If the Columbus Blue Jackets organization functioned like “Survivor,” then forward >David Vyborny and defenseman >Rostislav Klesla would want to “outwit,” to “outplay” and to “outlast” each other for a cash prize and the title of “Blue Jacket Survivor.” After all, the two CBJ mainstays are the only remaining members of the inaugural 2000-01 squad.
But unlike participants on the popular television show, Klesla and Vyborny have no intention of voting each other off the ice. They only desire one thing: to take the franchise they have spent their entire careers with into the playoffs.
“I think we’ve got a great team this year, a better team than last year,” Vyborny said, praising the acquisitions of his new veteran teammates >Anson Carter and >Fredrik Modin.
Vyborny played in his 400th career NHL game–all of them with the Blue Jackets–in Friday’s 4-2 loss to Toronto. For his career, he has accumulated 91-142-233 with 130 PIM.
“It’s always nicer if you can put up some big numbers on a night like that,” said Vyborny, who didn’t notch a goal or an assist but showed tireless effort defensively.
At only 5-foot-10, Vyborny has played much bigger than his stature shows. To this point in his career, he has avoided injury by playing in at least 75 games in each of his five seasons in the NHL. In fact, he got marks for perfect attendance in 2003-04, suiting up for all 82 games.
“There are great fans here,” Vyborny said about the CBJ faithful, humbly thanking them for supporting him throughout his career.
“Veebs” has performed consistently, too, improving with every season. Last year, he tallied a career best in points with 65. Perhaps the right wing’s best attribute is that he’s “low-maintenance” in the opinion of his head coach, Gerard Gallant.
“David’s a character guy,” Gallant said. “He comes to work every day. I wish all [players] were like him.”
When center Sergei Fedorov returns to action for the Jackets, he will join Vyborny and Rick Nash as part of the one most potent first lines in hockey.
Though Klesla has seen players and coaches come and go, he praised the rapport and chemistry of the 2006-07 team, calling it “the best team we’ve had so far."
“This group is a bunch of friends,” he said. “We really support each other, on-ice and off-ice. I think that’s what a winning team needs to have.”
Both Vyborny and Klesla said they are happy in Columbus and would like to stay with the Jackets, hoping to highlight their future tenures with winning seasons.
Nationwide Arena may not be a tropical isle of wilderness, but for two hockey tough guys, it’s a place where they hope not just to survive but also to thrive.