John Tortorella gathered his players at center ice this morning before adjourning their pre-game skate, leaving them with one last reminder: “let’s be ready to go tonight.”
It’s the one thing the Blue Jackets feel they have the most control over and what can help them get out of an 0-5 slump on home ice. They have bent, broken and caved at times in their own building, quite uncharacteristic of a team that was brimming with confidence – particularly at Nationwide Arena – late last season.
Against a fast and determined Vancouver Canucks team, getting out to a quality start (and avoiding one like they had last weekend against the Winnipeg Jets) is of utmost importance.
The Canucks, who wrap up a three-game trip tonight in Columbus, will give No. 1 goalie Ryan Miller the night off. Jacob Markstrom, called up yesterday from the Utica Comets (AHL), gets the start in goal for Vancouver.
Former Blue Jackets wingers Adam Cracknell and Derek Dorsett will be in Canucks coach Willie Desjardins’ lineup tonight, skating on the same line with rookie Jared McCann (who leads the club in goals with five) at center.
Cracknell, who began last season with the Blue Jackets and was traded to St. Louis in late February, had to wait until late August to sign a free agent contract. Even his head coach admitted after training camp ended that he didn’t envision Cracknell making the Canucks’ opening night roster, but the 30-year-old forced his way on to the big club and make a strong case to stick around.
He joked after the Canucks’ morning skate today that, while he loved the cannon in Columbus last year, he’s hoping to keep it relatively quiet tonight.
Other stuff from the morning:
-Sergei Bobrovsky starts in goal tonight for Columbus, his eighth since Tortorella took over as coach on Oct. 21. Tortorella said this morning that he’s encouraged by the progress in Bobrovsky’s game, and has seen some confidence redevelop after a fragile start to the year.
-Dalton Prout and Rene Bourque will sit out tonight as healthy extras. Kevin Connauton and Cody Goloubef are the Blue Jackets’ third defense pair while Jared Boll joins Gregory Campbell and Alexander Wennberg on the fourth line.
-Tortorella said he’s liked Connauton’s game since he rejoined the lineup on Oct. 30 after nearly two weeks of watching. That was the first time Connauton played for Tortorella, and he hasn’t missed a game since – for good reason, too. The coach likes Connauton’s speed and power play ability, but in his own zone, he’s shown considerable improvement in terms of making smart plays with his stick to disrupt opponents and also get the puck out of trouble.
“He’s been impressive,” Tortorella said.