Full meddle Jacket for GM

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:47 AM ET

Columbus president/GM Doug MacLean has read the riot act to the Blue Jackets' players.

Only five games into a season he promised owner John McConnell and the good fans of Columbus his club would challenge for a playoff spot, sources told the Sun that MacLean blew his top following a 4-3 loss Friday in Anaheim.

After watching his club give a halfhearted effort against the Ducks for Columbus' fourth loss in five games, the word is MacLean went ballistic -- especially to winger Nikolai Zherdev -- during an expletive-filled session in the dressing room.

Not only is the heat on MacLean -- who signed free-agent defenceman Adam Foote to a $4-million (all figures US) contract -- but there's talk Jackets coach Gerard Gallant is living on borrowed time.

If the decision is made the club needs a coaching change, MacLean might have to go back behind the bench like he did during the 2003-04 season. Another option would be former Detroit coach Dave Lewis.

Centre Rick Nash is gone another 14 days with a high ankle sprain. Stay tuned if Columbus keeps losing: Patience is wearing thin.

AROUND THE BOARDS: After signing LW Ilya Kovalchuk, the Thrashers are dangerously close to the $39-million salary cap with a payroll of $37.78 million. Injuries to G Kari Lehtonen and G Mike Dunham haven't helped ... Detroit C Steve Yzerman is convinced Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky will be just fine behind the bench. "One thing I know about (Gretzky) is he knows the game," said Yzerman .... The Hawks are worried about the play of G Nikolai Khabibulin, who had an .847 save-percentage going into last night's game against the Sharks. "The thing I'm worried about his him putting such pressure on himself," said Chicago coach Trent Yawney ... Tampa coach John Tortorella is always trying to find a way to stay ahead of the crowd. He has a member of his staff studying the tendencies of officials so that the players know what to expect going into each game.

RUMOURS DU JOUR: Keep an eye out for former Toronto F Owen Nolan. He has been working out in California while recovering from knee surgery he had in July and could be back in the NHL by Christmas. Though he has to get his contract dispute worked out with the Leafs first, sources say Nolan is healthy and looking forward to making a return ... Colorado GM Pierre Lacroix could soon be looking to move a goalie. The Avs have decided to give G David Aebischer a break to see if G Peter Budaj can play. If Budaj can play, then Aebischer, who has a 4.04 GAA, could be on the move. Who would want him? ... The Bruins have D Nick Boynton back at $1.75 million for this season, but he likely won't be there next year. An unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, Boynton is expected to move elsewhere. His arrival could mean Boston turns up its efforts to deal D Hal Gill ... The Caps aren't likely to trade D Brendan Witt until the deadline. He has demanded a move because he wants to play for a contender and the Isles are interested ... Speaking of the Isles, they are looking to move struggling D Janne Niinimaa ... Phoenix GM Mike Barnett has been working the phones trying to see if any teams have "character" players... Sabres D Jeff Jillson cleared waivers yesterday at noon because the club couldn't find any takers on the market.

Have a nice Sunday.

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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