Blue Jackets in Sochi
On February 8th, after playing a game in San Jose, California then flying back to Columbus, seven members of the Blue Jackets organization will then hop on a plane for a 5,652 mile journey. They will cross through nine time zones to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Four of them will be playing hockey for their country on their native soil.
Center Artem Anisimov, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, defenseman Nikita Niktin and defenseman Fedor Tyutin will make up one sixth of the Russian National Men’s Ice Hockey Team. Right winger Marian Gaborik has been selected to represent Slovakia. In addition to these players, Columbus General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen will represent Team Finland as an assistant general manager and Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards will be an assistant coach for the U.S. Men’s National team.
Anisimov, from Yaroslavl, Russia, has played on the international stage for Russia in the World U18 Championships (2006), World Junior Championships (2007, 2008) and the World Championships (2010). In 28 games across international competition, he’s 7-8-15. This is his first appearance in an Olympic Games.
2013 Vezina Trophy winner Bobrovsky, from Novokuznetsk, Russia, participated in the World Junior Championships (2008) and the 2007 Super Series. He has a record of 4-2-0 with a goals against average of 2.46 and a save percentage of .919 in six international games. This is his first Olympic Games.
Nikitin, from Omsk, Russia, played for Russia in the 2012 World Championships and also the 2006 World Junior Championships. Across international competition, he’s 0-4-4 in 16 games. This is also his first Olympic appearance.
Tyutin, from Izhevsk, Russia, has represented Russia in the last two Olympic Games in Turin, Italy (2006) and Vancouver, Canada (2010). He was also on the Russian team for the World Championships (2008, 2011), World Junior Championships (2002, 2003) and the World U18 Championships (2001). In 46 games across all international play, he’s 2-14-16.
This will be Gaborik’s third Olympics. Hailing from Trencin, Slovakia, he played in the Olympics (2006, 2010). He also appeared for Slovakia in the World Championships (2001, 2004, 2005, 2007), the World Cup of Hockey (2004), the World Junior Championships (1999, 2000) and the World U18 Championships (1999). In 84 games across all international competitions, he’s 41-28-69.
Kekalainen, from Tampere, Finland, is making his first appearance at an Olympic Games as an assistant general manager. Previously, he represented Team Finland in the World Junior Championships (1986) and the Canada Cup (1992). While playing in international competition, he garnered 4-4-8 in 13 games.
Columbus head coach Todd Richards, from Crystal, Minnesota, is the lone representative for Team USA from the Blue Jackets. Having never played in international competitions, he will be an assistant coach for the United States under head coach Dan Bylsma. As a head coach (Minnesota and Columbus), he holds a record of 138-129-29.
Prior to this year, ten Blue Jackets have represented their respective countries on the Olympic stage in Turin, Italy (2006) and Vancouver, Canada (2010).
The most notable Blue Jacket missing from an Olympic roster is defenseman Jack Johnson of the United States. He played for Team USA in the World U17 Hockey Challenge (2004), the World U18 Championships (2004, 2005), the World Junior Championships (2006, 2007), the World Championships (2007, 2009-2012) and the Olympics (2010).
Across 74 games played in international competitions, Johnson is 19-17-36. He’s from Indianapolis, Indiana and is a strong contender to be called up in the event of an injury to a defenseman on the Team USA roster.
Also under consideration to be called up in the event of injury is Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky from Anchorage, Alaska. He represented the United States in the World Championships in 2008 and also in 2010. In 10 international games played, he’s 6-7-13.
The Winter Olympics start next month in Sochi, Russia. But until that time, the Blue Jackets still have 15 games to play before the Olympic break. Although they still sit in 7th place in the not-so-good Metropolitan Division, they are only four points out of third place and six points out of second place in the division.
Pittsburgh is the cream of the division sitting 17 points ahead of second place Philadelphia and appear to be on cruise control at this point. The top three spots in the division are guaranteed seeding in the playoffs. They have 15 games in which to make a push before the Olympic break (February 9-25).
Columbus returns to action on Friday, as they take on divisional opponent Carolina within the friendly confines of Nationwide Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m.