Updated: January 3, 2014, 10:14 AM ET

Just A Thought


Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: It didn't take long for Nathan Horton to make an impact on the Columbus Blue Jackets, did it? After missing the team's first 40 games while recovering from shoulder surgery, Horton -- who signed a seven-year deal worth $37.1 million during the summer after three seasons with the Boston Bruins -- returned to action Thursday night and scored in a 2-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. Horton's comeback coincides with the return of reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who has been recovering from a groin strain, although it was Curtis McElhinney who got the shutout while Bobrovsky watched from the bench. McElhinney was terrific in the third period, stopping 21 shots. The Blue Jackets have quietly moved back into the playoff discussion in the Metropolitan Division, and as of Friday morning, were just four points back of Philadelphia for third place, although with Horton and Bobrovsky rejoining the lineup, things might not be so quiet in Columbus much longer.

Craig Custance@CraigCustance: After scoring 31 goals in his rookie season (2010-11), Carolina's Jeff Skinner hasn't approached that number since. Injuries and a lockout have held his goal production to a total of just 33 in the past two years. However, the Skinner of 2010-11 is back, and he's actually even better. With a hat trick in an overtime win against the Capitals, Skinner now has five goals in his past two games and 19 overall. He's on pace for 45 this season. The Hurricanes are 16-16-9, and they're nothing if not consistent. Carolina is 8-8-5 at home and 8-8-4 on the road, the picture of absolute mediocrity. If some of his talented teammates (we're looking at you, Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin) join in on the scoring, that could change.

Katie Strang@KatieStrangESPN: Chatting with Kyle Okposo a few weeks back, he told me about the experience of getting passed over for the U.S. men's national team prior to the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. It was essentially the first team he didn't make in his hockey career, and though he was deeply disappointed and frustrated, he said it motivated him. Okposo had to have been just as upset Wednesday, when he was left off the squad for the Sochi Olympics, but expect him to adopt the same attitude. Just one day after the snub, the 25-year-old winger notched the game-winning overtime goal to give the Islanders a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Okposo's two-point effort led the way for the Islanders in their third consecutive victory. He may not be a member of the 2014 U.S. men's Olympic team, but Okposo is doing his best to help his downtrodden Isles out of the basement of the Eastern Conference standings.

Picture This

Carey PriceAP Photo/Sharon EllmanCarey Price is at the ready, but Josh Gorges is looking to make the kick save himself.


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