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Game 4 Practice Report: Jackets focused on task at hand

Columbus not letting outside noise impact preparation, game plan

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

It is one place where coach and captain are united. 

When asked about the Blue Jackets taking a 2-1 lead in their second-round playoff series vs. Boston on Tuesday night, captain Nick Foligno had a quick response. 

GAME 4 HUB: Highlights, tweets, and news

"Two wins don't mean (anything), pardon my language," Foligno said. 

Thursday, head coach John Tortorella had a similar viewpoint. 

"We haven't done … anything yet," the coach said, catching himself from any regrettable word choices in front of the assembled media. 

Video: Dubois talks about team's focus ahead of Game 4

In other words, the Blue Jackets swear they're focused only on getting better. While Columbus is enraptured by the longest playoff run in franchise history, it's up to the players and coaches on the team to stay on an even keel. 


Sure, they're enjoying each win in the immediate aftermath, but their task is to be ready to go for the next bell, or the joy of this postseason run will soon turn into the disappointment of an opportunity that got away too quickly. 

"I want them to be as excited as they possibly can tonight," Tortorella said after the Game 3 victory Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena. "They have a right to be, but when you come back the next day, it's time to work. I think as we have played more playoff games as an organization the past few years, that's what we're beginning to learn." 

That message appears to be settling in, especially as the team had a video meeting Thursday morning ahead of Game 4 on places the team can get better. 

PLAYOFF CENTRAL: Your one-stop location for news, notes, videos, and more

That's a usual occurrence on a game day, but Tortorella indicated Wednesday this meeting would be a little more in-depth than the others as the Blue Jackets look to shore up the problem areas he's identified in the team's performance.  

"I think the important thing in the playoffs is just improving every game, not get ahead of yourself," second-year center Pierre-Luc Dubois said. "We're happy where we are right now, but we still haven't accomplished anything yet. Game 4 tonight is going to be a huge game. We have to get better. I thought we played a good game last game, but we can still improve a lot." 

No distractions: As a playoff series gets longer and longer, it can get nastier and nastier, and one moment of surprising physicality came late in Game 3. 

After Sergei Bobrovsky swallowed up Patrice Bergeron's chance with just more than a minute go to in the game as the Jackets were clinging to a 2-1 lead, CBJ defenseman Scott Harrington was on his knees getting ready to talk to his goaltender when he felt a shot to the back of his head. 

As the entire hockey world knows now, it was Brad Marchand, the supremely talented Boston forward who also doubles as perhaps the game's preeminent pest. It was a moment of frustration for Marchand, who hasn't scored a goal in the series, but not out of character given his reputation for doing anything he can to get under the skin of an opponent. 

For the Jackets, the goal is keeping Marchand from irritating themselves out of their game, and so far, it appears they've succeeded. 

For example, watch the reaction to Marchand's jab at Harrington. Boone Jenner saw it and took a few strides at Marchand, exchanging words with the Boston forward, but didn't do anything that would cause the Jackets to get into a shorthanded situation with so much on the line. 

"Boone did a good job," Harrington said. "I think he was the closest guy. You could tell he was upset, but he did a good job of keeping his composure. The last thing you want to do at that time is chase a guy all over the ice and take a penalty when the other team is pushing." 

Video: Foligno on a late hit in Game 3

The series has been physical from the word go, with Columbus topping 40 hits in all three of the games. Yet the Jackets have been shorthanded 10 times, and most of those have not come from any sort of extracurricular activities but because of a plethora of offensive zone penalties.  

Columbus has kept its composure in an intense series, and Harrington says that won't change in Game 4. 

"Stuff like that is going to happen," he said of the Marchand play. "We're not going to make anything out of it. There's no suspension or anything. It's a hockey play. It's the playoffs. That's what it's all about. You're going to take some shots and now we're not going to let it linger past today." 

Or as Seth Jones said when asked if the play would linger, albeit with a knowing smile on his face: "Not at all. Harry is fine." 

Talkin' about practice: One day after a full team skate at Nationwide Arena, the Blue Jackets held an optional skate at the downtown barn Thursday morning.  

When it comes to the team's lineup, no changes are expected on the back end, and Tortorella confirmed Thursday that Markus Nutivaara continues to recover from an upper-body injury that has kept him out of the past five games. 

Up front, it remains to be seen whether Alexandre Texier will return to the lineup after being lifted in Game 3 for Ryan Dzingel, who himself was taken out in Game 2 as Alexander Wennberg made his 2019 playoff debut. 

Also, winger Riley Nash did not skate with the team Wednesday. He's taken a number of hits in the series from his former Boston teammates but there is no indication he will miss Game 4. 

On the Boston side, there will be a change. Head coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed Thursday morning that David Backes will enter the lineup in place of Karson Kuhlman, the rookie who was entered in Game 3 but did not find the score sheet. Backes, a 13-year veteran, had 20 points in 70 games this year for the Bruins. 

In addition, David Pastrnak will return to the top line with Marchand and center Patrice Bergeron, at least for the start of the game, Cassidy said. 

For their part, the Bruins don't appear to have hit the panic button down 2-1, as one would expect for a team with a lengthy recent playoff history that came back from a 3-2 series deficit last round vs. Toronto. 

"If (Game 4) goes our way, it's two out of three with home-ice advantage," Cassidy said. "That's a good spot to be in. We'll be ready." 

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