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COLUMBUS http://www.officiallightningprostore.com...agh-jersey , Ohio (AP) — Drama stemming from the uncertain future of two of the team’s biggest stars has simmered in the background for half a season, but the Columbus Blue Jackets don’t seem all that bothered.With a bye week bumping up against the All-Star weekend, most of the Blue Jackets enjoyed a long midseason break, knowing changes could soon be coming that will alter the team’s lineup and identity.Two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and winger Artemi Panarin will be unrestricted free agents after the season and thus far have refused to sign extensions. At least one of Russian stars could be dealt by the Feb. 25 trade deadline.Despite the inner tumult and an anemic power play, the Blue Jackets are winning. They entered the break 28-17-3, on track for a 100-point season and elbowing for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division with the New York Islanders, Washington and Pittsburgh. After dropping a back-to-back before the bye week, Columbus won five of its last eight and put together separate winning streaks of four and five games since mid-December.“They can handle a lot of things,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told BlueJackets.com. “They can handle things internally, they can handle things face to face Womens Steven Stamkos Jersey , and they take the message the right way and move along. That speaks well for the leadership inside the locker room and also the character of the players in the room.”Columbus returns to action at home Tuesday against Buffalo.The 30-year-old Bobrovsky, a fan favorite in his seventh season in Columbus , wants more money than the team is willing to pay for a multiyear deal. His contract has a no-move clause he would have to waive to be traded and he’s declined to say whether he would be willing to do so.“Bob,” who will make $7.4 million this year, has been inconsistent (19-14) and not played to the level that earned him honors as the NHL’s top goalie after the 2012-13 and 2016-17 seasons. He received a high-profile rebuke from the team and was suspended for a game for an unspecified incident after coach John Tortorella pulled him in the third period of a 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Jan. 8. Although Bobrovsky apologized to the team, it’s not likely the situation helped him want to stay.Tortorella has acknowledged that he’s given Bobrovsky’s backup, Joonas Korpisalo, more playing time this season because of the uncertainty over Bob’s future. The 24-year-old Finn has responded with a 9-3 record and a goals-against average of 2.95, not much worse than Bobrovsky’s 2.91. “Korpi” already has played in more games than in all of last season.“I was prepared for that,” Bobrovsky said of the additional starts for his backup. “Every season brings some challenges Tyler Johnson Jersey , it doesn’t matter what kind of situation. There will be tough times, there will be fun times. It’s a long season.”Panarin, 27, was traded to Columbus before last season and added critical scoring punch, setting career and franchise highs in points (27) and assists (55). “Bread” is playing his best hockey lately and is on track for a 100-point season. Linemates Cam Atkinson and Pierre Luc-Dubois have been terrific, too.Panarin gives few interviews in English but seems unfazed by all the noise over his contract situation. He is not sure he wants to be in Columbus for the long haul.“Every guy is different,” Atkinson said. “Every guy goes through different personal experiences. He’s playing really well for us.”A couple of billboards have gone up in Columbus in hopes of persuading Panarin to stay, including one from a distillery offering him free vodka for life if he re-signs with the Blue Jackets. He has had some fun with the offers on social media but hasn’t tipped his hand on which way he is leaning.“I don’t think he knows what he’s going to do,” Tortorella said. “But we can’t do anything about that. We’ve just got to keep going about our business.”Captain Nick Foligno, who missed four games recently when his 5-year-old daughter had heart surgery Victor Hedman Jersey , said the players’ approach to each game has not been affected by all the other stuff swirling around.“It hasn’t been that strange for us,” he said. “For us, it really hasn’t been any different. We have a job to do. Whoever is in the lineup doesn’t change that.”For power play help, Columbus is looking to newly minted Hockey Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis, who has been hired as a special teams consultant. St. Louis will be reunited with Tortorella, who coached him as part of the 2004 Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — John Tavares is earning every penny of the seven-year, $77 million contract the Toronto Maple Leafs gave him in the offseason.Not only is he living up to the hype, the 28-year-old center is having a career year.Tavares scored twice and hit the 300-goal mark for his career in leading the Maple Leafs to a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.“It’s always that more satisfying when it contributes to a big win, especially bouncing back after the other night Yanni Gourde Jersey , so credit a lot of guys who I’ve played with over my career because obviously that was a big part of helping me be successful,” said Tavares, who also picked up an assist on linemate Mitch Marner’s empty-net goal with 22 seconds to play.Tavares’ best season was 38 goals and 48 assists in 2014-15 with the Islanders. He now had 29 goals and 21 assists in 43 games with the Maple Leafs.Tavares and Marner were helped by the return of left wing Zach Hyman, who was activated missing eight games with an ankle injury.“They’re awesome,” Hyman said after posting a plus-4 night. “I just try and get them the puck as much as I can. John’s pretty tenacious on it and you see how strong he is and how he gets the puck back all the time. He’s one of the best finishers around the net. Mitch is an elite passer but he can also get himself open to shoot and you’re seeing more of that this year.”Defenseman Ron Hainsey also scored in Toronto’s three-goal first period and third-string goaltender Michael Hutchinson made 27 saves as the Maple Leafs beat the Devils for the third time in as many games.“We need to start stringing together wins and playing complete games and giving ourselves a shot,” forward Kyle Palmieri said after New Jersey lost for the fourth time in five games. “Tonight, obviously, we dug ourselves a bit of hole, but it was good to see we stuck with our game.”Blake Coleman and Brian Boyle scored in a 26-second span for the Devils late in the second period to get New Jersey within a goal. Keith Kinkaid made 39 saves, including two on Tavares that prevented his hat trick and 30th goal of the season.Hutchinson Auston Matthews Jersey , who was acquired in a trade with Florida on Dec. 29, made his fourth straight start with Frederik Anderson and Garret Sparks out with injuries. He came up big early in the third period, stopping Brett Seney in close.The Maple Leafs outscored the Devils 13-3 in winning the first two games this season, and it looked like they were headed for another blowout after the opening 20 minutes.Hainsey scored his first goal since Nov. 23 with a shot from the left point at 4:30. Tavares got his 300th goal less than three minutes later, lifting the rebound of Jake Gardiner’s shot past Kinkaid. He would add No. 301 in the waning seconds of the period, finishing off a great play on which Mitch Marner made a cross-ice pass to Morgan Rielly and the defenseman found Tavares with another cross-ice pass for a shot into an open net.New Jersey didn’t make it a game until the later stages of the second period when Coleman and Boyle woke up the crowd at the Prudential Center. Coleman got his career-best 14th goal and third in four games, putting his own rebound past Hutchinson. Boyle scored on a shot that might have been deflected by Gardiner.The Devils were outshot 15-3 in the third period.NOTES: The Devils placed G Mackenzie Blackwood (lower body) on injured reserve and recalled F Kevin Rooney from Binghamton (AHL). … Reigning MVP Taylor Hall (lower body) missed his eighth straight game. … Kasimir Kaskisuo was recalled from the AHL Toronto Marlies on emergency basis to back up Hutchinson.UP NEXTMaple Leafs: Host the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.Devils: Host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
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