The Blue Jackets are welcoming opponents to Nationwide Arena this week that encompass both ends of the spectrum of momentum.
Last night’s foe, the Vancouver Canucks, entered the game as one of the hottest teams in the NHL, riding a four-game winning streak and had won nine of their last 10 before dropping a 2-1 shootout decision to the Blue Jackets.
At the other end of the tunnel are the Los Angeles Kings, a team that just fired Terry Murray as its head coach and has lost five consecutive games. They were in Boston last night and continued to struggle on the scoresheet – already the league’s lowest-scoring team, the Kings were shutout by Tuukka Rask and are now sitting in limbo as rumors swirl about the identity of their next full-time coach.
What Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel enjoyed about his team’s win over the Canucks was that despite being without shutdown center Sammy Pahlsson, they took away the time and space of Vancouver’s skilled players and didn’t yield many quality chances.
“One thing is they use the back of the net so well with their cycling,” Arniel said of the Canucks. “They have two defensemen always pinching down the walls, so they’re very active. We did a really good job of containing them, and using the whole zone – against skilled teams like that you have to keep them in the corners and we did that.”
Coaches occasionally choose to match top line-versus-top line on home ice, and in the absence of two-thirds of his checking line (Pahlsson, Derek Dorsett), Arniel was pleased with the work put in by his top players.
“Jeff Carter did a great job - he was down low lots of times and he disrupted (the Sedins),” Arniel said. “Those guys did a really good job making the twins play defense more than they got to play offense.”
GOOD NEWS FOR GOALTENDING
When Curtis Sanford was in the midst of making 12 consecutive starts for the Blue Jackets prior to last night’s game, Arniel met with Steve Mason and goaltending coach Ian Clark to monitor his progress and get his game back on track. Arniel said he told Mason on Saturday night he would start vs. the Canucks, and his work before, during and after practice made it the right move. After Mason’s strong performance (30 saves) against the Canucks, Arniel feels he’s now got two goaltenders he can choose from – something that hasn’t been the case for a while due to injuries.
“Instead of one (goalie) I’m hoping is playing well, now I’ve got two guys that can give us a chance to win hockey games,” Arniel said. “It’s a nice predicament to be in. We’ll use it accordingly; from here to Christmas, we’re probably going to see both of them.
“I’ve got my goalie for tomorrow. After that, I kind of have it laid out but sometimes I have a tendency to throw that in the garbage can, too.”
When asked about the regularity of upcoming starts for Mason, Arniel said: “I don’t think I’m going to sit him another 12 games. He’s got to get back in.”
NEWS AND NOTES
- Arniel said Pahlsson, who fell ill yesterday, came to the rink this morning to do off-ice workouts but did not participate in practice. He’s expected to be ready to go tomorrow vs. the Kings.
- Rick Nash took a maintenance day from practice. The Blue Jackets captain played over 22 minutes last night, and Arniel wants him to rest and be fresh for the next game.
- Marc Methot blocked a shot against the Canucks and did not skate today, but Arniel expects him to be ready for tomorrow.
- Dorsett skated on his own prior to today’s practice and Arniel said he heard from staff that “it went okay.”