The NHL is a league of opportunity, and for a handful of young players on the Blue Jackets roster, the window of opportunity opened a bit wider after yesterday’s trade of Antoine Vermette to the Phoenix Coyotes.
Vermette’s departure opens a spot in the top-nine forwards, most likely the left wing slot on a line with Sammy Pahlsson and Derek Dorsett – with whom Vermette had been playing prior to the trade. That trio drew the assignment of shutting down the top lines in the league, and based on today’s practice at Nationwide Arena, it appears Ryan Russell will have first crack at sticking with that line.
Here are the line combinations employed by interim head coach Todd Richards this morning:
|LW ||C ||RW |
|Umberger ||Brassard ||Nash |
|Prospal ||Carter ||Letestu |
|Russell ||Pahlsson ||Dorsett |
|Gillies ||MacKenzie ||Johansen |
|LD ||RD |
|Tyutin ||Nikitin |
|Lebda ||Moore |
|Clitsome ||Savard |
The trade could also signify more minutes for Ryan Johansen, who practiced on the No. 1 power play unit today alongside Rick Nash and R.J. Umberger. Fedor Tyutin and Derick Brassard continued to run the point with the top group.
“I like Joey’s game his last game and the energy that he played with, and his work ethic through the game,” Richards said. “He’s a guy that can make plays. I don’t know if we’ll start the game that way tomorrow, but he’s a guy that we can use in that spot.
“The way guys have to look at it – especially our young guys – is there’s ice time available. For Johansen, it’s ice time for him to go out and play and perform, but again, he’s got to earn it. I think it’s no different in the locker room when you lose a veteran guy like that. It’s an opportunity for other guys.”
RUNNING THE POINT
The red-hot Blue Jackets power play has scored in eight of the last nine games, including a 3-for-7 performance Tuesday night vs. the Sharks. Several aspects of the power play have clicked, including personnel, execution, traffic in front of the net and – most importantly – creating second and third chances.
Brassard has manned the point beside Tyutin for much of the team’s 5-3-1 stretch, and also scored to tie the game 1-1 in the second period against the Rangers last weekend. Having experience playing the point both in the minor leagues and occasionally at the NHL level has helped him, as well.
“I think I’m more patient,” Brassard told BlueJackets.com. “It’s going to happen – I could get burned sometimes when the penalty killers attack us – but they’ve shown a lot of confidence in me to play there on the back end. I like seeing the ice and making plays, putting the puck on net and making stuff happen.
“We’re shooting the puck and having success. When you’re on the back end, sometimes it’s hard because the killers are so good and they’re in shooting lanes. Like the goal in New York, I tried to surprise the goalie with a quick shot and Umberger had a great screen. That’s how we have to do it.”