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Practice Notebook: March 27

Blue Jackets power play the focus of practice

by Alison Lukan @AlisonL /

The Blue Jackets returned to practice Monday and, after a first 25 minutes focused on playing with speed, the team moved to the Ice Haus and worked on the power play.

The Jackets haven't had a power play goal in their last six games despite having nine opportunities with the man advantage. They still rank ninth overall in the League (20.9%), but with the playoffs nearing, the coaching staff decided it was time to change things up with the intention of getting the power play back on track.

The team showed two new power play units, most notably switching Seth Jones and Zach Werenski on the point. Jones led a group made up of Cam Atkinson, Scott Hartnell and Alexander Wennberg with Nick Foligno playing down low. Werenski's unit played with Boone Jenner close to the net, and Brandon Dubinsky, Brandon Saad, and Sam Gagner across the zone.

"We've tried to stay with our lineups as long as we can," head coach John Tortorella "Because it was very effective for most of the year. But I want to see a change in personnel to even both units out a little bit. We've had most of the top players on the number one unit and now we're going to try to even them out."

Tortorella hopes that Jones' affinity for shooting will get more pucks on net. He also wants to see his team return to "the foundation" of retrieving pucks, both upon entering the zone, and when capitalizing on second opportunities off a rebound or blocked shot.

"Our retrievals aren't good right now," Zach Werenski said. "We're not getting nearly enough shots. It seems like we're lacking confidence as a group, which we shouldn't be. We're still top 10 in the league even though we haven't scored in how ever many games. We have to get back to finding what we do best. Special teams are huge in the playoffs."

After practice, the team was set to focus on puck battles, zone entries as well as retrievals in film sessions. Tortorella remains confident the group will work through this special teams slump.

"Your special teams are streaky," Tortorella said. "We had a major streak with our power play. But sooner or later it doesn't work. This group has been good at when we've seen a weakness or something struggling we've grabbed a hold of it this year."

Werenski said the team expected the lineup changes were coming with just eight regular season games left. The Jackets want to get back to converting power plays sooner rather than later.

"We're coming up to playoffs here and we have to figure it out," Werenski said. "Other teams pre-scout us and see things we do well, but they have one less guy so we have to find a way to two-on-one some people, make them pay, and put some pucks in the net."


Other Notes:

  • Oliver Bjorkstrand did not skate with the team today. He's missed the last two games after leaving the Mar. 22 game against Toronto when he was checked into the boards. Tortorella said the forward is day-to-day.
  • William Karlsson lined up on the left wing in practice. He played there for the first time this season in Saturday's win over Philadelphia. "It's been fun to switch it up," Karlsson said. "There's not as much defensive work and it's been a little different battling along the walls which I normally don't do."
  •  Tortorella focused on pace in practice today as he feels its one of the first things to go when you don't get a lot of practice time. That's been something that's been hard to come by with the Jackets in the middle of five games in ten days.
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