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Jackets ready for NHL Premiere after beating Atlanta

by John Kreiser
The Columbus Blue Jackets are feeling a little better about themselves as they head to Europe for their Compuware NHL Premiere series against San Jose.

The Jackets wrapped up the North American portion of their preseason schedule on Saturday night by rallying for a 4-3 victory against Atlanta at Nationwide Arena. 2008 first-rounder Nikita Filatov scored his second of the night with 4:53 remaining to cap a third-period rally from a 3-2 deficit.

Filatov, who's likely to be a key to whatever success the Jackets enjoy this season, glided patiently down the right wing, waited for a defenseman to drop to the ice to defend him and banked a shot off goalie Chris Mason and into the net for the winner.

Like his teammates, Filatov was glad to be getting on the plane to Sweden/

"I know it was a pretty tough game and we came from behind. I think we played a pretty good game," he said. "Training camp is over so now we get to go to Sweden. It was a pretty good win."

The game-winner came less than five minutes after Antoine Vermette tied the game by converting Kristian Huselius' centering pass from the right corner, the third time the Jackets had rallied from a one-goal deficit.

It was a mix-and-match night for Columbus coach Scott Arniel.

"I wanted to try different players together and Nikita wasn't here last year and I just wanted to try some different things. I also wanted to see (Huselius) with (Derick) Brassard and (Jakub) Voracek as well. By the time that third period rolled around I had people everywhere."

Columbus (4-4-0) left for Europe after the game. The Blue Jackets play an exhibition game Tuesday against Malmo of the Swedish Elite League before opening the regular season on Oct. 8 in Stockholm against the Sharks. Columbus is the last of the six teams playing in Europe to leave; the Sharks beat Mannheim of Germany's DEL 3-2 in a shootout earlier Saturday.

"We've done so much work to get to this point; it's a relief to get on the plane," Arniel said. "It's finally here and it's part of what we have to do, just get there safe."

Tobias Enstrom had a goal and two assists, and Freddy Meyer and Nigel Dawes also scored for Atlanta, which will be glad to see the puck drop for real on Friday against Washington at Phillips Arena. The Thrashers went 0-5-1 in the preseason -- not that coach Craig Ramsay is worried.

"I thought we played very well, I thought we played with a lot of enthusiasm," he said. "We chased them, we pushed them. Our first couple of power plays were pretty good. We scored the first goal and had a lead, but again we gave up a couple in the third and when you have a lead you need to be able to finish it off."

Meyer opened the scoring with a shot from the right point at 2:50 of the first period. Filatov responded just 1:12 later, converting a 2-on-1 rush with Vermette.

Enstrom beat Steve Mason with a point shot during a power play at 18:07 to put the Thrashers back in front. Huselius tied it late in the second period on a long shot from the top of the left circle. Dawes stuffed home his own rebound to give Atlanta the lead at 8:24 of the third.

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