COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Locked out by the NHL, Columbus Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger is returning to his alma mater to help coach the Ohio State men's hockey team.
The three-year letterwinner with the Buckeyes, who has spent the last four of his seven NHL seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, will be a volunteer assistant to coach Mark Osiecki.
``With the NHL lockout in full force, I am looking forward to being more connected to the Ohio State hockey program once again,'' Umberger said. ``I'm excited to spend time on the ice with the players keeping myself in shape and hopefully offering any advice and help I can to them.''
A former Academic All-Big Ten choice, Umberger continued to work toward his degree after turning pro and earned his bachelor's degree in marketing in the spring of 2011.
Umberger, a Pittsburgh native, has 143 goals and 171 assists in his 551 career NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers and Blue Jackets. He's the first ex-Ohio State player to play with the Blue Jackets.
``Having an alum of R.J.'s stature around our program will be great,'' said Osiecki, now in his third year with the Buckeyes. ``As an All-American in college he knows what it takes to be successful at the collegiate level and he has carried that on to a successful professional career.
``For him to be able to share that with our players will really help their development.''
Umberger played one season for the Buckeyes before being drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the draft. Taken with the 16th overall pick, no Ohio State player has ever been selected sooner.
Ohio State opens the regular season with road games at non-conference foe Minnesota Duluth on Friday and Saturday.