If there was ever a win that the Blue Jackets could use to jump-start their season, look no further than Saturday’s game in Nashville.
Getting the proverbial “monkey off their backs” at Bridgestone Arena against the Predators was as big a victory as fans and the team could hope for, considering both the history of misfortunate in that building and the Blue Jackets’ need for a road win. They collected three of four possible points in two of the NHL’s toughest road environments, and will be tested again tonight when the Calgary Flames invade Nationwide Arena.
“We can’t just rest on Saturday night, it’s a building block in the right direction and we have to keep moving forward,” goaltender Curtis Sanford told BlueJackets.com. “There are a lot of new faces – myself included – and you can’t really look at that history.
“It’s a new beginning, and we’re going to go out there and put our best foot forward.”
The Flames have lost three of their last five games, but are coming off an impressive 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night. They’ve been up-and-down on the road (4-4-0), but have won three of their last five away from Scotiabank Saddledome.
“They’re coming off a big win against Chicago, and they’ve got some good goal-scoring,” Arniel said. “I know Brent (Sutter) isn’t real happy with their consistency, but they’ll be trying to break that tonight.
“It will be a big test for us to build on the success of two big games on the road and not take a step back.”
Much of the Blue Jackets’ recent road success can be attributed to practice, Arniel said. The team spent the better part of last week keying on playing without the puck and sticking to their system in all three zones. Improving that facet of the game has created more scoring chances – a prime example being Jeff Carter’s goal in Nashville. Rick Nash tracked back into the neutral zone and intercepted a pass that sprang Carter in on the rush.
“We’ve worked our tails off when we don’t have it to get it back,” Arniel said. “Against a team like Calgary that moves well and has some big bodies, it’s going to be imperative that we’re always tracking.
“Our offense comes from our ability to pressure teams and create turnovers.”
When players new to a situation miss significant time due to injury – or in the case of James Wisniewski, a suspension – there is difficulty in getting acclimated to their new surroundings. Carter recently returned to the lineup after missing 10 games, and Wisniewski is starting to settle in with Marc Methot as his new defense partner. Arniel said putting Vinny Prospal back together with Nash and Carter put the players at ease because of familiarity from playing together earlier in the year.
“I thought those guys had a whale of a game,” Arniel said. “Wiz is starting to get more comfortable; when those guys miss so much, it throws timing off. I think we’re starting to see them get comfortable with themselves and their teammates and with their game.”
ON THE GOALTENDING FRONT
Goaltender Steve Mason took a shot off the mask during today’s morning skate and had to leave the ice early. Arniel did not sound optimistic about the nature of Mason’s injury, but said he will be evaluated further today. Mason will not dress for tonight’s game, so the Blue Jackets recalled Allen York from the Springfield Falcons (AHL).
Sanford will make his third consecutive start for the Blue Jackets tonight, and he is expected to face Henrik Karlsson of the Flames. The 6-foot-6 Swedish netminder made 20 saves in a 6-2 victory for Calgary back on Oct. 22, 2010 at Nationwide Arena.