As it often goes in sports, there’s good news and bad news.
The good news? It certainly looks as though the Blue Jackets are getting two big parts of their lineup back sooner than later. For a second straight day, both Brandon Dubinsky and Alexander Wennberg took part in the full practice, and today, Dubinsky ramped it up a bit further and took reps on a regular line.
In contrast to Monday’s practice where Dubinsky sat out the heavy contact drills, today was a different story. Wennberg was right in there with him, and if one or both is able to play Wednesday night in New Jersey, the Blue Jackets are getting a huge boost at a pivotal point in their season.
They’ve had injury troubles all over the lineup, but the man games lost at center ice have been most glaring. The Blue Jackets have struggled in the face-off circle (and it directly lead to third period trouble against San Jose), and getting two of their top centers back is certainly an injection of good news as they get set for back-to-back divisional games wrapped around Thanksgiving.
John Tortorella had originally planned to give the Blue Jackets a day off today, but after watching the game tape, he changed his mind.
Instead, the team gathered at Nationwide Arena for a meeting and an hour-long practice just after the noon hour.
There was simply too much for the team to work on, he said, coming off a disappointing home loss to San Jose on Sunday night – one that they couldn’t afford to have slip through their fingers with a two-goal third period lead.
“I just felt we needed to come in and work on a number of different things with mindset, and that’s what we did,” Tortorella said today. “I changed my mind. I changed my mind, and we just have too many things to do. I would have loved to give them the day off…but sometimes, you have to look at the whole big picture of where we are as a team, and I don’t think we could afford a day off today.”
If the Blue Jackets are to continue their home-ice momentum, they will have to do it (surprise!) the hard way.
Adversity has found its way into the fold once again, in the form of injuries to two defensemen – Cody Goloubef and Fedor Tyutin – in the first period of Friday’s 4-0 win over the Nashville Predators. Goloubef is out indefinitely with a fractured jaw (he had surgery on Saturday at Dublin Methodist Hospital) and Tyutin’s status is considered to be day-to-day.
In the wake of those injuries, the Blue Jackets called up Andrew Bodnarchuk from the Lake Erie Monsters, and he’s a guy they feel can give them some stability in the interim. Bodnarchuk, 27, was signed as a free agent this summer and assigned to Cleveland out of training camp; he’s known for a steady two-way game and for keeping things simple on the back end.
Today’s game against the San Jose Sharks will be Bodnarchuk’s sixth at the NHL level, and he’ll be joined by Dalton Prout, who’s back in after sitting out a few games as a healthy scratch.
The Blue Jackets are no strangers to adversity and they were dealt a heavy dose of it early in tonight’s game.
Stay tuned to BlueJackets.com for updates on both players when and if they become available following tonight’s game.
No morning skate today for the Blue Jackets, who get right back on the horse tonight against one of the best teams in the stacked Central Division.
You know them well, of course. The Nashville Predators are old friends of Columbus from the former Central Division days. There were some wicked, confrontational battles between these clubs when they met eight times per season (though I think the Blue Jackets are glad they don’t have to make four visits to Bridgestone Arena anymore…that was their house of horrors).
It’s been a long week for the Predators having not played since Tuesday night, when they beat the Anaheim Ducks on home ice before getting a brief respite. The Blue Jackets have had no such luxury, having played last night and are currently in the midst of a three-in-four spurt that concludes Sunday at Nationwide Arena against the San Jose Sharks.
Here’s what we know so far: Pekka Rinne is expected to start in goal for Nashville. He’s always played well against Columbus, so it’s not much of a surprise if he ends getting the nod from Peter Laviolette.
Shortly before hopping on Blue Jackets Air and heading to the Canadian capital, the Blue Jackets convened at Nationwide Arena for a short, focused practice before their next back-to-back set.
Much of the effort today involved special teams, and the drills served dual purpose for both the power play units and the penalty killers. Under coach John Tortorella, the Blue Jackets have seen a noticeable improvement in both categories after a disastrous start, and the penalty kill has been leading the way.
In the last nine games, the Blue Jackets have killed 29 of 32 penalties – a stretch that includes 17 in a row (an active streak). Tortorella is using multiple rotations of forwards and defensemen, and all groups are producing a similar result born from pressuring the puck carriers and being active and alert in dangerous areas.
“Two in a row” has seemed to be the Blue Jackets’ threshold over the last couple weeks. In order to climb the standings sooner rather than later, they know that has to change.
After starting 0-8, they won back-to-back games at Colorado and New Jersey, then dropped consecutive games to Washington and Winnipeg. Then it was two straight wins over San Jose and Los Angeles to open the California trip followed by losses to Anaheim and Vancouver.
The latest edition of this story includes wins over Pittsburgh and Arizona over the weekend, setting up for an important week of four games in six days beginning Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues.
The Blues are a team that plays similarly to how Blue Jackets want to consistently play: physical, aggressive, no-nonsense and a regular contender. In the ultra-competitive Central Division (easily the NHL’s best so far this season), the Blues are off to a solid start at 11-5-1, but sit five points back of division-leading Dallas.
Locked in a 2-2 game – a game that was, at one point, a two-goal lead for them – the Blue Jackets found themselves in a surprisingly nasty game with the Arizona Coyotes.
For two teams that are not and have never been division rivals, had a playoff series between them, or really anything to ignite the flame, Saturday’s game at Nationwide Arena featured a little of everything and it was (to say the least) spirited throughout.
With heavy legs and a relatively mundane second period winding down, the Coyotes tried to send a message of the physical variety, but it wound up being a much-needed wake up call for the Blue Jackets.
Not long after Boone Jenner gave the home team a 3-2 lead with their second power play goal of the night, all hell broke loose after John Scott got involved with Scott Hartnell in front of the Columbus bench.
The Blue Jackets knew it wasn’t good news when Brandon Dubinsky had to be scratched from Friday night’s lineup about an hour before puck drop.
They now know how long they’ll be without one of their top players. Coach John Tortorella confirmed Saturday afternoon that Dubinsky has an elbow injury and will miss approximately 2-3 weeks of action, leaving a sizable hole at center in the Blue Jackets’ lineup.
Dubinsky is being placed on injured reserve during his absence, Tortorella said, giving the team an additional roster spot if it chooses to recall another player from Lake Erie (AHL).
“I’m not going to elaborate, but it’s an elbow injury and that’s as far as I’m going with it,” Tortorella said. “He’s played really well. It’s a guy that’s getting 20-plus during a game in all situations. Sure, we’re going to miss him, but it gives other guys opportunities."
PITTSBURGH – One of the glaring problems noticed by John Tortorella upon taking the job as head coach of the Blue Jackets was the number of goals the team had given up.
First period, second period, third period…it seemed to be a never-ending problem where every mistake was magnified and every turnover found its way into their net. The goaltender’s confidence was shaken, the forwards were gripping their sticks under a lot of pressure to keep up with the number of goals they were allowing, and from top to bottom, it wasn’t a good situation (never mind that they were 0-7).
In three weeks with Tortorella at the helm, the Blue Jackets have been noticeably better defensively. They cut down on their third-period goals against – the one blip being Tuesday’s loss to Vancouver, though that was largely self-inflicted – and have started to show signs of a team concept in their defensive zone.
Now, as they look to get back on track and climb the ladder, what they really need is for their top players to start producing.