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Blue Jackets get ready for a turbulent summer; Nash is one of those who might be traded

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Rick Nash had just come off the ice for perhaps the final time representing the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Someone asked him about how well the team had played down the stretch of the 2011-12 season, despite being eliminated from playoff contention for several months.

"Playing well and winning games is fun," he said after a 7-3 win in Saturday night's season finale against the New York Islanders. "Our last 20 games, we set a goal and we achieved it. It was pretty special. It came down to the last game and we won. It was fun doing it. Whenever you're around a winning team and winning atmosphere, it makes things a lot easier."

That, in short, is why Nash may no longer be a part of the only NHL team for which he has ever played. He hasn't had much fun playing for bad teams, supported by marginal players and undercut by questionable management decisions throughout his stellar career.

In January, the team captain asked management to trade him. His public stance has been that he did it to help the team. He never mentions how it might also get him to another club where the Stanley Cup playoffs are a given instead of a wispy hope most years.

Coming off perhaps their most disappointing season ever -- and that's saying something -- the Blue Jackets now are bracing for an off-season that will likely entail a complete reconfiguration of the roster, possibly the coaching staff and even the front office.

Nash, the club's most recognizable commodity for a decade, is unlikely to return. Several other well-known names probably won't be back next fall, including Kristian Huselius, Radek Martinek, Aaron Johnson and even former Calder Trophy-winning goalie Steve Mason. They'll likely be replaced by a wave of younger, edgier, more competitive, more dependable and, yes, cheaper players.

"Tough times make you stronger," forward R.J. Umberger said after the club's 11th season finale.


Around the rinks

*The Capitals are preparing yet again to go with an inexperienced goalie in the playoffs. Neither Tomas Vokoun nor Michal Neuvirth was able to practice Monday, leaving Braden Holtby looking more and more like the starter for Thursday's Game One against the Boston Bruins.

*Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who missed the final 22 games of the regular season with a concussion, says he is confident he will be able to play in Thursday's playoff opener against the Coyotes.

*Canucks leading scorer Daniel Sedin has returned to practice after missing nine games with a concussion.

*Panthers coach Kevin Dineen says he does not plan to divulge his starting goaltender for Game One of the playoffs against New Jersey before Friday. Jose Theodore started 51 games for the Panthers this season, but the team lost each of his last seven starts. Scott Clemmensen got the nod in the regular-season finale against Carolina.

*Canadiens goaltender Carey Price missed the final three games of the regular season with a concussion. Price suffered the injury March 20 in a collision with teammate David Desharnais, but played four games after that before he informed the team of his symptoms.

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