes

Friday, 08.23.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

The Carolina Hurricanes spent big last summer, bringing in Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin, but still missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fourth straight season and for the sixth time in seven seasons since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006.

A combination of injuries and poor play can be blamed for last season's rough run, when the Hurricanes plummeted from the top of the Southeast Division at the beginning of March to 13th in the Eastern Conference when the season ended.

So how do the Hurricanes find a consistent level of play that lets them return to the postseason? How the team answers these six questions could go a long way toward answering that most important of questions:

30 in 30: Healthy Hurricanes eager to bounce back

Friday, 08.23.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

It was a tale of two seasons in 2012-13 for the Carolina Hurricanes.

It opened strong, with Carolina starting 8-4-1 and bolting to the top of the Southeast Division on Feb. 24.

The Hurricanes were in first place when they arrived for a game against the Florida Panthers on March 3. Carolina led 3-0 8:56 into the second period, when goaltender Cam Ward left with a lower-body injury that later was diagnosed as a third-degree sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Ward didn't need surgery, but with a recovery time expected to be 6-8 weeks, his regular season was over.

In theory, the Hurricanes' season also ended that night. They held on for a 3-2 victory against the Panthers, but won seven times the rest of the season, going 7-17-3 to finish 13th in the Eastern Conference, 15 points behind the Washington Capitals in the division.

"If you look at our season, it was almost like Jekyll and Hyde," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller told "A lot of it had to do around the time Cam got injured. Up until then, we were leading our division. … All our stats were in our favor as far as plus/minus [scoring] differential, scoring more goals than we were giving up. We cut down on our goals-against from a year ago. I think we were 8-2 the last 10 games before Cam got hurt. We were just flying along great. Unfortunately, the injury happened and we were .500 for a few games and then after that we just couldn't keep the goals down and it affected our production in the second half."

30 in 30: Lindholm tops Hurricanes' list of prospects

Friday, 08.23.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

The Carolina Hurricanes appear set on their top line, and their No. 1 goaltender is locked in.

After that, though, there are job openings across the roster, and the Hurricanes have a few young players who the club hopes will step into larger roles.

Here's a look at Carolina's top 10 prospects, according to

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