In both of their victories in California (San Jose and Los Angeles), the Blue Jackets did two things particularly well in the eyes of John Tortorella: they started the game on time, and they made it a difficult game for their opponents.
As part of his quest to make the Blue Jackets a harder team to play against – we hear that refrain quite often these days, but it holds true – Tortorella is constantly reinforcing the details of the game that help them reach that level. It comes down to arriving first at loose pucks, making smart plays in tight areas and exiting the defensive zone with confidence, which bleeds into other parts of their game.
That’s all well and good on the road, where the Blue Jackets have steadied themselves and won four of seven games since Tortorella took over two weeks ago. But the real concern (as we’ve discussed before in this space) is their home record, which sits at 0-5 entering Tuesday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks, Tortorella’s most recent employer.
One might think that this game has some added juice for Tortorella, but he wasn’t biting after practice on Monday. The game, regardless of the opponent, is worth two points and that’s what he wants most.
“And that’s no disrespect to the Canucks,” he said. “My whole mindset is that we need to win games, and it doesn’t matter who comes in here. We have a long way to crawl back and we’re trying to take each day at a time. We have to fix this here – we’re 0-5 at home.
“It just happens to be Vancouver, and I'm sure there are a lot of storylines (in the media), but not for me. I’m just worried about this team here and finding a way to get a win.”
Said captain Nick Foligno: “It hasn’t been one (problem), it’s been a lot of things. We’re going nowhere if we don’t fix it.”
Other stuff from today’s practice:
-Tortorella wants his team to play an aggressive style with an overload of energy, and to aid that, he also employs the “practice how you play” approach. The Blue Jackets skated at a high tempo for 40-45 minutes today and it was exhausting to sit and watch.
“If you want any sniff of competing and being in any mix at all at the end of the year, you have to take care of business at home,” Tortorella said. “It’s not X’s and O’s, it’s about a mindset as far as preparing and being that hard team in all areas of the ice, and I think that’ll translate into more consistency.”
-There were some new-look lines today: Jenner-Johansen-Foligno, Hartnell-Dubinsky-Saad, Calvert-Karlsson-Atkinson, Campbell-Wennberg-Bourque/Boll. We may find out tomorrow morning which of Bourque or Boll dresses against the Canucks.
-It sounds as though Jacob Markstrom, recalled today from Utica (AHL), will start for Vancouver on Tuesday. Sportsnet’s John Shannon first reported the possibility.
-Good to see current Canuck and former Blue Jacket Adam Cracknell at the rink today. He stopped by to see many of his former teammates and chat for a bit. Cracknell's one of the good guys.
-After practice, Cam Atkinson headed over to Port Columbus and the USO Lounge to visit with active and retired members of the military and their families to say “thank you” for the service and sacrifices. Atkinson also presented a check for $5,013 from his Force Network Fund charity to the USO of Central & Southern Ohio to help enrich the lives of military families in our community.
-Why $5,013, you might ask? Atkinson had originally planned on donating a round number of $5,000 but wanted to make it a personalized gift, so he added $13 to represent his jersey number. Pretty cool touch.