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Getting Comfortable in Columbus

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets
When he got the news on February 28, Sami Lepisto wasn’t sure what to expect.

The 26-year-old native of Espoo, Finland was headed from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Blue Jackets, and he wasn’t going alone. Teammate Scottie Upshall came with him in the deadline-day deal and both players have made significant contributions to their new club.

But as a defenseman, the transition was slower for Lepisto. He was coming to a team with a different style of play and a new structure for the defense.

"Any time you come to a new team, there is a lot that changes," Lepisto told "In Phoenix, they were more of a defensive-minded team and the defensemen don't join the play as much.

"When I came (to Columbus) the coaches are always telling us to get up in the play and create some offense. It's been a good change for me."

And that change took effect right away. He and Upshall fell victim to travel delays and didn't arrive in Vancouver to meet the Blue Jackets until the afternoon of a game day.

Lepisto was in the lineup against the Canucks that night, and played 21:46 in his debut.

In the games since, he has seen his ice time increase and his responsibilities evolve. He has played 19-plus minutes in three of the past four games and is a +3 in the last six games overall.

Lepisto has earned power-play time from the coaching staff, and had three shots in a 2-0 loss to Detroit on Thursday.

"Any defenseman will tell you that they want to play more minutes," Lepisto. "With each game, I think I've played better and I'm seeing some power-play time, too."

Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel sees a player that has stepped up his play as his comfort level with new surroundings has blossomed.

"I think there was an adjustment period for him, but defense is a harder position to play,” Arniel told "If you ask any player to be more offensive than defensive, you're going to get more positive vibes from them.

"It's been a little bit of trail by fire with the situation we're in, but he's done a good job of adapting and playing the style we want to play."

A trade is a two-fold scenario for a player. Lepisto joined the Blue Jackets on the road and had time to bond with his teammates away from Columbus, but when they came home after a 10-day road trip, he had a new city to call home and learn about. So far, he likes what he has seen from Ohio's capital city.

"I really like the city, and I didn't know much about it before I got here," Lepisto said. "The people are very kind and humble – that's what I noticed right away."

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