COLUMBUS, Ohio – Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson said he’s getting closer to hiring a coach.

Howson said he didn’t want to say how soon an announcement might be made. He’s been looking for a coach since the season ended April 9.

Portland Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen is among the candidates, with Scott Arniel, who coached the Manitoba Moose of the AHL.

The Blue Jackets also reportedly are interested in Hamilton Coach Guy Boucher, who has yet to be interviewed. Hamilton was ousted in the AHL Western Conference finals last week.

Claude Noel, the Blue Jackets’ interim head coach, is also a candidate.

The club is looking for a replacement for Ken Hitchcock, who was fired Feb. 3.

Howson will make the ultimate decision after consulting with the majority owner, John P. McConnell, and the team president, Mike Priest.


SABRES: Buffalo signed forward Jacob Lagace to an entry-level contract.

In April, Lagace, selected by the Sabres in the seventh round of the 2008 draft, played one playoff game for the Portland Pirates.

Lagace ended his junior career with 90 goals and 114 assists in 191 games.


BLUES: Scott Mellanby was hired as an assistant coach by St. Louis, where he spent four seasons as a player.

Mellanby, 43, had been working as a pro scout for Vancouver. He played 21 seasons in the NHL, including stints in Philadelphia, Edmonton, Florida and Atlanta.


RED WINGS: Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, 40, chose to return to Detroit instead of retiring. Lidstrom signed a one-year contract.

“It’s a huge benefit anytime you have an upper-echelon player, who can still play at a high level, decide to stay with your organization,” Coach Mike Babcock said.


CHICAGO’S VICTORY Monday night earned the best overnight rating for a Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals on record.

The Blackhawks’ 2-1 victory against Philadelphia drew a 4.1 rating and 7 share on NBC, the highest overnight rating since at least 1975, which is as far back as records go.

The rating was up 21 percent from last year’s 3.4 for the Red Wings-Penguins series.


DEVILS: Lou Lamoriello, the team’s president and general manager, refused to say anything about his search to find a replacement for Jacques Lemaire, who retired days after New Jersey was eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by Philadelphia.

“When it comes about, it will,” Lamoriello said. “There is no time frame as far as rushing it or prolonging it.”

In hiring Brent Sutter in 2007 and Lemaire in 2009, Lamoriello waited until the second week of July before announcing it.

John MacLean, 45, seemingly is the only candidate in the organization who might be considered. He spent this past season as the coach at Lowell of the AHL.


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