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Jackets Journal: November 16

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

With fathers in tow, the Blue Jackets depart on a brief two-game road swing today looking to rebound from a 4-2 loss last night to the Minnesota Wild.

It will be a good test for a team that has improved its team game of late, limiting scoring chances against and getting solid goaltending from Steve Mason along the way. Columbus held Minnesota – now the No. 2 club in the Western Conference with 23 points – to just 24 shots on goal, with a 20-second span in the second period turning the game toward the Wild.

This week marks the annual father’s trip for the team, and the proud papas have joined their sons for today’s flight to Boston.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins await the Blue Jackets at TD Garden tomorrow night. Under head coach Claude Julien, they have become one of the model citizens of the NHL in terms of style of play. The Bruins don’t give opposing teams much time and space, and with four lines capable of scoring, they can be a matchup nightmare.

“A complete effort is going to be required from us,” defenseman John Moore told “We have to make sure everyone’s firing and we’re getting good shifts from all four lines. It’s about playing a simple game and executing.

“That’s the reason they won the Cup; they have four solid lines and six solid defensemen with pretty good goaltending.”

One of the Bruins’ characteristics is their commitment to a system, one that put a lot of pressure on the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final. Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said Boston’s success comes from its ability to get quality minutes from every player on its roster.

“It’s their depth - you saw it in the finals and the playoffs,” Arniel said. “They have four lines that can roll, they play one way and they play it for 60 minutes. They have a solid backend with two real good goaltenders and they come at you the same way shift after shift.

“I got asked last week if there’s a team you want to play a lot alike without the puck, that’s the team. They’re not as flashy or wide-open as Chicago or Vancouver, but when they don’t have the puck they are pretty solid as a group.”

Blue Jackets players and coaches can only shake their heads when the topic of finishing scoring chances is brought up. They generated 20 scoring chances last night vs. the Wild, according to Arniel, and several of those were high-quality opportunities.

Notable chances were a first-period goalmouth scramble in which saw Vinny Prospal miss an open cage by inches, and Rick Nash ring one off the post late in the third period that would have tied the game.

“It’s not like we don’t get chances,” Arniel said. “That’s just something we’ve seen since the start of the year. Two goals seems to be number that’s holding us back… we’ve tried to turn over every stone.

“If I had the total answer, we wouldn’t be scoring just two. We’re trying to work at it and figure out why these guys aren’t scoring.”

Antoine Vermette

Antoine Vermette scored his first goal in 21 games with a shorthanded goal against the Wild. For a guy that has been getting chances to score all season, it was a relief for Vermette not only to score, but see his steady game in all three zones get rewarded.

Since Arniel assembled a line with Vermette, Sammy Pahlsson and Derek Dorsett, those three have been matched up against opposing top lines and played well. The only offense from the Mikko Koivu line last night was an empty-net goal from Devin Setoguchi with seven seconds to play.

“(Last night was) probably his best all-around game this year,” Arniel said. “He’s had some games when maybe offensively he made some nice plays, but without the puck he was at his best. I was glad to see him get rewarded.

“That line was probably our best last night. They did a great job against the Koivu line, and a great job that whole game.”

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