The final chapter of Scott Arniel’s mini-camp helped the coach scratch several items off his “to-do” list in advance of tomorrow’s game against Chicago.
While Arniel acknowledged most of the preparation surrounds what the Blue Jackets need to improve in their game, there’s no doubt the Blackhawks will be in a foul mood when they step on the ice Thursday. Chicago looked flat and out of sorts in a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night, a game that tested the nerve of coach Joel Quenneville.
Today’s practice focused on specialty teams, specifically making sure the power play and penalty-killing units are on the same page. With the addition of center Mark Letestu in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday, the Blue Jackets have another option to employ on their power play. Letestu is known for having a good wrist shot and offensive instincts.
Arniel said he is eager to see how the team puts it together tomorrow, given the way his players have responded in practice this week.
“We’ve been hit hard in a lot of areas,” Arniel said. “I’d like to think (there will be results) with the work we’ve put in, but am I guaranteeing a win? No, but I’d like to see us move forward in the right direction.
“That’s playing a lot better, more of the right way throughout our lineup. We may bust our tails, play the right way but we may not win the hockey game. We’re trying to make a big step.”
Adding a fresh face in the lineup and getting injured players back (Jared Boll, Jeff Carter possibly this weekend) can also help a team that needs a jolt. The extra flexibility has allowed Arniel to take another look at line combinations and determine who fits best in certain positions.
The past four days have not been strictly on-ice work, either. Arniel said the players have taken extra time to go over video with the assistant coaches as well as spending time in the weight room. He believes the Blue Jackets ability to get back on track will be a direct result of their commitment to a difficult and detail-oriented week of practice.
“We talked about starting from scratch, and we did,” Arniel said. “We got a lot accomplished and I’m real happy with how hard we worked. It’s also very important for them to know that they worked hard, and there’s no reason they can’t go out and do that tomorrow night and Saturday.
“We can’t have one guy stray away or five guys stray away from what we’re doing. It has to be 20 guys committed to playing one way, and play that way for 60 minutes.”
Jeff Carter took part in practice again today, but left the Nationwide Arena ice shortly before heavy contact drills began. There have been no setbacks in his recovery from a broken foot, Arniel said, and the goal is for Carter to return to the lineup in the coming days.
“He’s closer,” Arniel said. “We got more of him today, and felt a little bit better. He’s probably (out) for tomorrow, but we’ll look more towards the weekend.”
OFF TO SPRINGFIELD
The Blue Jackets assigned forward Cam Atkinson to Springfield (AHL) this morning. Atkinson played one game in his most recent stint in Columbus, playing 13:13 against the Philadelphia Flyers with two shots on goal.
Goaltender Mark Dekanich was activated from injured reserve today and will report to Springfield to begin a conditioning assignment. The plan is for Dekanich to start for the Falcons tomorrow night, Arniel said. If all goes well, Dekanich could be back in Columbus the following night for back-up duty against the Winnipeg Jets.