The Blue Jackets did not hold an on-ice practice this morning at Nationwide Arena, but they did get together for off-ice workouts and a team meeting before departing for Dallas this afternoon.
They continue a busy post-holiday stretch this week in which they play four games in six nights, and the third game takes them to “Big D” and a showdown with another heated rival. The Dallas Stars have been an up-and-down team in the month of December, but it’s always a combative game when the Blue Jackets visit American Airlines Center. Dallas is 6-5-0 in December and has won big games, but also lost winnable contests.
At the rink this morning, Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel talked about how his team needs to respond tomorrow night, and take elements from a good “team” game last night vs. Calgary into the next set of games. Arniel wants to see how his new No. 1 line of Rick Nash, Jeff Carter and Ryan Johansen plays on the road, where Stars coach Glen Gulutzan is likely to match his line with Steve Ott and Brenden Morrow against them.
“That’s part of what you have to go through in the game – if I find halfway through that Ryan’s struggling against those guys, and we have to make a change or if they’re all struggling, we have to change it up a little bit,” Arniel said. “I liked a lot of what happened last night. I think they can be better, I think they did some good things and got some zone time.
“Quality chances, I don’t think they got as many as they were hoping for. Having Rick on the left side with Jeff being a right-handed centerman is something we want to do.”
Arniel wants more production from all players in the lineup, he said, and that’s one topic that has been addressed in recent days. When playing a team like the Stars, all four lines have to contribute quality shifts and Arniel said it comes down to accountability.
“We talked about having more people accountable when it comes to offensively chipping in and helping out,” Arniel said. “It’s playing in the other team’s end; there’s been stretches where we’ve done that and had offense from other groups. We’ve had games where we’ve scored a bunch of goals and haven’t been able to keep them out of our net.
“That’s part of hockey, you need balance throughout your lineup and when you’re on the road you need it more so than ever.”
BETTER ON THE ROAD?
Arniel was asked if playing on the road creates more or less stress on a team that has been struggling to get wins. The Blue Jackets do not have a regulation win on the road this season, and Arniel did not like his team’s performance earlier in the year at Dallas.
“I liked a lot of our games on the road recently,” Arniel said. “Are we better at home? Probably, but on the road you can play with less pressure on you, I guess.
“On the road you should play a simpler game, so are we better at home or on the road? I don’t know, we have nine wins so I don’t think either one has been great for us.”
STICKING WITH MASE
Steve Mason was solid in goal last night, making 27 saves including a pair of key stops in overtime. Arniel said he plans to give Mason another start tomorrow, allowing Curtis Sanford to get fully rested and healthy before another heavy stretch of games.
Arniel said Mason’s overall road record this season shouldn’t be of concern, because what matters most is how he performed in his most recent outing.
“If we’re going to be afraid because we look at his record, I think that record has a lot to do with earlier in the year when he was playing all the games,” Arniel said. “I’m looking at how he played the last game, and how can he carry that into tomorrow night if he’s the guy.”