Wisniewski happy back on ice at end of rough season
It would be easy -- almost understandable, really -- if Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski opted to let the final few games of the 2011-12 season tick away into memory.
Wisniewski's debut season in Columbus has been a horror show since before it started. An eight-game NHL suspension got it rolling, but he's had a fractured ankle, a pulled groin and, most recently, a concussion that has knocked him out of the lineup for a combined 34 games.
He returned Tuesday in Phoenix with a chip on his shoulder.
"I want to get back out there," Wisniewski told The Columbus Dispatch. "First, (with the concussion), I don't want to go into the offseason with any questions. I want to hit some guys, I want to get hit, and I want to know that everything is OK before we walk out of here for the final time (next week).
"But I'm also pretty upset at the way things have gone. It didn't start well, the middle wasn't good at all, and now the end has been tough. But I'll be darned if I'm going to just sit out the rest of the season. I want to be out there."
He had three shots on goal and played 25 minutes, 55 seconds Tuesday in the Blue Jackets' 2-0 loss to the Coyotes.
Wisniewski has five goals, 19 assists and a minus-17 rating in 46 games this season, the first in a contract that will pay him $33 million over six seasons.
"Guys feel so much pressure on themselves to make an impact right away (with new clubs)," Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson told the Dispatch. "James felt that way. I know he did. He's had to work through a lot of stuff this season, a lot of challenges. It's been a struggle, but you love the passion and the way he pushes through it."
Franchise-record 54 shots produce no goals
--The Blue Jackets lost a chance Tuesday to sweep the Phoenix Coyotes in the season, but it wasn't for a lack of firepower. Columbus set a franchise record with 54 shots on goal, but Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith stopped every one, sending the Blue Jackets to a 2-0 defeat, their fifth shutout loss of the season. Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson led the way with eight shots on goal.
--NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan met privately with Blue Jackets D James Wisniewski in mid-February when Shanahan came to Columbus for a routine visit. Wisniewski, who was suspended for 12 games by Shanahan following a preseason run-in with Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck, wanted to repair his reputation with the league, Shanahan told The Columbus Dispatch.
"James asked to sit down and have a heart-to-heart," Shanahan told the paper. "He reassured me that he doesn't want the label as a player who gets in trouble all the time, and I thought he was really sincere."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There are other words I'll use, too, but you can't say them in public. You couldn't get them printed in your newspaper, that's for sure." -- Blue Jackets D James Wisniewski, describing to The Columbus Dispatch how his first season in Columbus has been frustrating, exhausting and disappointing.
--D James Wisniewski returned Tuesday from an eight-game absence caused by a concussion, and he played nearly 26 minutes in a 2-0 loss to Phoenix. Wisniewski was hurt March 18 when he was struck in the face by a fired puck in Calgary.
--G Allen York continues to shine in an emergency role. He finally suffered his first NHL loss Tuesday, a 2-0 decision in Phoenix. He stopped 20 of 22 shots vs. the Coyotes, and he has a .920 save percentage in 11 games, five of them starts.
--C Derek MacKenzie, sidelined since suffering a concussion on March 6, has been ruled out for the remainder of the season. MacKenzie attempted to skate last week, but his symptoms returned, prompting doctors to shut him down. He'll be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
--G Steve Mason was cleared to resume activity, and he served as Allen York's backup Tuesday in Phoenix. Mason, who suffered concussion-like symptoms after getting struck in the mask by a Colton Gillies shot in March 28 practice, could start one of the Blue Jackets' final two games of the season.
--D Fedor Tyutin (broken hand) is out for the season.
--C Derek MacKenzie (concussion) is out for the season.
--LW Kristian Huselius (lower body) is out indefinitely.
--D Radek Martinek (concussion) is out for the season.
--D Marc Methot (broken jaw) is out for the season.
--G Curtis Sanford (torn leg muscle) is out for the season.
--D John Moore (foot) is out indefinitely.
--Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski
--Nikita Nikitin, Dalton Prout
--Aaron Johnson, Brett Lebda
--LW R.J. Umberger, C Derick Brassard, RW Cam Atkinson
--LW Vinny Prospal, C Mark Letestu, RW Rick Nash
--LW Ryan Russell, C Ryan Johansen, RW Derek Dorsett
--LW Colton Gillies, C Darryl Boyce, RW Jared Boll