The day he was appointed the interim head coach of the Blue Jackets, Todd Richards said he would compile a “to-do” list on the flight to Chicago.
It turns out today’s practice was the day to wipe some of the items off his list. Richards ran a high-paced, intense practice session at Nationwide Arena this morning in part to work some of the nervous energy out of his players. He made sure to cover several topics, including defensive-zone coverage, speed through the neutral zone and adding some wrinkles to the way the Blue Jackets play off the rush.
Richards said he was pleased with the speed in practice but still feels there’s a long way to go to get the team where he wants it to be on a daily basis.
“It was okay,” Richards said. “At the end, we accomplished the things we wanted to accomplish as far as the things we needed to work on. We felt, as a staff, that we wanted to establish a pace in practice.
“Overall, it was a good day. Not a great day, but a good day.”
Richards spoke at length about the day-to-day structure he wants to implement as the second half of the season unfolds. There are some significant changes as well as minor changes, he said, and it begins with tweaking the game-day skates opposed to practices the day before games.
The Blue Jackets are likely to put more emphasis and preparation for opponents into practices prior to the day of games, Richards said, in order to keep the team fresh and focused during morning skates.
“It has nothing to do with what happened previously,” Richards said. “We want to get the players ready, just moving around and get mentally focused toward the game.
“You have some tweaks, and some things you want to add to or change. The big challenge here (as opposed to having a full training camp) is you don’t have that time. It helps coming home now, but I think having the morning skate in Chicago helped. We were able to get some things in place.”
JOHANSEN SELECTED FOR ALL-STAR WEEKEND
The Blue Jackets and the National Hockey League announced January 12 that rookie center Ryan Johansen has been selected to participate in the All-Star Weekend at the end of the month in Ottawa. The 19-year-old will be among 12 rookies taking part in the event, and Johansen was all smiles when he was told of the news following practice.
“It’s really cool,” Johansen told BlueJackets.com. “To be named to an All-Star Game is pretty special, and to do it as a 19-year-old is a great feeling. It’s definitely something I’ll be looking forward to.
“I’ve had the opportunity to play against some of (the rookies) before, and there’s definitely some that are playing really well right now and it will be cool to meet them. Maybe I’ll learn a couple things from them and maybe they can learn something from me about how they do things, it will be a cool experience.”
Johansen said receiving the honor is particularly rewarding in a rookie season where he earned his way into the Blue Jackets lineup and progressively worked himself up the depth chart.
“It means a lot,” he said. “And now, I think I just need to work on being more consistent and that’s what I’ve been working at. Once I can find the consistent level of play every night, I know I’m capable of being a good player in this league.”
UMBERGER ON THE SHELF
R.J. Umberger stepped on the ice as practice began this morning, but not soon after, skated over to Richards and the two had a brief conversation. After the skate, Richards delivered the bad news: Umberger has been diagnosed with concussion-like symptons and is likely to miss time.
“He wasn't feeling right, and by that, I mean it was his head,” Richards said. “He's got concussion-like symptoms. He'll be on the shelf for a little bit here."
Umberger currently holds the franchise record for consecutive games played at 288, but that streak is likely going to end tomorrow night against the Phoenix Coyotes.