The Blue Jackets’ aggressive mentality is fueled by their willingness to battle for scoring chances and loose pucks. They have strayed from that mantra in the early part of this season, and coach Scott Arniel intends to make sure it becomes permanent.
While yesterday’s practice was demanding and emphasized the need to compete for 60 minutes, this morning’s session was dedicated to reinforcing the need to outwork the opposition all over the ice. Through battle drills, transition reps and tip drills, Arniel appeared to get results as the Blue Jackets turned in one of their most spirited practices of the year.
There were some notable changes and absences, as well. Center Jeff Carter missed practice for a second consecutive day as he nurses a hairline fracture on the top of his foot, which Arniel said dates back to an injury suffered in the Owners’ Tournament during training camp. Carter has played through some pain in the past couple of weeks, and his status for tomorrow night’s game against the Dallas Stars is still considered “questionable.”
In his place, Derick Brassard took shifts on the No. 1 line - where he spent the better part of last year. For the time being, Vinny Prospal shifted to the second line alongside Antoine Vermette in an effort to spread out the offense.
“(Brassard) now gets an opportunity to get back in there and play a top role,” Arniel said. “He played good hockey for us (on the top line) at times last year before his injury. We need him to step up and use his offensive instincts, compete on pucks and be good for us.”
Arniel did sound optimistic about Carter’s ability to play tomorrow night, but reiterated that the club would know more about Carter’s status in the morning.
Though Brassard has not played the minutes he did last season, Arniel said he deserves the opportunity to play higher in the lineup and expects a lot from the young center.
“I thought Brass played hard (the first two weeks),” Arniel said. “Maybe he wasn’t getting the quality ice time he’d gotten before, but I thought he did some good things. He knows he has to compete and has to go to the hard areas.
“He can’t be just a passer – he has to shoot the puck when he gets his opportunities. I’m sure he’s pretty excited about getting the chance.”
|Matt Calvert |
CALVERT TO SPRINGFIELD
The Blue Jackets announced this morning that winger Matt Calvert, who missed the better part of training camp with a lower-body injury, has been assigned to Springfield (AHL). Arniel said being out for a large portion of camp perhaps hindered Calvert’s ascent to game speed.
“It’s almost like he’s lost a little bit of his jump,” Arniel said. “We want him to go down and get his scoring touch, get feeling good about himself. He’s never really gotten his rhythm going, he hasn’t created any scoring chances.
“His injury probably hobbled him a little bit. Whether he’s down there for a week or a couple of weeks, that’s up to Matty. We want him to get comfortable and confident again.”
Arniel said the club plans to recall a player from Springfield this afternoon, saying they are looking for “stiffness” in the player who makes the jump to Columbus.
READ THE PRESS RELEASE
Home-and-home series aren’t exactly common in the NHL, but when they come around, preparation can be challenging. Though you’ve seen the opponent recently (in this case, the Blue Jackets and Stars are playing each other for the second time in four days), they may change their game plan and matchups are going to be different on home ice.
Arniel thought the Blue Jackets had a solid game plan in place on Saturday night and executed their forecheck as he had planned.
“I would still like us to do a lot of the same things, but with actual compete involved,” Arniel said. “There’s hard work to go get some of those loose pucks, and battle through (Dallas) kind of lining their guys up at the blue line.
“For me, our effort is the biggest thing I want to see improved. It’s not so much X-and-O’s tomorrow; I’d rather see us come out and be very, very competitive first."