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Anaheim Ducks vs. Columbus Blue Jackets @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Anaheim Mighty Ducks (28-32-10-8) at Columbus Blue Jackets (22-42-8-4).

TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EST.

Rick Nash won't get to the playoffs this season, but he could very well win the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the league's most prolific goal scorer.

Nash will look to continue that quest when he leads the Columbus Blue Jackets against the visiting Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

With the Blue Jackets all but eliminated from the playoff race a month ago, Nash's chase for the NHL goal lead has become the focal point for the club to rally around down the stretch.

Nash scored his 39th of the season in Columbus' 2-0 win over Minnesota on Wednesday. He is tied with Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk and Calgary's Jarome Iginla for the league lead.

"Jeez, we're all trying," Nash said. "It's one of those things where I'm here, I might as well go for it."

However, the 19-year-old left wing is surprised to be in the thick of the chase.

"I didn't really expect it. I didn't really think I would be this close this far in the season," said Nash, the top overall pick in the 2002 draft. "Obviously, guys are going on streaks where they score two or three and then they go three or four games without. It's kind of nice that Kovalchuk hasn't run away with it and hasn't scored in a while."

Instead of working toward the defense of their Western Conference title, the Mighty Ducks are on the outside looking in at the playoffs. They were eliminated from postseason contention with a 3-2 loss at St. Louis on Thursday.

Jason Krog and Rob Niedermayer scored for the Mighty Ducks, who had scored a combined 12 goals in winning their previous two games.

STANDINGS: Mighty Ducks - 74 points, 4th place, 22 PB, Pacific Division. Blue Jackets - 56 points, 5th place, 45 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Mighty Ducks - Sergei Fedorov, 30 goals and 63 points; Fedorov and Vaclav Prospal, 33 assists; Garrett Burnett, 153 PIM. Blue Jackets - Nash, 39 goals and 53 points; David Vyborny, 31 assists; Jody Shelley, 228 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 24): Mighty Ducks - Power play: 17.5 percent (52 for 297), 10th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.4 percent (282 for 334), 14th. Blue Jackets - Power play: 14.8 percent (55 for 371), 23rd. Penalty killing: 84.3 percent (257 for 305), 16th.

GOALTENDERS: Mighty Ducks - Jean-Sebastien Giguere (16-29-6, 3 SO, 2.65 GAA); Martin Gerber (11-10-4, 2, 2.28). Blue Jackets - Marc Denis (19-34-7, 5, 2.58); Fred Brathwaite (3-10-1, 0, 3.35).

SEASON SERIES: Even, 1-1-1.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 18; Mighty Ducks, 3-1. At Anaheim, Calif., Prospal scored the go-ahead goal with 1:49 left in the third period and the Ducks' Cam Severson recorded his first NHL goal.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Mighty Ducks - 10-22-3-4 on the road; Blue Jackets - 16-16-4-2 at home.

Associated Press
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