The Blue Jackets are using the three days leading up to Thursday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks as a fresh start.
Head coach Scott Arniel is going back to basics this week, heavily using the white board to go over systems details and key points that coincide with how the Blue Jackets are supposed to play. Beginning with a hard practice on Sunday afternoon, the team has worked on virtually every aspect of its game. Power play, penalty kill, transition game, tracking and defensive-zone coverage have been and will continue to be part of the agenda this week.
Arniel was not happy with the breakdowns in the team’s systems of play and defensive coverage against the Philadelphia Flyers, a game in which he said the team yielded more scoring chances in the first period than it typically does in a full game. The players’ attention to detail today following a tough practice was a good sign, Arniel said, and he likes the attitude of the group in practice so far.
“Yesterday was a hard practice and they worked hard,” Arniel said. “It was a hard one today because there was a lot more standing around, walk-through situations, but I liked the way they worked and picked it up. We’re making sure all that stuff is up to speed.”
Cleaning up the team’s play in all three zones is a major focus of the week. Arniel wants to make sure all of the players are aware of their responsibilities pertaining to the system, and as a result, become more cohesive when transitioning the puck.
“What we’re trying to do is work from the offensive zone back,” Arniel said. “I’m not sure if it’s all in there tomorrow, but we’ll throw some power play and penalty kill in there as well. I like a lot of what we’re doing; we talked about working hard without the puck and get back to spots.
“Today it was clogging up the middle. It was such an eye-opener in Philadelphia about how many odd-man rushes we gave up. Not that we’ve been doing that a lot, but we went back and looked at a few games. We’ve got to get our forwards working back through the middle of the ice.”
CARTER & BOLL ON THE MEND
Center Jeff Carter took the ice this morning in a red “no-contact” sweater, his first skate since suffering a hairline fracture in his foot in the fifth game of the season. The plan over the weekend was for Carter to test the pain level this morning by putting a skate on, and Arniel said it went well enough that Carter playing Thursday is not out of the question. Carter skated before practice, as well, taking some shots against the goaltenders before the full session began.
“Tomorrow will be more warm-up and full drills for him to do,” Arniel said. Then he will get a better feel; he will also do some extra work with Kevin (Collins) off the ice to see where it’s at. As long as he doesn’t have discomfort, we’ll keep moving him along here.
“If he thinks he can play, and we feel that conditioning-wise that he’s good and (athletic trainer Mike Vogt) thinks he’s good with the foot situation, then yeah, we’ll throw him in there.”
Right winger Jared Boll also got positive news on his hand injury. He has been deemed ready to go and Arniel expects him to be in the lineup against the Blackhawks. Boll’s ability to engage in fisticuffs will be determined at a later date, Arniel said, but for a player like Boll it is inevitable.
“Boller got cleared this morning,” Arniel confirmed. “Knowing Jared Boll, I don’t imagine Jared is any different (from other players who fight).
“You can’t tell him not to fight, it’s not their nature. If he’s cleared to play, he’s all-in.”
ATKINSON IS BACK
Cam Atkinson was recalled from Springfield (AHL) on Saturday morning, and quickly caught a flight to Philadelphia to join the team. Though he was sent down after four games (scoring one goal in those games), Atkinson said the opportunity to get feeling good about his game again was helpful prior to being recalled.
“The best thing I can say is that I got a taste of both leagues,” Atkinson told BlueJackets.com. “I know what it takes to be up (in the NHL), and I just worked that much harder every day. It’s good to be back.”
The team’s situation is different than he last saw it, but with a re-learning period in effect, it has served Atkinson well to get acquainted with systems and on-ice details that may have been slightly different in the AHL.
“We’re starting from day one, like Arnie said, so it’s good to be getting to know the systems again so I’m clear with it,” Atkinson said.