Blue Jackets interim head coach Todd Richards jokingly responded this morning when asked if Sunday was a good day for him to breathe and relax.
“Breathe, or snore?” he laughed. But it was a day to regroup, Richards said, for not only himself but the players coming off an emotional and eventful past 10 days. After completing their four-game road trip, they returned to Nationwide Arena for a pair of back-to-back home games and now face a stretch of five games the next eight days.
It begins with a Tuesday night home game against the young and unpredictable Edmonton Oilers, but not before another engaging practice this morning. Newcomer Colton Gillies, acquired from the waiver wire on Saturday morning, joined his new teammates for practice and skated on a line with Derek MacKenzie at center and Jared Boll on right wing.
There’s a bit of history between Gillies and Richards, as the former was his head coach in Minnesota for a brief stint before Gillies was assigned to the Houston Aeroes (AHL).
Here are the rest of the Blue Jackets’ lines from today’s session:
Vinny Prospal-Derick Brassard-Rick Nash
Ryan Johansen-Antoine Vermette-Tomas Kubalik
Ryan Russell-Samuel Pahlsson-Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies-Derek MacKenzie-Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin-Nikita Nikitin
Marc Methot-Aaron Johnson
John Moore-David Savard
Steve Mason, Curtis Sanford
BYERS HAS HEARING
Dane Byers' hearing with the NHL department of player safety took place this afternoon, as GM Scott Howson tweeted it would be a 12:30 p.m. call. Richards said he does not want to speculate or guess the result of that call and relate it to tomorrow's lineup.
"I'm not here to make a guess," Richards said. "That's what (the league) is there for is to look at it, and make the call they feel is necessary."
"IT'S ABOUT DEFENDING"
Upon assuming the reins of the team last week, Richards said he planned to make a few changes in the short-term with regard to playing style and game-day organization.
Two instant tweaks have been evident: a more aggressive penalty kill and re-structured defensive zone coverage. The penalty kill got a stern workout right away, having to kill off a double-minor and major penalty on Saturday night against the Sharks.
“We’re trying to stress the fact of keeping pucks out of our net,” Richards said. “If we’re giving up four or five goals a game, you aren’t going to win many games in this league. It’s about defending and giving us an opportunity to have success.
“Our specialty teams have been very good, but it’s also about getting the guys to enjoy the game again. There’s been good reason why not to (enjoy things), but it’s their job. That’s been an influence of ours, as well.”
NEWS AND NOTES
*Richards said LW R.J. Umberger, who suffered a concussion on Jan. 8 in Anaheim, is still experiencing symptoms and is out indefinitely. “He’s been staying away from the rink and getting his rest,” Richards said.
*Mark Dekanich started all three games for the Springfield Falcons this past week, posting a 1-1-1 record and 3.83 goals-against average. He won Friday night’s shootout for the Falcons and Richards said he would like to see Dekanich play more AHL games and get experience, especially considering the solid play of Curtis Sanford this season.