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CBJ Today: Facing the music

Blue Jackets players say they'll improve on mistakes after early-season losses

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

Each weekday this season, will post CBJ Today, a look at news, notes, analysis and fun stuff from around the Blue Jackets world. It's everything you need to know if you're a fan going into the day.  

The Daily Buzz 

A weekday game at noon? That's right, you can get your CBJ fix early today as the Blue Jackets will be taking on Detroit at 12 p.m., kicking off a Martin Luther King Jr. Day quadrupleheader on NBCSN. The game, Columbus' first national TV contest of the year, will allow the team to get off the schneid after a sweep suffered to begin the season in Nashville. 

Taking Blame 

Zach Werenski spent part of his Sunday meeting with the media, which meant he was going to have to discuss his turnover that allowed Nashville to take a third-period lead in Saturday night's loss.  

It's part of the job, but credit to Werenski and his peers for owning up to what's gone wrong so far while losing a pair of games to the Predators to start the season.

For Werenski, that meant talking about an uncharacteristic minus-3 showing in Saturday night's game that also included that crucial miscue. With the Blue Jackets in possession of the puck in their offensive zone in a 1-1 game early in the third, Werenski was trying to make a play with the puck on his stick, something he's quite good at. But this time, as he tried to curl away from the checking effort of Filip Forsberg, it didn't quite work out. Forsberg knocked the puck off Werenski's stick, skated the length of the ice on a 2-on-1 and buried a shot that gave the Preds a 2-1 lead. 

So as he was going over things the Blue Jackets could do to avoid giving up so many odd-man rushes -- Nashville scored five times in transition in the two-game sweep -- Werenski couldn't help but face reality. 

"We have to try to limit those (odd-man rushes)," he said. "I think that starts with being above the puck, making sure we're sharp on our reads as defensemen …" 

And here, he couldn't help but smile a bit. Maybe a resigned chuckle, as well. 

"... And not getting pickpocketed at the blue line," he said, a reference to his turnover. "That was a tough one." 

That's where the Blue Jackets are after two games, aware they've been in both games with Nashville but committed too many mistakes to get the victory either night.  

To their credit, though, the Blue Jackets players questioned have owned up to those mistakes. After the offense netted just one goal in the opener, Max Domi and Nick Foligno said they have to be better. Werenski and goaltender Elvis Merzlikins said the same after Saturday night's third period to forget. 

"Obviously it's my fault," Werenski said about that turnover. "I'm trying to make a play. It doesn't work out. He makes a good play reading it, but it's one of those things where you have to take the good with the bad. And that was a bad play for me." 

Both Werenski and Merzlikins admitted taking the ice after a short training camp, with zero exhibition games under their belts, was difficult for timing and quality of play (anyone who has watched would probably agree, as both games so far have been helter-skelter affairs for both sides).  

But there's also been an acknowledgment that there are no excuses, and all teams around the league are in the same boat. So it's just a matter of getting into the season as quickly as possible and learning from those mistakes.  

Perspective and a sense of humor don't hurt, either. 

"It was tough plays, it was little breakaways, but still, I am a goalie," Merzlikins said about a third period Saturday in which the Jackets gave up four goals. "That is my job. I know that I can save those. I think everybody knows I can save those. 

"What happened, it happened. The only thing I even said to (goalie coach Manny Legace), the good, positive thing from that game is that I got less goals than last year in my first NHL game. I take that as positive progress." 

A Family Affair 

Many CBJ fans know that Werenski and Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin go way back. The two grew up in suburban Detroit together, playing for the Belle Tire junior program, skating at the U.S. National Team Program and going to the University of Michigan with one another. 

And Larkin, who is now the Red Wings' captain, has Werenski's back for today's game. Normally, Werenski would be playing in front of a bevy of family and friends in Detroit, something that can't happen right now with no fans allowed in Little Caesars Arena because of the pandemic. 

But Wings players do get a number of tickets for family members, and Larkin is letting Werenski use two of his so that Ken and Kristen Werenski, Zach's parents, can attend. 

"Dylan Larkin is actually leaving my dad a couple of tickets for tomorrow," Werenski said. "I think they're allowed 60 family and friends or something like that. That's really nice of him. So my parents are going to come. Usually I have 20, 30 friends and family here. It's definitely different, but at least my family gets to come to the game." 

How cool is that?  

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