Blue Jacket winger David Vyborny is set to make his return to the lineup after missing the past seven games with a hip injury he suffered December 1 on the road in Calgary. Vyborny's had a quiet offensive start to the season with two goals and eight assists through 26 games but head coach Ken Hitchcock is looking forward to having the long-time Columbus forward back in the lineup for numerous reasons.
"He's a veteran presence that's really going to help us," says Hitchcock. "Over time, you miss those guys.
"It's the way they manage the game and I think that's the one area that we're concerned about. We've played unbelievable at times in the last 10 games but then we've not been able to manage the game properly when it's on the line."
A familiar face at Nationwide Arena had quite the memorable night on Thursday. Minnesota Wild forward Marian Gaborik was an unstoppable force, tallying five goals (including a natural hat-trick) in a 6-3 Wild win over the New York Rangers. It was the first time in almost 11 years that an NHL player scored that many in a game.
The last man to do it? The Blue Jackets' Sergei Fedorov.
On December 26, 1996 - Fedorov, then a member of the Detroit Red Wings, scored all five goals in a 5-4 OT win over the Washington Capitals.
Curtis Glencross is one of those punishing hitters that doesn't shy away from contact. With players, anyway. The Jackets' rook suffered an unfortunate injury when he got hit in the face with a puck the other night in the home game against Calgary. Glencross has a slight crack in his cheekbone, not to mention a brutal shiner – just in time for Christmas. But the injury won't stop the Kindersley, Saskatchewan native, who will be wearing a full cage for the first time since his college days at the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Glencross says it's definitely been different donning the cage again but he has an idea that he thinks will help the transition.
"I have to doctor it a little bit to get 'er going," he says. "I'm thinking about changing the paint on the inside to white so I can see the puck a little better."
D is for Decline
There’s been no shortage of quality scoring chances in the new NHL the past couple of seasons – it just seems like not many of them have come from defenseman. Other than the usual suspects like Sergei Zubov of the Dallas Stars (32 points in 35 games) and Detroit's duo of Nicklas Lidstrom (31 points in 35 games) and Brian Rafalski (28 points in 35 games), NHL D-men are being stifled offensively, specifically when it comes to scoring goals.
Ken Hitchcock has a theory. The Columbus bench boss says that there is now less chaos around the net and more flow, which strangely enough, has limited defensemen.
"I know coaches," Hitch explains. "Now we play five goalies. Everybody's a shot blocker.
"This is just my own opinion but the blueline is so far away from the net now that the point shot is not a threat."
Hitchcock says coaches no longer preach that defenders get sticks on pucks at the point but rather to just get in the lanes to keep the play on the boards. That way, there's less trouble in front of the net.
"You get no goofy ones anymore," he says.
Entering play on Friday, Montreal's Andrei Markov, Michal Rozsival of the Rangers and Mike Green of Washington led all defensemen with eight goals apiece. Rostislav Klesla and Ron Hainsey lead the Jackets' defensemen with the three each.
Last season, Sheldon Souray led all D-men with 26 goals, a number that is unlikely to be reached in 2007-08.
Kris Russell may just be beginning his professional hockey career but his junior days have already produced enough memories to last a lifetime. For the past two years, the Caroline, Alberta native has spent a good chunk of the holiday season representing Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
And he has a pair of gold medals to show for it.
"It's definitely a great opportunity to represent your country at that event," says Russell. "It's a huge honor to be there and to come home with two gold medals is definitely special."
The Jackets' rookie had two unique experiences in the World Juniors, one win coming on home turf in Vancouver, B.C. and the other coming in Sweden.
"It was pretty intense, even in warm up, cause it was buzzing loud," he says of the finale at GM Place in 2006.
"In Sweden (2007), we were all together in a house and we got to know each other pretty good because we didn't have much else to do. It was a fun time."
Russ figures that if he gets any time off and he can find a game on TV, he'll be watching for sure to support the team and country.
"There were a few teammates (on the squad) from last year and the coaches are the same," he says. "And the trainer from Medicine Hat (where Russell played his junior hockey) is the trainer for Team Canada now. It's a great opportunity for all of those guys."
Jared Boll has three goals so far this year, but two have been game-winners. That ties the Jackets' rook with Erik Johnson (St. Louis), Tyler Kennedy (Pittsburgh), Milan Lucic (Boston), Jonathan Toews (Chicago), Peter Mueller (Phoenix) and Nicklas Backstrom (Washington) for the most game-winning goals by a first-year player this season…
Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev are two of just seven players to score goals in five or more consecutive games this season. Zherdev had five straight games with a goal from December 1-10, while Nash is the only player to accomplish such a streak twice this season. No. 61 had six goals in five games from October 17-25 and then added another five in the five games from November 14-23. Only Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg has a longer streak, having scored six goals in six games back October…
Through 33 games, Columbus has the fifth-best team goals against average in the entire NHL. Pascal Leclaire and Fredrik Norrena have combined to post a sparkling 2.36 GAA…
The Jackets' penalty killing remains top notch with the team sitting third in the league as of Friday, December 21. Columbus has allowed just 21 power-play goals in 135 times shorthanded for a solid 86.6 per cent success rate. On the road, the numbers are even better – nine goals against in 78 times shorthanded (88.5 per cent)…
Jason Chimera established the all-time Blue Jackets' iron man streak against Calgary Tuesday when he skated in his 195th consecutive game for the franchise…