10:15 A.M. -- We're back at Nationwide Arena for today's morning skate, which is an optional skate beginning in about 15 minutes. The players have started to filer on the ice for the skate, and there are some notable new faces that we'll tell you about shortly.
Stay tuned to this blog throughout the day for the absolute latest from practice, including player interviews, lineup news and more.
Every now and then, you need your goaltender to steal one. The Oilers, playing on back-to-back nights, received such a performance from Devan Dubnyk tonight.
He was spectacular for Edmonton and made 39 saves in the winning effort, his fifth win against the Blue Jackets in the last six tries. The 6-foot-6 former first-round pick (2004) made it seem like everything was hitting him square in the logo, and it befuddled the Blue Jackets who never relented.
It was a hellacious third period spent mostly in the Oilers end, and the Blue Jackets had the gas pedal down the whole way. Check the puck back, transition quickly and get right back in on the forecheck: they did this over and over and over, generated 40 shots on the game and were dominating for the majority of the game. This game hung in the balance until its 57th minute, and it came down to execution.
Magnus Paajarvi scored a huuuuge goal for the Oilers, a shorthanded tally with just 3:10 left on the clock when all the momentum was turned against them.
Let's break it down with full post-game analysis, which can be found inside this blog post.
It’s a hockey night in Columbus for the next two days as the Blue Jackets take on the Edmonton Oilers tonight at 6 p.m. and the San Jose Sharks tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets practiced yesterday and skated briefly this morning. Here are some storylines from the media presser following today’s morning skate:
Wiz is back:
James Wisniewski will return to the line-up tonight against the Oilers. He has missed two games due to an injury sustained on Feb. 2 against the Detroit Red Wings. Here’s what he had to say about coming back from an injury:
“I feel good – feeling really good considering everything that’s happened. Just looking forward to getting back in the line-up. Got some good get well tweets and on Facebook, so that was really nice.”
Wisniewski said his focus is on getting back to helping the team win, especially in preparation of a six-game road trip coming up after tomorrow night’s game.
“These next few games are huge, really important to try and get back close to .500. There’s no easy games. Every team is close and you win three games in a row, you’re right back in the playoff run. These two games are absolutely crucial and to go back on the road, you just have to keep it simple… eat, sleep, and play hockey.”Get all the storylines from today's morning skate inside this blog post.
Last year's season series between the Blue Jackets and Oilers was fairly lopsided, with Edmonton winning three of the four games. For whatever reason, the Oilers didn't appear to be a good match-up for Columbus and especially so at Rexall Place, where skilled players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall could really get their skating game going.
The Oilers are a year older and a year wiser, and if you can believe it, are more skilled than they were a season ago. Top pick Nail Yakupov made the squad out of the six-day training camp and is currently playing on coach Ralph Kreuger's third line, a switch made prior to yesterday's matinee in Detroit.
It's hard to find a more dynamic top six in the league, and part of the credit goes to Krueger for getting veterans like Shawn Horcoff (Edmonton's captain) and longtime Oiler Ryan Smyth to buy into lesser roles. The road has been paved for the Oilers' bright future, and with Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner holding down the top two center spots, there's a ton of potential with this group.James Wisniewski draws back into the lineup eight days after a scary collision into the end boards. He said he's feeling good, and aside from general hockey soreness, there are no ill effects. David Savard was assigned to Springfield yesterday to relieve some of the logjam on defense.
Read the "three keys" to success for today's game inside this blog post.
GETTING STARTED: Good morning, Blue Jackets fans, and another happy game day to all of you and thanks for checking in with the game day blog. The morning skate is slated to start a bit normal than usual (probably around 9:45 a.m.) due to today's 6 p.m. puck drop at Nationwide Arena.
An important and should-be entertaining game on tap today, one would think. The Oilers dropped a 2-1 decision yesterday in Detroit, while the Blue Jackets are eager to make amends for a 4-3 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames on Thursday. One of these teams is going to break out of a losing streak today; the Oilers have lost five straight, and the Blue Jackets have dropped back-to-back contests after beating the Red Wings last weekend.
We're expecting Devan Dubnyk to start in net for Edmonton today, and we should get word soon regarding the Blue Jackets' starting netminder. Stay tuned to the blog for all the latest, as we'll have more updates, photos, player/coach interviews and more throughout the day.Follow along for the latest by clicking inside this blog post.
Todd Richards has had a pretty clear message the past couple of days: he wants the Blue Jackets to win more puck battles and to do so expeditiously.
It's an issue that has affected several areas of their game, too; they aren't winning as many battles which means they're chasing the play, more players are having to come in and support the puck, and their shifts are getting longer. Much of that was evident during Thursday's game against the Calgary Flames, when the Blue Jackets got backed up into their own zone for much of the second period.
Richards pointed to teams like the Flames and Los Angeles Kings who have big, strong forwards that like to cycle the puck in the offensive zone. If those players are first on the puck and are winning the initial battle, they're settling into their game and doing most of the dictating.
After an hour-plus of energetic practice this morning at the OhioHealth Ice Haus, Richards said he's looking for his team to get more focused and determined on puck battles and shutting down offensive chances before they can even get started.Read the full story from today's practice inside this blog post.
James Wisniewski sat in his locker stall this afternoon and candidly admitted that he doesn't remember much about that violent collision into the boards last weekend.
In the days since, his teammates have told him about the deafening silence that took over within Nationwide Arena, how "you could hear a pin drop" while he lay in severe pain on the ice and how Blue Jackets and Red Wings players nervously looked on before he got to his feet and left with assistance.
It was a scary moment for Wisniewski the hockey player, but equally (if not more so) scary for Wisniewski the soon-to-be father, whose wife Nicole is expecting to deliver the couple's first child any day now.
When he watched the accident on replay, he said he thought about how lucky he was to not sustain any long-term or serious injuries but was startled by how fast everything happened. It was a top-speed sequence of events and Wisniewski said he was in the "dangerous area," with about four feet separating his body and the boards when he lost his footing.
The general body soreness he experienced in the days after the injury has started to subside, and Wisniewski said he will undergo further testing tomorrow to hopefully inch closer to getting the "green light."
Read the full story on Wisniewski's return to practice inside this blog post.
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards was asked whether effort or execution is ailing his club right now, and he needed little time to indict the latter.
Though it wasn't the end-all-be-all moment in this hockey game, you have to look back at the power play opportunity with 1:50 to play in a 3-3 deadlock. It was on a tee for the Blue Jackets: the Flames had put a good press on them in the second period and taken the lead early in the third, but the home side answered and held steady when the game really could have gotten out of hand.
But when they failed to convert, you could just sense the shift in momentum coming. It almost felt inevitable.
Fedor Tyutin crept in from the point to accept a brilliant behind-the-back pass from Artem Anisimov (who looked to be kept under control by two Flames defenders in the corner), but his one-timer missed everything and Calgary rushed back the other way led by captain Jarome Iginla.
A missed chance at one end, and the game winner at the other. That's hockey.Read the complete breakdown of tonight's game inside this blog post.
Two teams looking for the same thing (consistency) meet tonight at Nationwide Arena, and both are battling injuries in the process.
Calgary must make do without No. 1 goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who was injured in the Flames' win over the Detroit Red Wings earlier this week. Leland Irving, who the organization thinks very highly of, gets the call between the pipes this evening and will be backed up by Danny Taylor. Flames coach Bob Hartley also said that Mike Cammalleri's status for the game is a game-time decision.
For the Blue Jackets, they get Nikita Nikitin back in the lineup and it's a significant addition to a blueline that has relied on four AHL call-ups in the wake of recent injuries. They're on the path to recovery, slowly but surely, and adding an all-situations defenseman like Nikitin will have an impact throughout the lineup.
Sergei Bobrovsky gets the start for the Blue Jackets tonight, and his only career game against Calgary was an overtime loss. His stats in that game: 1.85 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. Irving has never played a game against Columbus in his brief NHL career, in which he has compiled a record of 1-3-3 in eight starts.Get the full breakdown tonight's game inside this blog post!
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards often jokes that Jack Johnson could play the entire game, but it became a bit more serious when they lost four top-six defensemen in less than a week.
The injury troubles began in a 3-2 loss to Minnesota on Jan. 29 when both Nikita Nikitin and Adrian Aucoin left the game early and did not return. Then it was James Wisniewski's scary collision with the end boards last weekend and a practice injury for John Moore, leading to several call-ups from the Springfield Falcons.
Nick Holden, Tim Erixon, Cody Goloubef, and David Savard make up the top four defense for first-place Springfield, which has managed to keep chugging along despite injuries and recalls. Those players are now playing on NHL ice for the Blue Jackets and filling in while the club hopes to see some injuries begin to heal.
Johnson played over 34 minutes in games against Detroit and Los Angeles but will likely see less tonight when Nikitin returns to the lineup, which Richards said is a huge lift to a defense corps that's inexperienced and has had to shoulder a lot of responsibility.
"Nikitin going back in on the back end will be a big help for us," Richards said. "He's a guy with some poise and can play in every situation that can handle the puck and make a good first pass. Hopefully we don't have to spend as much time in our own zone and can get the puck off his stick and on to somebody else's stick and in the right place."Read the full story on Nikitin's return inside this blog post.