This morning’s practice at the Ohio Health Ice Haus could best be described as a “re-grouping.”
After last night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche, many Blue Jackets players did not shy away from the fact that the loss was disappointing because they did not complete the game. They played their game for 59 minutes, according to several players, but when it came time to put the game away and send Colorado packing, they got back on their heels.
With Nationwide Arena’s main ice currently occupied by the Professional Bull Riders tour, the Blue Jacket spent the better part of an hour practicing with a defined purpose. Coach Scott Arniel was vocal and active in a session that focused on traffic at the net, creating rebounds and finishing scoring chances.
And it’s for good reason: the Blue Jackets have struggled to get scoring from places other than the No. 1 line of Rick Nash, Jeff Carter and Vinny Prospal. Last night against Colorado, Prospal picked up his fourth point in four games (2-2-4) and Nash netted his second goal of the season to tie the game in the second period.
Arniel is looking for production from his other nine forwards to help lighten the load on his top unit. Columbus got goals from Derek Dorsett and Maksim Mayorov in Saturday’s loss at Minnesota, and defenseman Radek Martinek provided the go-ahead marker early in the third period against the Avalanche.
Goal-scoring may be in short supply right now, but it’s not for lack of effort.
“It’s frustrating that we haven’t gotten rewarded for our effort,” center Antoine Vermette told BlueJackets.com this morning. “We’ve done a lot of good things on the ice. In the game (against Colorado), in the third period, we just have to keep pressing our opponent.
“They got some momentum late and we need to have pressure on them all the time.”
Arniel’s style of coaching allows the defense to activate and become part of the offense as well, and he said this morning he would like all players to have a hand in the attack. Columbus was outshooting the Avalanche 30-14 through two periods, and a few of his defensemen finished with three shots on goal.
“It’s not like we aren’t creating offense, either,” Arniel said. “We’re getting chances – a lot of quality chances, too. Sometimes it’s feeling good about yourself and being confident when you get the puck. We worked on some drills today that were a lot of getting pucks to net, jamming it and getting some ugly goals rather than the pretty stuff.
“When you’re struggling (to score), get yourself around that net and get some ugly ones.”
OFF TO SPRINGFIELD
The Blue Jackets announced this morning that rookie forward Cam Atkinson had been sent to Springfield (AHL). Arniel said that while the demotion is not necessarily reflective of poor play on Atkinson’s part, there were other factors that helped make the decision.
In four games, Atkinson scored his first career goal against the Vancouver Canucks, but also carried a -4 rating.
“It was a tough decision,” Arniel said. “He played really well in training camp; where we’re at right now with trying to get our feet underneath us and get ourselves going, I don’t really want him around for that right now.
“He’s trying to learn his game. It’s part of being a young guy – go down and continue to play hard.”
Arniel said he, the coaches and management staff will gather this afternoon to discuss the recall of a player from Springfield to fill the roster spot. There are several options to consider, Arniel said, because of the Blue Jackets’ competitive training camp.
“We may bring someone up that has a different look to them,” Arniel said. “We’ll talk this afternoon and figure out how we’re going to move forward.
“Cam earned the opportunity to start the season here. He’ll be back. He’s a young player and he’s still trying to figure out the game without the puck, too. There’s a lot for him to learn.”
Arniel said the player called up will “more than likely” be of an offensive, scoring background.
NEWS AND NOTES
-Center Jeff Carter, under the weather the past couple of days (flu), did not take part in this morning’s practice. He did play in last night’s game and Arniel said he wanted to make sure Carter gets rested up before they play Saturday in Dallas.
-Derick Brassard was also absent from practice. Arniel said Brassard is dealing with a tweak in the lower-body region, and will be evaluated tomorrow.