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CBJ notebook: Blue Jackets, fans celebrate Hockey Halloween

Also included: Merzlikins makes most of chance, Bemstrom getting feet wet

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

Rarely has the Channel 4 news team assembled in such style. 

As the Blue Jackets celebrated Halloween, perhaps the most celebrated costume was put together by Jakob Lilja, Emil Bemstrom, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alexandre Texier. The four dressed as "Anchorman" characters Champ Kind, Brian Fantana, Ron Burgundy and Brick Tamland, respectively, in a perfect throwback to the 1970s inspired characters from the movie series. 

In fact, it takes a little bit of looking to figure out which four Blue Jackets are in the photo, the costumes are that good.  

That's because Dubois, the ringleader of the whole thing, put some thought into the group's look. 

"It was perfect," he said. "As soon as I saw Lilja I was like, 'OK, you're gonna be Champ. Bemmer, you're gonna be Brian. Tex, you're for sure Brick.'" 

Meanwhile, Blue Jackets fans got in the act with some excellent costumes as the team celebrated Hockey Halloween at Nationwide Arena on Wednesday night. The team staged a costume contest and handed out candy at trick-or-treat stations around the concourse, but no one brought as much to their costume game as young Rhyder West. 

Tweet from @FOXSportsCbus: Stop the contest. We have a winner!#CBJ | @BlueJacketsNHL | @ZachWerenski

For more Halloween goodness, CBJ radio host Dylan Tyrer caught up with a number of Blue Jackets players to get their thoughts on Halloween, from costumes to candy. 

Elvis enters the building: One positive from the Blue Jackets' 4-1 loss vs. Edmonton on Wednesday night was the play of Elvis Merzlikins. 

The Latvian goaltender entered 4:56 into the second period with the team trailing 4-0 and stopped all 19 shots he faced from the Oilers. It was the best showing of his rookie season thus far, as Merzlikins opened his NHL career by giving up seven goals in a loss at Pittsburgh, then rebounded with a 3-2 overtime loss Oct. 18 at Chicago. 

"He came in and played great," Boone Jenner said. "He gave us a chance to get back into it." 

Merzlikins has rebounded from the tough start to the point his save percentage is now .891 after sitting at .825 following the Pittsburgh game. He has stopped 49 of the last 52 shots he's faced, a save percentage of .942.  

The game against the Oilers was his first action, as well, in Nationwide Arena. Unfortunately for Merzlikins, his girlfriend Aleksandra was unable to be in attendance, but he didn't seem too worried about that in a postgame interview with Fox Sports Ohio. 

"I was waiting for a long time to play at home," Merzlikins said. "Today I finally did. It's bad that my girlfriend didn't see the game because she didn't come today. It's the first game she didn't come. I feel maybe bad for her that she spent three months here and hasn't seen me play yet, but the season is really long so I'm not worried about that." 

Merzlikins seems likely to start one of the games over the weekend, as Columbus will play Friday night at St. Louis and at home Saturday vs. Calgary, with Korpisalo probably to get the nod in the other. 

Bemstrom rising: A year ago, it didn't take Bemstrom that long to get used to his surroundings. 

As a rookie in Sweden's top league, all Bemstrom did was lead the entire league with 23 goals, scoring the third-most goals at that level ever by a teenager. 

But this year, the transition has admittedly taken a little longer, as Bemstrom has no goals and two assists so far in 12 games at the NHL level. 

"I thought it would be easier," he said of the transition from the hockey in his home country to the world's top level. "But now I know how tough it is in this league. I'm going to work from here." 

Slowly but surely, though, Bemstrom's play and comfort level seem to be improving. He had a nice assist last Thursday to set up Texier for a goal on a 4-on-1, and he's started to find places to unleash the prodigious shot that made him so hard to stop a year ago. He also is starting to play with some confidence and is now on the team's No. 1 power-play unit. 

"I would say the more games I play, I get more comfortable out there," he said. "It's a lot to take in, you know? A lot of new things. I feel more confident in myself." 

He's also shown a knack for goal scoring in practice. Now, it's just about learning the game, the smaller rink, his teammates, and finding places to contribute. 

"I think what's going to help Bemmer in just talking to him, I think he wants to have just a few more conversations along the way and just try to help guide him," head coach John Tortorella said. "But the biggest thing is, I want something good to happen for him and then maybe some flow will come into his game offensively." 

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