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Jackets Journal: October 14, 2011

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets spent the morning engaged in what could simply be called a “systems” practice.

For now, the days of endurance skates and multi-purpose practices are on hold as the team prepares for a Saturday night contest with the Dallas Stars. One item cannot be emphasized enough: special teams.

All of the players will agree that efficiency on special teams is one of the biggest keys to success in the National Hockey League.

Coach Scott Arniel put his troops through a series of several drills geared toward further implementing his up-tempo, puck-possession attack. Heading into tomorrow’s game against the Stars, Arniel is looking for consistency from all four lines in terms of managing the puck and making sound decisions in the offensive zone.

In doing so, he hopes that not only will the Blue Jackets create scoring chances, but they will be in a better position to finish rebounds and odd-man breaks.

“We didn’t have a lot of time to (practice the power play in the first week of the season),” Arniel said this morning. “We did a lot of power-play work during training camp – almost every day. We made sure today that we hit home on it again.”

Other items on the agenda for Arniel and staff this morning were defensive zone coverage and transitioning the puck from one zone to the next. Against a team that likes to play in-your-face hockey such as Dallas, being able to make quick decisions with the puck that put the team in the right parts of the ice is paramount.

“I know (Stars coach Glen) Gulutzan from the American Hockey League,” Arniel said. “His teams always work hard. They don’t have any stars like they did with (Brad) Richards last year, but they play sort of a 1-4 through the neutral zone and make you dump pucks.”

After some travel/flight issues last night and this morning, recently-called up forward Alexandre Giroux made it to Nationwide Arena this morning. He was able to get his gear in the building and join the Blue Jackets in the middle of practice.

He practiced this morning on a line with Antoine Vermette and R.J. Umberger, and Arniel said he anticipates that line to be intact when the Blue Jackets play in Dallas.

“The area that we looked at with Alex is that he’s a big body, veteran guy that knows how to play on the walls,” Arniel said. “He knows how to play the system. I think with Cam (Atkinson), we’re still trying to teach some of those things and he’s going to get better at it.

“Having that size on the wing will help us, and in front of the net. Alex doesn’t need many chances to score goals.”

Giroux’s showing in training camp left an impression on Arniel, who elected to keep him around after the Blue Jackets returned from their team-bonding trip in Oxford, Ohio. As one of the last cuts from camp, Arniel knew he would be seeing Giroux again soon.

“I thought he had an excellent training camp,” Arniel said. “He impressed me in his play without the puck, which was some concern for me because I’d never seen him in my camp.”

-Jeff Carter needed a few days to get over a case of the flu bug, but he was ready to go for practice this morning alongside his usual line mates – captain Rick Nash and Vinny Prospal.


-Derick Brassard (lower-body tweak) also skated this morning and looked to be free of any ill effects. Arniel rotated Brassard and Giroux between shifts on the Vermette line during practice, and said he would know more about Brassard’s status tomorrow.

-Arniel also said he plans to start Steve Mason in goal tomorrow night against the Stars, marking the fifth straight start for the Blue Jackets’ No. 1 goaltender.

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