Much of the Blue Jackets’ hour-long practice session this morning was dedicated to defensive-zone work in advance of tomorrow night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks.
The defending Western Conference champions have been a tough matchup for Columbus over the years, and the last nine meetings between the two teams have gone to Vancouver (0-6-3). The Canucks won the last meeting at Rogers Arena, a 4-1 game in which the Blue Jackets got within striking distance in the third period, but were deflated by a late goal from Ryan Kesler.
Columbus did not get off to a good start in that game, and first-period goals from Daniel Sedin and David Booth got the Blue Jackets on their heels. This time around, the plan is to take the play into the Canucks end of the ice and make them uncomfortable in the early going.
“I think our first period in Vancouver, we came out of the gates a little slow,” goalie Curtis Sanford told BlueJackets.com. “When you get behind against a team like that, it makes it difficult on you. The last 40 minutes of that game, we took over but ran into a hot goalie.
“Other than that, we were in really good shape in the third period. Our start is key, and we have to be able to manage late-period situations better than we have lately.”
But what makes the Canucks a tough match for the Blue Jackets?
“They find a way to have their teams focused for every game, and you know when you’re playing against them you’re in for a tough matchup,” Sanford said. “They have gritty hard-working players and the Sedin twins work that cycle really well, sometimes it seems like they spend forever in the offensive zone.
“They have good goalies and a great back end – they’re very well put-together and they work hard.”
“YOU’VE GOT TO BE PREPARED”
Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel talked this morning about the aggressive nature of his team’s recent and upcoming opponents, namely the Boston Bruins and Canucks – the two clubs who last competed for the Stanley Cup. He and his coaching staff have worked hard to prepare the Blue Jackets for certain aspects of the Canucks game, and other elements that they saw against Boston.
“(Today’s work) had a little bit to with the next couple of teams we face, they’re very aggressive with their defensemen coming down the walls and it puts pressure on you,” Arniel said. “It changes things up; it’s not your typical three-man cycle. Vancouver plays it, it’s a four-man press and you’ve got to be prepared for it.
“If not you’ll be spending time in your end of the rink. We don’t have a lot of practice time playing every other day, but it’s something we will pay attention to.”
OPTIONS IN GOAL
Arniel would not lean one way or the other on his starting goaltender for tomorrow night, but if it happens to be Steve Mason, he expects to see the same defensive effort that the team has put forth in front of Sanford.
Sanford has made the last 12 starts for the Blue Jackets, but Arniel said he plans to get Mason in net at some point during this homestand.
“Early on in the year, as a group we were giving up a lot of scoring chances and goals,” Arniel said. “We left Steve to fend for himself. This last stretch, we’ve worked on cutting down on goals against and scoring chances.
“Strong play in front of any goaltender gives you a chance to win hockey games.”
NEWS AND NOTES
-Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash did not take part in today’s practice, and his absence was described as a “maintenance day” by Arniel.
-GM Scott Howson tweeted last night that Derek Dorsett received good news on his injury, suffered during Saturday’s game vs. Boston. Howson said the injury was not as serious as first thought, and Dorsett is currently listed as day-to-day.