New Jackets a nice fit

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

When the Calgary Flames and Columbus Blue Jackets last squared off at the Saddledome, they were heading in much different directions.

The Flames were on their way to a 10-2-1 record in November, while the Blue Jackets were struggling to a 3-10 record that month, including a 2-1 loss to Calgary Nov. 3.

Things have certainly changed for the Blue Jackets, who are coming off a solid start to the new year -- going 8-4-1 in 2006 -- and bring a three-game win streak into tonight's game against the Flames (8 p.m., TSN).

The return of Rick Nash has a lot to do with the team's recent success.

"He's the key," said Jackets head coach Gerard Gallant of his star scorer. "We weren't scoring any goals the first part of the season. He's the main guy. He makes the powerplay a lot better because people have to pay attention to him. He makes that (top) line a lot better because he's a big guy who goes to the net and gives us a chance to score every time he's on the ice."

Since his return in mid December, Nash has regained the scoring touch that resulted in a 41-goal season in 2003-04 when he shared the Rocket Richard trophy with Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk and Calgary captain Jarome Iginla.

Nash rejoined the lineup Dec. 17 after missing 17 games with a knee injury. The damage was incurred at the Saddledome when Nash got his skate stuck in the ice during a Rhett Warrener hip check in front of the Flames net.

"It was kind of a freak incident," said Nash. "It was a good hit, it just kind of caught my skate in a bad rut. Obviously, I don't like coming back here now."

A few tallies tonight could go a long way toward changing his feelings about the Stampede City.

The sniper has scored 14 goals and eight helpers in the 22 games since -- a point-per-game pace.

His linemate, Sergei Fedorov, one of the benefactors of Nash's return, is enjoying developing chemistry with the young star.

"His reach and control, stick, puck, it's really good. Amazing," said Fedorov, who has 17 points (3g, 14a) since Nash's return after scoring just five as a Blue Jacket without him. "He's definitely a fast skater, too. He can take anybody one-on-one, especially out of the corner or around the net.

"Really enjoyable to watch and play with. Now we're working on the give-and-go a little bit."

Nash scored goals in his first three games back but went pointless in his next three.


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