Life's been pretty good for Jason Chimera of late. On the ice, he's been his usual high-energy self with the added bonus of scoring a few big goals. The Edmonton, Alberta native had been in a nasty offensive slump before potting a goal in the Jackets' 6-4 win over St. Louis on January 11. That marker seemed to spur him on, as did a recent contract extension.
After recently putting his name to a new, four-year deal, Chimera has gone on a tear, scoring goals in three straight games from February 5-8. He credits linemates Michael Peca and Nikolai Zherdev for the surge.
"We've been working well together," Chimera says. "It doesn't hurt when you have two linemates like that to help you along the way. "Lately, I've been feeling pretty comfortable out there."
Chimera now has 11 goals and 14 assists on the season and is hoping for more, given the team's need for secondary scoring behind Zherdev and Rick Nash, as it still battles for a Western Conference playoff spot.
"If you don't start winning games, you'll be left behind," he says of the race.
In terms of the contract, Chimera couldn't be happier. The security is nice, especially with a "little guy at home now" but the most rewarding aspect is the franchise wanted him to be a part of the future.
"Four years, it's huge," he says, adding he believes the team is close to being a championship contender. "It's a huge commitment from the team and I thank them for it.
"I want to be here. I've got a good thing going here. I would be stupid if I didn't sign here."
Bru is Back
After a recent stint with the Jackets' AHL affiliate Syracuse, Gilbert Brule is back just where he wants to be. The young forward struggled through the early part of the 2007-08 season, prompting a move to the Crunch. Head coach Ken Hitchcock had suggested that Brule needed to have fun with the game again and 13 games in the AHL helped him do just that.
"I came back with a lot more confidence in myself, carrying the puck, shooting the puck," says Brule. "I scored some goals and made some plays down there, getting a regular shift and playing 15 to 20 minutes a game."
That confidence has been evident of late. Brule has been getting some good opportunities while skating hard on the fourth unit alongside rookie Derick Brassard and Dan Fritsche.
"I love being back in Columbus," he says. "This is where I started my NHL career so I'm really happy to be back with these guys.
"Obviously, I want to help our team win."
Dick Tarnstrom is no stranger to switching addresses. But his last move caused a little more headache off of the ice than he had hoped for. The Jackets recently acquired Tarnstrom from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for undrafted rookie Curtis Glencross but an immigration roadblock delayed the veteran D-man's arrival in Columbus for almost two weeks.
"It was really frustrating," says the newest Jacket. "As soon as you get traded, you just want to get down there and play but I had to wait for 10 days to get the visa.
Tarnstrom was basically in hockey purgatory for that time while in between clubs. He tried to stay sharp practicing with the Edmonton Oil Kings, a junior team in his old hometown. Now, he's just happy to be in the fold and is eager to showcase his slick offensive skills in the Columbus back end. He's made an immediate impact chipping in an assist in his first game as a Blue Jacket Sunday against Los Angeles. Tarnstrom also added his first goal, on the power play, in Wednesday's loss to Chicago.
In the short time he's been in Columbus, Tarnstrom, who totaled 93 points for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the two seasons prior to the lockout, has been impressed with what he's seen. Some of the faces are familiar, too, like former Oiler teammate Michael Peca and fellow Scandanavian players Fredrik Modin and Fredrik Norrena.
"Since day one, the guys have been great," says Tarnstrom, "They're playing hard for each other. It's always been tough to play this team.
"There's great speed, especially in practices," he adds. "Everybody's a great skater."
Sane in the Membrane
Goalies have traditionally been thought of as a different breed within the hockey world. You simply have to have a little bit of crazy in you to face a piece of vulcanized rubber traveling up to 100 miles per hour.
But Ken Hitchcock is noticing a trend throughout the league – the goalies are, well, normal.
"They're more normal guys, they're more apt to behave like the other skaters do now," Hitchcock says, using his guys like Pascal Leclaire, Fredrik Norrena and even prospect Steve Mason as prime examples. "I think that's a big difference from years ago. You used to have to be aware of goalies, game days, and disposition. If the drill wasn't right, they would be throwing their stick. I don't think you see the temper tantrums or the idiosyncrasies that you did in the past.
The coach calls old goalies "different ducks" who were playing an individual sport within a team game. But in fact, one of his earliest experiences with a pro was with a fairly sane individual who just happens to be arguably the greatest netminder ever – Martin Brodeur.
"Marty's about as normal as they come," says Hitchcock. "Having (former Dallas Stars standout Ed) Belfour and Brodeur, that's a pretty big difference."
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