Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel is putting the days between now and Thursday to full use.
Today was the third day in a row of refreshing the systems and playing in all three zones, a way for the players and coaching staff to get some hard work in while making sure everyone is on the same page. On Sunday, the team spent most of its hour-plus practice session on its puck pursuit and getting back to an aggressive forecheck.
Yesterday’s session featured more defensive-zone coverage and transitioning from defense to offense, all part of the process leading up to the Blue Jackets’ next game against the Chicago Blackhawks. Arniel wanted to break down the week’s practices into specific areas of the ice, beginning with the defensive zone and gradually working their way out.
One constant through all the drills: speed. There has been heavy emphasis on doing things quickly in all three zones, and putting more pressure on opponents. Arniel said it’s a progression of what they have covered so far.
“Sunday, we were working on our forecheck and reloading across the top, creating turnovers and transitioning to offense,” Arniel said. “Yesterday was a lot of neutral zone work, and not stopping when the other team turns the puck over. We were trying to mimic puck turnovers, and once that happens, you click and go in the opposite direction.
“You’ve caught the other team in a bad situation, and you turn it into an odd-man rush or a chance the other way.”
The response from the players has been positive. Arniel said he likes the work ethic of the team during the long practices and to this point, he has seen returns on the work they’re putting in.
“We’re spending one whole practice on each zone this week,” defenseman Grant Clitsome told BlueJackets.com. “We’re just making sure everyone knows what they’re supposed to do and the specific jobs.
“We know what we have to do and what we need to improve. By focusing on that, and everyone knowing their role, we should be ready to go Thursday.”
The Blue Jackets are making subtle changes to their style of play, Arniel said, primarily to reduce the amount of scoring chances they are giving up. The forwards have made adjustments in terms of “tracking” back into the neutral zone and breaking up stretch passes and odd-man rushes, a change that Arniel said will help the goaltenders.
“It isn’t a gigantic, major overhaul but we have gone back and put a lot of emphasis on the guys without the puck,” Arniel said. “We’re not doing well in our goals against, giving up too many rush chances and d-zone chances.
“We’re putting a lot work in making our forwards do a lot of work to get back to the middle of the ice and not allow odd-man rushes. To me, a team like Chicago, there’s no better team to face because they’re such a transition team. We’re going to have to be so good between the dots, and that’s predominantly what we’re working on.”
CARTER MAKING PROGRESS
Center Jeff Carter participated in portions of practice for the second straight day. He has been skating on his own, as well, and switched from a red “no-contact” jersey yesterday to a regular blue practice sweater today. There is no specific timetable for Carter’s return to the lineup, Arniel said, but they will continue to evaluate him on a daily basis.
“We’ll see how he is again tomorrow, and if we can ramp him back up again,” Arniel said. “He’s progressing, he was on the other ice before we came on. He was out there a lot longer than what you just saw.”
CELEBRITY BARTENDING TONIGHT
The first Blue Jackets Celebrity Bartending event will be held tonight from 7-9 p.m. at the R Bar in the Arena District. Derek Dorsett, Derick Brassard and Marc Methot will be serving to fans, and all tips from the event will be donated to the Blue Jackets Foundation.