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Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash wore the face of a player that knows patience is paramount at this juncture.
He’s been through the highs and lows of the Olympic tournament, the World Championships and the Memorial Cup before the age of 27. Though the Blue Jackets have played two games and haven’t recorded a victory, the mistakes are not difficult to identify and they are working to be corrected.
During his media scrum in advance of tonight’s game against the Vancouver Canucks, Nash was quick to point out the Blue Jackets’ special teams as the area in need of most improvement. The club’s power play has gone 0-for-11 and while it has looked dangerous at times, the coaching staff and players would like to get more shots directed to the net.
“Our special teams have to be better (against the Canucks),” Nash said after today’s morning skate.
Nash – as well as Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel – also pointed out the Blue Jackets played a solid game for the final two periods Saturday night in Minnesota – but their slow start and penalty trouble got them behind 2-0 after the first period.
“We had a little talk yesterday when we got back,” Arniel said this morning. “We talked about how we were good in training camp, and we thought we were pretty good against Nashville.
“The first period against Minnesota was ugly, and we got into the game after that.”
The Blue Jackets do not want to get into the same situation tonight against the Canucks, the defending Western Conference champions of a year ago. Vancouver’s forward depth has been tested with injuries to top-six players such as Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond, and is counting on the likes of Cody Hodgson, Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson to fill the offensive void.
It is expected that Boston College product Cory Schneider will be in goal for Vancouver tonight. Roberto Luongo was not particularly good or bad in an opening-night 4-3 shootout loss to Pittsburgh last week at Rogers Arena, but Canucks coach Alain Vigneault may decide to shuffle the duck.
That versatility and ability to adapt in all situations is part of what makes Vancouver a dangerous team, according to Arniel.
“(Vancouver) is a team that’s just gone to the finals, that has experience and knows how to play in any kind of game,” Arniel said. “The big line with the (Sedin) twins and Burrows – you’ve got to know where they are all the time. You can’t allow them to play their game; you’ve got to make it difficult.
“They want to play that up-tempo, offensive game. If you try to trade chances with them, you get burned.”
|COACH ARNIEL AUDIO|
NO MORE CHANCES
Arniel felt the Blue Jackets yielded too many scoring chances against Minnesota, and the task of stopping star offensive players does not get any easier tonight.
The Canucks’ duo of Henrik and Daniel Sedin is a matchup problem for any NHL team. They can score off the rush, they can run a cycle that makes a Maytag jealous and they can appear just when you don’t want them to. Add the gritty, skilled Alex Burrows on the wing, and it’s a line that puts teams on alert.
“The two games we played out in Vancouver last year, they were both low-scoring games and we did a great job of not allowing them to get their offense going and play that explosive game,” Arniel said.
“Part of our talk yesterday (as a group) was that we’ve got to back to our work and our grind, and really slowing those offensive people down.”
BACK BETWEEN THE PIPES
Steve Mason will make his third consecutive start in goal for the Blue Jackets tonight.
Though he was removed to start the third period against the Wild over the weekend, Arniel insisted that the decision had nothing to do with performance. In a 4-1 game, inserting Curtis Sanford was the right thing to do at that time, Arniel said.
“I took Mase out in the third the other night to get him ready for tonight,” Arniel said. “He’s a workhorse, we have to throw him right back in. We win as a group and we lose as a group.
"I wasn’t putting the blame on him."
CENTER OF ATTENTION
Jeff Carter was a highly-touted acquisition by the Blue Jackets this summer, seen by many as a player capable of an immediate impact. He is part of the club’s dynamic top line with Nash and Vinny Prospal, a trio that was electric on opening night.
Through two games, Carter is the Blue Jackets’ leading scorer with 0-3-3 and 11 shots on goal. Where Carter’s impact is less publicized is in the face-off circle. He set a franchise-record with 24 face-off wins (77.4 percent total) against the Predators, and currently ranks 15th in the NHL overall at 63.5 percent.
COME CHAT ABOUT IT
As a reminder, BlueJackets.com will be hosting another live chat during tonight’s game against the Canucks. You can participate in the live chat with myself, our moderate and Blue Jackets radio analyst Bob McElligott.
Season series: This is the first meeting of the season between Vancouver and Columbus. The Canucks made a clean sweep of the Jackets in 2010-11, taking all four meetings between the two teams.
Big Story: As Vancouver opens up its first road trip of the 2011-12 season, the Canucks and the Jackets will both be looking to get off the schnide and put their first notch in the win column for the season.
Canucks: Fresh off a season in which the Canucks took home the franchise's first Presidents' Trophy, Vancouver might have hoped for a better start than it got Thursday night. In a potential Stanley Cup Final preview, the Canucks fell to Pittsburgh 4-3 in a shootout after lifting their Western Conference Championship banner at Rogers Arena. If Vancouver should see Pittsburgh again this June it can take solace in that the playoffs have no shootouts, but the Canucks will have to get their first, and it's a long road ahead that started on Thursday and continues Monday in Columbus.
Monday's visit to Ohio is the first stop on a four-game swin for the Canucks that will also take them to Philadelphia and Detroit before finishing in division-rival Edmonton. With most of the roster returning from last season's 117-point squad expectations are high that Vancouver will be in the mix for the West's top seed once again. A strong start to the Canucks' first road trip of the year would be a good sign that they're headed there.
Blue Jackets: Many teams made big changes this offseason, but few were as unexpectedly aggressive as Columbus, which brought in sniper Jeff Carter in a trade with Philadelphia and made a free agent splash by laying out big money for defenseman James Wisniewski. The Jackets won't get to see Wisniewski on the blue line until Oct. 25 as the result of a suspension, but Carter has already been an impressive investment, leading the team with three points after his first two games as a Jacket.
Columbus GM Scott Howson is banking on the tandom of Carter and captain Rick Nash continuing to produce on that order all season in hopes of bringing the Jackets to their second postseason appearance in history, but the team as a whole can make a big early-season statement by taking too points from an elite team like Vancouver.
Who's Hot: Rick Nash and Vinny Prospal both have a goal and an assist in the season's first two games. ... The more things change, the more they stay the same as Daniel and Henrik Sedin already lead Vancouver in scoring after one game with two points apiece.
Injury Report: The Canucks will still be without forward Ryan Kesler, who is on injured reserve following offseason surgery on his left hip.
Stat Pack: Kesler, an Ohio State grad, might not be the only Canuck who likes it in Columbus. Vancouver hasn't lost in the Buckeye State since Dec. 1, 2008, nearly three years ago.
Puck Drop: The second or third game of the season is far too early to make dramatic predictions one way or the other, but as Columbus looks for its first win with its revamped lineup, the Jackets have a huge opportunity to make the rest of the League take notice as they face the Canucks.