Jackets Journal: February 16

Nikitin returns and Richards is happy with the power play efficiency

Thursday, 02.16.2012 / 3:55 PM / News
By Rob Mixer  - BlueJackets.com

The Blue Jackets took yesterday off to reset following a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena. When they convened on the ice this morning at the OhioHealth Ice Haus, the group embarked on one of its most energetic practices of the year.

Notable absences from practice this morning included Rick Nash, Jeff Carter and Derek Dorsett (maintenance days), as well as defenseman Fedor Tyutin (personal reasons). Interim head coach Todd Richards said those on maintenance days were a bit “banged up” after Tuesday’s game and he wanted to allow them extra time to get back to health. They are all expected to return to practice tomorrow morning to prepare for Saturday’s matinee vs. the Chicago Blackhawks.

Richards ran a practice session that was chock full of light-hearted competitiveness, with more than a few friendly jabs and ribbings exchanged among the group.

“Our feeling as a coaching staff was to go out and have a fun day on the ice,” Richards said. “I think the players enjoyed that.”

Also on the positive side of things, defenseman Nikita Nikitin returned to practice today with the team for the first time since injuring his knee Jan. 21 in Detroit. Nikitin took part in the full practice and Richards said it’s a day-by-day process in determining when he is best suited to be activated off injured reserve and get back in the lineup.

“He’s close,” Richards said. “He was on the ice skating with us today. We’ll have everyone in practice tomorrow, so obviously it will be a different type of practice. We’ll work on the things we need to work on 5-on-5 and specialty teams.

“It will be another good test for him tomorrow, and we’ll see about Saturday.”

PUMP UP THE POWER PLAY
Despite struggling on the man advantage for most of the first half of the season, the Blue Jackets have revived their power play since Richards took over and as of late, they’re red-hot. Columbus is currently riding a streak of power-play goals in six straight games, and is 8-for-27 on the power play during that stretch (29.6 percent). In the 17 games prior, the Blue Jackets were 4-for-42 for a 9.5 percent success rate.

Richards said the recent success can be attributed to several factors, but most importantly, he has been impressed with the Blue Jackets’ breakouts and zone entries. Better possession of the puck has afforded them more time to create scoring opportunities and wear down the opposition’s penalty kill.

“We’re doing a good job as far as where we want to be, and making the right decision as to where the puck needs to go,” Richards said. “We’re maintaining possession of the puck, we’re not dumping it and trying to get it back which takes time and energy.

“A big thing is confidence, too – sometimes you don’t feel as confident because you haven’t had success. Players are starting to have success now, and I think there’s a confidence when guys go over the boards that good things are going to happen.”

BLOCKING OUT THE DISTRACTIONS
The NHL’s trade deadline is less than two weeks away at 3 p.m. February 27, but Richards and the Blue Jackets said they are keeping their focus on what they can control. The players understand the nature of the business, Richards said, and it isn’t necessary to make any more out of the situation.

“You get into this time of the year, I know (the trade deadline) is on the back of just about everyone’s mind,” Richards said. “That’s something I can’t worry about and I can’t put a lot of my attention to that. It might be just talking to a player here and there, but that’s as far as it goes.

“I don’t think at this time of year every coach sits down two weeks from the trade deadline and says, ‘OK guys, we have to talk about this now.’ I’ve been on other teams where players understand and they know. This affects players in the minor leagues, too, because if a deal happens, sometimes prospects are involved. It affects everybody involved. No team is exempt.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 PLAYOFFS
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Johnson 2 2 1 0 3
M. Calvert 2 2 0 3 2
R. Johansen 2 1 1 -1 2
B. Dubinsky 2 0 2 0 2
D. Savard 2 0 2 1 2
B. Jenner 2 0 2 -1 2
D. MacKenzie 2 1 0 0 1
M. Letestu 2 1 0 1 1
A. Anisimov 2 0 1 -1 1
C. Atkinson 2 0 1 1 1
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Bobrovsky 1 1 0 .905 3.00
 
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