New-look Jackets excite Nash

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

KELOWNA -- Up to now, no one has considered the Columbus Blue Jackets to be a playoff contender.

But that's likely to change this year with forward Rick Nash on the verge of becoming the best forward in the game. And in the recent free-agent auction, general manager Doug McLean added a pair of veteran defencemen in Adam Foote and Bryan Berard.

"I think that's great," said Nash, who played his junior hockey in London and tied for the NHL lead in goal scoring in 203-04.

"I think we've got a real backbone man with Foote coming in. He's one of those guys who can make a huge difference to a team. And Berard, with the new rules, he can make that long pass. I think his offensive awareness is going to help.

"The young guys on our team just keep getting more experienced and I think we're really going to take a huge step."

As an elite forward, Nash has had his share of on-ice battles with Foote.

"I didn't get along with him at all," he laughed. "It was him and Chris Pronger I hated playing against the most. I heard Doug was trying to get Pronger and got Foote, so that was good enough for me."

The Nash-Foote battles in front of the net got so intense at one point that Nash reportedly said: "What's the matter? Don't you want a Canadian to win the scoring title?"

Nash admitted he might have said that, but he wasn't sure.

"But it's nice to know that he's going to be behind me now and not in front of me," he said.

Like Nash, Foote is in the Team Canada training camp here and both of them are expected to be among the selections when the team is named.

"He never lets up," Nash said. "He's punishing you every chance he gets. Some D-men, in the third period they're getting a little tired and make that extra hit but it just seems like he's doing it every single time."


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