Anson burner

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

COLUMBUS -- Anson Carter wouldn't broach the subject. Not again anyway and not with visiting media.

This summer the former Edmonton Oiler signed a one-year, $2.5-million deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets on the heels of a career-high 33-goal season in Vancouver.

Things haven't worked out as well as Carter and the Blue Jackets had hoped.

The Jackets were second-last in the Western Conference heading into last night's encounter with the Oilers.

"We could be better," Carter said. "That's all I have to say about that."

And now with the trade deadline on the horizon, it appears he could be headed out of town.

As an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, Carter's name keeps coming up in trade rumours.

On Tuesday he told local reporters that he wasn't thinking about it and it was out of his control. Yesterday he wouldn't go back there.

Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock did, though.

"When you see players at this time of year that say 'I don't have the focus' or 'The coach isn't playing me because he might deal me,' that's a very weak excuse," said Hitchcock. "That's a player just allowing himself to get pushed out of the role that he's in.

"I get a kick out of that, I really do.

"If you stop and think about it, if you were a player in the last year of your contract, why wouldn't you try to make an impression in the city (in which) you live?"

This season Carter has 10 goals and 17 assists in 53 games.

Last year playing with the Sedin brothers in Vancouver Carter had a career-high 33 goals and 22 assists in 81 games. This year he's on pace to record 37 points and has one goal in his last nine games.

"It's an interesting time, I guess," Carter said. "But you have to be a professional. You have to be ready to play and every time you get a chance, you have to go out there, compete and try to get two points. You have to relish those opportunities."

Lately Carter's opportunities have been limited. He is playing on the Blue Jackets' fourth line. In Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Carter had just 6:40 of ice time. Two nights later he was at 9:18.

"It doesn't matter if it's here or Edmonton, why wouldn't your focus be on making an impression so you can stay," Hitchcock said. "Anybody that underachieves at this time of year because they're focused on the trade deadline, why would you want that player on your team?

"You get a true picture of who wants to stay, who's getting pushed out, who's pushing back. Those are real focus issues for me."

While Carter has missed the playoffs five times during his 10-year career, it's the first time his team's been this far out this early in the season. However he may not be around much longer to worry about it.

"When I was in New York, I got to the deadline and we were right in the thick of things," Carter said.

"It's been awhile. It's an interesting time of the year but you are playing hockey and you have to be ready for whatever happens."


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