As the Blue Jackets await the next opponent on their schedule (the Toronto Maple Leafs), they have spent this week preparing for two Eastern Conference clubs as well as reinforcing the major aspects of their own game.
Their last two opponents – the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks – each have the ability to play an offensive game but it was more so Chicago that brought the speed element with all four of its lines. That’s how coach Ron Wilson has built the Maple Leafs, a team that can play a track meet style of game and burn up the scoresheet on any given night.
With each passing day, the players and coaching staff have talked about how they feel the team getting closer to fully understanding its identity. The Blue Jackets’ in-your-face game against teams like Detroit has served them well, and they plan to play a similar game tomorrow night against Toronto, in an effort to slow down the Leafs transition game.
“You have to be real smart about your positioning and also what you’re doing with the puck,” Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said of the Leafs.
“If you casually throw pucks blind back into the slot, (Toronto) is gone the other way. Their transition is pretty good; I think Chicago and Colorado are two teams that play that up-tempo game. It’s not like we haven’t faced a team like that, and let’s hope New Jersey slows them down a little bit tonight.”
Arniel is referring to Toronto’s game tonight at Prudential Center against the New Jersey Devils. It is the first of back-to-back games for the Leafs, who will reportedly start Jonas Gustavsson in goal tonight.
Regular starter James Reimer, on injured reserve with concussion-like symptoms, is hopeful to be able to back up Gustavsson tonight and potentially start tomorrow against the Blue Jackets, Wilson told reporters today in Toronto.
“We’ll watch that game (tonight) and get some reads off it,” Arniel said. “But it is about us making them play in their end of the rink and not allowing them to play their style which is kind of wide-open. It’s certainly a high-octane offense.”
JUICE ON THE LOOSE AGAIN
Left winger Kristian Huselius, on IR to start the season after surgery on a torn pectoral muscle, joined Blue Jackets practice this morning for the first time. He was sporting a red jersey signifying “no contact,” but it’s an encouraging step for Huselius and recovering from a serious injury.
Though he is still weeks away from playing in games, Arniel said the club will take Huselius’ rehab in stride and help him progress gradually. He is still limited in what he can do on the ice, and took part in only a few drills this morning.
“We said we were going to have a surprise today,” Arniel said with a smile. “(Huselius) is out just doing shooting drills and the two-on-one’s, but that’s a good sign. He’s probably a little bit closer, a bit farther along than first thought, but we’ll see how it goes.
“It still is just shooting and handling the puck - he doesn’t have great range of motion. He can’t take a slap shot (right now).”
BOLLER GETTING CLOSER
Right wing Jared Boll suffered a hand injury in the Blue Jackets’ final preseason game against the Carolina Hurricanes and has not played since. His return to game action is weeks away as well, Arniel said, but he hopes to have Boll practicing with the team very soon.
“He’s going to probably come on the morning skate with us tomorrow, but he’s just starting to play with pucks,” Arniel said.
“You certainly don’t want a guy coming back and the first thing he does is (re-injure the hand in a fight). He can’t come back and not play his game – he has to play his style. That will be part of us deciding when he can go back in and do everything he’s done in the past.”
MOVEMBER ARRIVES….’STACHES INCLUDED
November is two days old, and that means the good-cause tradition of “Movember” is back in full swing. The movement started back in 2004 to raise awareness on issues pertaining to men’s health, and the NHL has seen a significant number of players grow mustaches to support the cause.
Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash and center Derek MacKenzie were two players sporting freshly-created ‘staches at practice this morning.