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Familiar faces help Comeau adjust to new environment

by Staci Pawlak / Columbus Blue Jackets

It was a game day in Calgary and Blake Comeau was in the middle of eating lunch when he got the call from his agent telling him he had just been traded to the Blue Jackets. The following day, he was sitting on a plane with a new team, new city, and new fans on the horizon.

For most of us, it’s hard to imagine, but for Comeau and the handful of NHL players who get traded every year at the trade deadline, the sudden change is just a part of the job. According to Comeau, best way to adjust to a new environment is to “just move forward and focus on the ice.”

After all, the ice doesn’t change, no matter what NHL city you’re in. While Comeau made his Blue Jackets debut on the road last Friday against the St. Louis Blues, tonight will be his first game in front of his new home crowd. It’s an experience Comeau is looking forward to.

“I think the nerves are going to be there just playing your first game at home, but it’s going to be exciting as well playing in front of the home fans rather than joining the team on the road,” Comeau said from his locker room stall at Nationwide Arena after the morning skate.

“It’s exciting to finally be in Columbus and see the city.”

For Comeau, the biggest adjustment has been getting to know his new teammates and learning the different systems. He admits that it’s a “bit of a process,” but is trying to make the learning curve as short as possible.

“There’s only ten games left, and I’m trying to make an impact right away,” he said.

It helps that not all of the faces in the room belong to strangers. Associate coach Craig Hartsburg coached him in Calgary, and Comeau said he knows Dan Hinote from seeing him around his off-season home in Kelowna, a Canadian resort city on the shore of Okanagan Lake in British Columbia.

“Those guys have been talking to me, telling me what they expect from me, what they need,” Comeau said. “It’s nice to have communication as a player to know what they expect and what your role is going to be.

As far as the transition off the ice, Comeau said the familiar faces of Brandon Dubinsky, James Wisniewski, and Nick Foligno have been a big help with welcoming him to the team and getting him acquainted with the city. Comeau knows Wisniewski from when they both played for the New York Islanders. His stint as an Islander has also made him familiar with Dubinsky due to playing the New York Rangers frequently as Atlantic Division opponents.

“I talked to both [Dubinsky and Wisniewski] right after the trade happened, and I went out for dinner last night with Foligno,” Comeau said. “He was kinda telling me about the city a little bit, showing me some spots to go eat.”

“Those little gestures go a long way and just makes the transition that much easier when you hear from those guys.”

While Comeau is still trying to soak everything in, he said he knows that the coaches will expect him to play a physical game, which is something he takes pride in being known for.

“That’s a big part of my game, just finishing my hits and providing energy,” he said.

Despite the “added nerves,” Comeau said it’s a relief to finally play at Nationwide Arena after joining the team for two road games, and he’s looking forward to feeding off the energy of the crowd.

“I’m excited to see how everything goes tonight and try to contribute where I can.”

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