Ryan Johansen said he would have been fine playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, instead of against them with the Nashville Predators.
Johansen will face his former team for the first time at Bridgestone Arena (8 p.m. ET; FS-O, FS-TN, NHL.TV). The center was traded for defenseman Seth Jones on Jan. 6 after spending four-plus seasons with Columbus.
"I'll say this: I wish I was still a Blue Jacket," Johansen said in an interview with The Columbus Dispatch published Friday. "Let me make sure I'm wording this the right way (pause); I wish we didn't start the season 0-8. I wish we were in the playoffs. I wish we had a great year. I wish we were all still together.
"But that's professional sports. It happens, and when a team struggles, there are trades. Maybe I felt like it wouldn't be me that's going [to be traded], but it was. I loved more than anything else in the world being a Blue Jacket. But now I'm here, and since they didn't believe that I could be a big piece of the franchise in Columbus any more, I love being a Nashville Predator."
Johansen has 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) in 34 games with Nashville, which has climbed within two points of the Chicago Blackhawks for third place in the Central Division. A 14-game point streak put the Predators in line for their ninth appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they have never won two series in any postseason.
Video: NYI@NSH: Johansen pads the Predators' lead in the 2nd
"What I've noticed about this group here … they are hungry," Johansen told reporter Aaron Portzline. "In Columbus, it would have been satisfying to make the playoffs. Here, they haven't gotten past the second round, but they've been in the playoffs basically every year. And it's starting to get to them. It's starting to be the team that can't get past the first or second round, and that's in the back of [their] heads right now.
"We want to go deep. We want to win the Cup, bottom line. And we're building that confidence right now. You can feel the belief. You really can."
Johansen was selected by Columbus with the No. 4 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. He had 193 points (79 goals, 114 assists) in 309 games with the Blue Jackets, with NHL career highs of 71 points (26 goals, 45 assists) last season, and 33 goals in 2013-14.
The 23-year-old said he "really respected" Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, who replaced Todd Richards on Oct. 21, but acknowledged that he was not meeting expectations before he was traded.
Video: NSH@WPG: Johansen buries Wilson's feed for PPG
"It's a tough situation right from the start," Johansen said. "We're 0-8 and I wasn't playing well, there's no secret there. I wasn't playing my game at the time. I was struggling to play. A lot of us were. With that … if you think about a coach's job and the situation he comes in to, he has so much he has to take care of and learn. For me, all I was trying to do is play my game, and I was struggling. I couldn't get it going. I really respected him as a coach. He has a great passion for the game and he's such a smart hockey person."
Jones, 21, has 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in 33 games with the Blue Jackets after two-plus seasons with the Predators.
"For both teams, it was good, and it was good for us -- Seth and I -- to get with our new clubs sooner rather than later," Johansen said. "[Jones] will be comfortable going into next season with all those guys, and, for me, I've had a long time now where I know the guys, the systems, all that stuff. I'm very comfortable.
"… From my standpoint I feel like it was purely a hockey trade. I feel like they really wanted a high-end defenseman, and this team needed a centerman. Down the road, I feel like both of these teams are going to benefit from it."
Video: NJD@CBJ: Jones gives the Blue Jackets a 2-0 lead
Jones is playing 24:27 per game with the Blue Jackets after averaging 19:38 per game this season for the Predators.
"I think I was developing well in Nashville," Jones told The Tennessean. "At the same time, obviously everyone wants to develop as fast as they possibly can, and I'm the same way. So I think here I can develop a little bit quicker. … [It's different] watching someone play the minutes. You have to learn from experience, I think."
Johansen has six points in his past five games, including a goal and two assists against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.
"Everyone has high expectations of me, I'm sure. But I have high expectations of myself," Johansen said. "That's awesome. If we can win here, it would be incredible. That's the situation you want to be in; you want to be the guy that's counted on. It [stinks] when you're struggling, but that's part of professional sports. You're not always perfect. For me, if I can be a piece that helps this team win, that's awesome. This team took a chance on me, gave me another opportunity."