What's trending:

Blue Jackets upbeat as they return from Olympics

The Associated Press
Blue Jackets upbeat as they return from Olympics

View gallery

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky says he's over the disappointment of Russia's Olympic failure in hockey. Now he's committed to getting the Columbus Blue Jackets into the playoffs.

''Right now I feel pretty good. It's already behind us,'' he said. ''Right after the games, I felt empty and I felt bad. But that's already past.''

Bobrovsky and three Blue Jackets on the Russian team arrived back in Columbus a week ago and have had plenty of time to acclimate to their NHL club. The game Thursday night at New Jersey is their first after the NHL's Olympic hiatus.

Coach Todd Richards, an assistant to Dan Bylsma with fourth-place Team USA, is still catching up on lost sleep from the Sochi Games. He called it the experience of a lifetime, memorable for a warm welcome by the Russian people, great competition and an enjoyable three weeks.

''I walked into my fourth-floor apartment and our back balcony was a stone's throw away from the Black Sea,'' he said. ''Everything was great. It was pretty impressive. It'll be something I'll be able to look back on throughout my career.''

However, there will be reminders of the disappointment the Americans and Russians shared in Sochi.

When players first returned to the dressing room after Tuesday's practice, someone had rigged the sound system to blare, ''O, Canada.'' Center Ryan Johansen, a native of the Canada that won the gold medal, may or may not have been the guilty party. Regardless, he was singing along, loudly and off key.

Now the Blue Jackets can focus on what's ahead. The club is fourth in the Metro Division, three points out of third and in the thick of the wild-card chase in the East.

With 24 games over the next 6 1/2 weeks, they need a strong finish. They'll need a repeat of what they put together a year ago, going from last place to tying for a playoff spot by closing with a 19-5-5 flourish.

Chief scorer Marian Gaborik is back from surgery to repair a broken collarbone.

''We're right there on the bubble and we want to make sure we have a good start and an even better finish,'' said Gaborik, who didn't play for Slovakia in the Olympics because of the injury. ''This group has done a lot to change since the start of the year. We're playing more consistently and hopefully now it's going to graduate to us playing better.''

When the NHL suspended play for the Olympics, the Blue Jackets were playing some of their best hockey of the season. They had won 11 of their last 16 games, including a franchise-record eight-game winning streak.

''The carrot's sort of dangling right in front of us. We know what's at stake,'' center Brandon Dubinsky said. ''If that's not incentive enough to bring that level that we need to have on a daily basis to win hockey games regularly, then this team wasn't meant to go far. But I believe we have the right guys in this room who will chase that carrot down.''

It'll be a sprint to the finish. Anyone slow out of the blocks will get left behind.

''You can't be one of those teams that is trying to find its game the first three or four or five games,'' Richards said. ''We're going to see how much this means to us based on when we come back, what type of shape are we going to be in physically, mentally and emotionally? If we're serious about it and this is something we truly want, well, words are easy to say. It's always about our actions.''

So far, so good. Richards said Tuesday's practice might have been the best since he took over as head coach in May 2012.

The Blue Jackets will be without top-pair defenseman Fedor Tyutin for two to three weeks because of an ankle injury sustained while playing for Russia in the Olympics. But, fourth-line enforcer Jared Boll is close to returning and everyone else is apparently healed - physically and psychically - after the Olympics.

''We've had a couple of days off, and a couple of good nights of sleep,'' said Artem Anisimov, yet another Russian Olympian. ''Now we're ready to get to work. We're ready to continue.''


Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Hockey
View Comments (0)
  • Canada downs Russia to reach WC final

    Canada downs Russia to reach WC final

    Sidney Crosby was at his best on one of hockey's biggest stages. Crosby scored once and assisted on both of Brad Marchand's goals, including the winner early the third period, to help Canada beat Russia 5-3 on Saturday night in the World Cup of … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 36 minutes ago
  • Ice hockey: Canada dump Russia to reach World Cup final

    Ice hockey: Canada dump Russia to reach World Cup final

    By Frank Pingue TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada needed three third-period goals to break open a showdown with Russia and reach the World Cup of Hockey final with a 5-3 victory on Saturday - the latest installment in the storied rivalry between the two … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 59 minutes ago
  • Last hurrah for Sweden's old guard?

    Last hurrah for Sweden's old guard?

    When Henrik Lundqvist carried a Swedish flag around the ice at the 2006 Turin Olympics with a gold medal dangling from his neck, he was a fresh-faced kid days shy of his 24th birthday. A seventh-round pick in 2000, Lundqvist was in his first season … More »

    AP - Sports - 3 hours ago
  • Raised-fist protesters Smith, Carlos to join US team in DC

    Raised-fist protesters Smith, Carlos to join US team in DC

    COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the American sprinters whose raised-fist salutes at the 1968 Olympics are an ageless sign of race-inspired protest, will join the U.S. Olympic team at the White House next week for its … More »

    AP - Sports - 3 hours ago
  • French Federation extends Paire suspension

    French Federation extends Paire suspension

    The French Tennis Federation (FFT) has extended Benoit Paire's suspension until the end of February 2017 for "damaging" the organization's image by his behavior at the Rio Olympics. The FFT, however, lifted bans on Caroline Garcia and Kristina … More »

    Reuters - 18 hours ago