The second half of the Blue Jackets' six-game road trip begins tonight at Joe Louis Arena, and there are plenty of things to cover as we get set for puck drop.
First and foremost: the arrival of new GM Jarmo Kekalainen, who had his work visa approved earlier in the week and has made it to the Motor City to meet the team. He'll catch his first game as Blue Jackets GM tonight and will travel with the team on the remainder of the trip, which goes to St. Louis and Chicago over the weekend.
We'll have a full-length story on our conversation with Kekalainen coming this afternoon on BlueJackets.com, so hang tight and keep hitting refresh if you know what's good for you.
On the ice, the Blue Jackets held a crisp morning skate at The Joe and are getting back to full health as they prepare for tonight's Central Division clash. The two clubs have split their meetings so far this season (most recently a 4-2 Columbus win at Nationwide Arena on Feb. 2) and have two more dates scheduled after tonight. If the first two were any indication, we're in for another entertaining hockey game this evening.
Sergei Bobrovsky starts between the pipes for Todd Richards' club and it will mark his fifth in the last seven games. At a time when the schedule allows one goaltender to get into a rhythm, it appears as if (for the time being) Bobrovsky will be given that opportunity. Jimmy Howard is slated to start in goal for the Red Wings.Check out the "three keys" to tonight's game inside this blog post.
The Blue Jackets arrived home from California around dinner time yesterday and got back on the ice this morning for a detail-oriented practice at the OhioHealth Ice Haus.
It was a much-needed practice session that allowed the coaching staff to go over some of the finer points from both a systematic and philosophical standpoint, and the big news was the full-fledged return of two players missing from the lineup. Both Cam Atkinson (on injured reserve retroactive to Jan. 23) and Artem Anisimov (out since blocking a shot last week in Los Angeles) are expected to play Thursday night against the Red Wings, coach Todd Richards said, and it's sure to be a big boost.
As a result of both players' anticipated returns, Richards said Nick Drazenovic would be reassigned to Springfield this afternoon. The news, however, wasn't as positive for Brandon Dubinsky, who has not played since sustaining a lower body injury in Phoenix.
"Right now, it's probably more than day-to-day," Richards said. "It might be a week to two weeks, but it's nothing serious. I don't think it's anything where we'd have to (put him on injured reserve."Read more from today's practice inside this blog post.
The Blue Jackets are flying home today from California before heading back out on the second half of their six-game road trip tomorrow. They'll play three games in four nights, including a back-to-back set against St. Louis (Saturday) and Chicago (Sunday).
As they leave the Golden State without a victory in the three-game trip, the Blue Jackets are well aware of what needs cleaned up before they face the Red Wings on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena. In Monday's game against the Ducks, they controlled most of the opening period but committed a pair of costly turnovers that quickly allowed Anaheim to take the lead.
And according to coach Todd Richards, extending their lead was as important as managing the puck better; with the number of quality chances produced in the first 15 minutes, the Blue Jackets could have assumed a commanding lead but could only break through for a single goal.
"The first 11-12 minutes of the (first) period we had chances and spent a lot of time in their zone," Richards said. "It would've been nice to get that second one...and then, that's kind of what they do. We have the puck on our stick a couple of times and we just don't execute; then it's turnover and it's in the back of our net.
"We have to find ways to win games. We did a lot of good things, but in the end, it wasn't just good enough. Wherever it is, whether it's scoring more goals or keeping pucks out of our net, we have to make plays. We played 55 or 56 minutes of good hockey, but it's in that span of four minutes or so that costs us (the game)."Read the full story inside this blog post.
Todd Richards had this to say after tonight's game, and it resonated: "When you're a team that's fighting and clawing to score goals, these little mistakes will cost you."
Right now, that's the fine line the Blue Jackets are walking. They're battling injuries (again) and, despite getting healthy on the blue line, have a big hole at center ice with their two most dependable centers out of the lineup. Already a team that would have to score by committee and battle for its every bounce or good break, their margin for error was minimal tonight and two mistakes loomed large.
A first-period turnover in the offensive zone allowed the Ducks to head the other way and get a clean breakaway on Sergei Bobrovsky that was cashed in by Peter Holland, who had been in the penalty box seconds earlier. Another giveaway in the defensive zone led to Ryan Getzlaf's go-ahead goal 21 seconds later, and those two quick tallies were indicative of how crucial puck management would be against a team like Anaheim that had been firing on all cylinders.
On the surface -- result aside -- it was a solid road game, but as James Wisniewski said post-game: "I'm sick of trying to look at it like a silver lining in the clouds. We lost." The Blue Jackets have been knocking on the door on a regular basis, but now, they need to find ways to break the door down and pick up two points.
Check out full analysis of tonight's game inside this blog post.
Quite a test on deck for the Blue Jackets tonight in Anaheim, perhaps their most difficult to date this season.
The Ducks are 11-2-1 and just won five of six games on their 11-day road trip, and trail only the Chicago Blackhawks in points for top spot in the entire NHL. Headlining the hot start for Anaheim has been 30-year-old rookie goaltender Viktor Fasth, who's 8-0-0 and wrestled the starting job from incumbent Jonas Hiller, who struggled to open the season.
Bruce Boudreau has the Ducks playing a high-tempo, north-south style of hockey that hockey fans embraced when he coached the Washington Capitals. It's non-stop, relentless pressure and it comes from all four lines; free-agent pickup Daniel Winnik is playing bottom six minutes for Anaheim but has five goals and nine points in the club's first 14 games. Everyone contributes in Boudreau's system and that's exactly what the Ducks have received to this point: contributions up and down the lineup.
There are many things the Blue Jackets will have to do better tonight than they did Saturday if a win is in the cards; they traded chances with the Coyotes and got into a shoot-em-up style of game that featured a lot of penalties and little to no flow.
Catch tonight's "three keys" to success for the Blue Jackets inside this blog post.
ON TO THE NEXT ONE: Good morning, and happy Presidents' Day to you all! Thanks for joining this holiday edition of the BlueJackets.com game day blog. We're a couple hours away from the team taking the ice for their morning skate at the Honda Center, but there's plenty to cover in the meantime.
Here's what we know: the Ducks are riding a four-game winning streak and are sitting at 23 points (11-2-1), closing in on the Chicago Blackhawks and the top spot in the NHL. Teemu Selanne (15 points) and Saku Koivu (14) lead the Ducks in scoring, and they're plenty an uptempo, in-your-face brand of hockey under second-year coach Bruce Boudreau.
Let's have a little fun to kick off today's blog, shall we? Maybe you've heard of the "Harlem Shake"...it's kind of a thing right now. With the help of Stinger, we put our own Blue Jackets twist on it:
One of the things Todd Richards mentioned after last night's game was the Blue Jackets spending far too much time inside their own zone and losing their style of play. It disrupted their flow and prevented them from generating and sustaining a consistent attack, and with only eight shots on goal after 40 minutes, it was easy to see why.
They saw what happens when they're on form: game tape from Edmonton and San Jose is clear evidence of that. They can overwhelm opponents and get them back on their heels with forechecking and puck pressure, two things that were not a big part of their game last night in Los Angeles.
It's time to turn the page, though, and another game awaits in just a few hours. The Phoenix Coyotes are another one of those big, physical Western Conference teams that provide a complete test of your game, and the Blue Jackets are going to need a stronger effort tonight if they want two points in Glendale.
Steve Mason is the starting goalie for the Blue Jackets this evening and he's likely to face Mike Smith on the Phoenix side. A few lineup changes for Columbus: Artem Anisimov will not play tonight after taking a slap shot off the boot last night, so Nick Drazenovic gets a chance to show what he can do. Cody Goloubef is a likely scratch in favor of the now-healthy John Moore, who will also return tonight.
Let's proceed with the "three keys" to success for the Blue Jackets, inside this blog post.
START YOUR (BLOG) ENGINE: Good afternoon and, as we always say on this blog, happy game day! The Blue Jackets are right back at it in just a few hours, taking on the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale. Following last night's 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in which the Blue Jackets admittedly didn't play their best game, perhaps the perfect tonic is getting back on the ice less than 24 hours later.
Phoenix has had its struggles so far this season, but Dave Tippett's club always comes ready to play and they'll be a motivated group tonight. Expect Mike Smith between the pipes for the Coyotes.
There will be some lineup changes for Columbus and we'll cover those as the day progresses. Keep it tuned to the blog and Jackets TV for all the updates and player interviews from Glendale.
From the drop of the puck, this game had a weird feel to it.
It was almost as if momentum was hanging somewhere above the ice surface at STAPLES Center, waiting for either the Blue Jackets or Kings to step up and grab it. Instead, both teams played ping-pong with it and sent it back each other's way throughout the game, creating spurts of energy from both sides but overall it was a physical game that lacked consistency.
The Blue Jackets had a solid road period in the first 20 minutes but couldn't get many shots at Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier, and the Kings had the better of the play in the second period and got a late-stages goal from Kyle Clifford to make it 1-0. Columbus had only eight shots on goal through two periods and not many quality looks at Bernier, making it difficult for them to claw back into the hockey game.
Columbus got into some penalty trouble, too, and at an inopportune time. Jared Boll got a roughing penalty at the buzzer in the second period, and 48 seconds later, Fedor Tyutin held up one of the Kings to set up a lengthy 5-on-3. Mike Richards capitalized, sending a centering pass of Nikita Nikitin's boot and behind Sergei Bobrovsky for a 2-0 lead early in the third period.
With a game in Phoenix less than 20 hours away, it's time for the Blue Jackets to take the lessons from this game and get ready for their next test.
Check out the full breakdown of tonight's game inside this blog post.