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Blue Jackets' blue line helping carry the offense

by Brian McCormack / Columbus Blue Jackets

Despite a 6-3 defeat to Arizona Saturday night that featured its fair share of defensive zone breakdowns, the Blue Jackets blue liners continued a trend against the Coyotes that has been helping them win games.

With Fedor Tyutin’s first goal of the season and James Wisniewski’s power play marker, the two goals giving the Jackets a brief lead in the contest, the Jackets got scoring from defensemen for the third straight game and nine of 11 games dating back to their Dec. 6 win over Tampa Bay. Over that stretch, Jackets defensemen have accounted for 11 goals and 19 assists.

The most obvious contributor during that stretch is Kevin Connauton, with five goals and nine points. Two of Connauton’s tallies were game-winners, the most memorable his first as a Blue Jacket in an overtime win over the Flyers.

With two power play goals, Connauton joined the Blue Jackets off waivers with a chance to earn a spot and has seen his role expand to special teams and playing major minutes alongside Wisniewski. Connauton played nearly 19 minutes last night in Arizona.

Connauton isn’t the only player who has been a pleasant offensive surprise. David Savard has five points in the past 11 games and two game-winning goals. After a breakout campaign last season in which Savard was one of the most improved players on the team and gained the trust of the coaching staff, Savard has added the offensive touch to his game that he displayed in juniors at Moncton. His 13 points on the season are already just two shy of his total for all of last year.

Perhaps more important than the defense finding an offensive role is two players rediscovering their own. Jack Johnson has responded to some early-season speed bumps with eight points in 11 games and two goals in that span.

The surge of offense from the defenseman has also eased the burden on some other Blue Jackets not finding the back of the net. Ryan Johansen has goals in two straight games, one into an empty net, but still has only those two scores in his last 13 games. He does have points in six straight.

Cam Atkinson went on injured reserve after the Blue Jackets’ 6-2 win over the Bruins, but up to that point had just one goal and three points in 17 games. Boone Jenner was having a very strong season when he finally returned from a broken bone in his hand sustained during training camp. He put up 12 points in 20 games, but a back injury has him on the sidelines for the time being.

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