The message in practice has been consistent over the course of the first six games, and that’s to keep getting pucks to the net.
Last night in the Blue Jackets’ 3-2 setback to the Dallas Stars at Nationwide Arena, they got 40 pucks through to goaltender Kari Lehtonen and put a lot of pressure on the Dallas defense corps. The Blue Jackets got the best of the scoring chances and outworked Dallas to the majority of loose pucks. Glen Gulutzan’s “1-4” style forced the Blue Jackets to dump and retrieve pucks to start the offense.
Though they managed 40 shots on goal, Lehtonen was once again terrific with 38 stops. As they prepare for a Friday night tilt with the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, the Blue Jackets know they will have to carry a lot of the same concepts into that game. The Red Wings have been one of the stingiest teams in the NHL this season and will likely start Jimmy Howard in goal.
Columbus practiced again today without center Jeff Carter, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this week. Through the injuries and struggles in the first six games, Arniel has been pleased with the amount of offensive chances that have from his team’s work ethic.
“We certainly didn’t score enough goals, but at least the opportunities were there,” Arniel said following today’s practice at the OhioHealth Ice Haus. “(The new line combinations) showed some chemistry and were on the same page when it came to assignments; there were some good things generated from it.
“Still, with one more practice to go before Detroit, we need for all of them to have some offensive success.”
Outworking the opposition for scoring opportunities can come in several ways, but Arniel wants more people at the net and making goaltenders’ lives miserable. He and captain Rick Nash have said in the past few days that almost 90 percent of the team’s goals have come on rebounds, and that’s the recipe they must follow to score.
Another concept Arniel discussed was breaking out of slumps by being hard on every puck. In coach-speak, that means finishing every chance with authority and not flipping shots to the net; something coaches refer to as “shooting the puck through the back of the net.”
“(The drills were) about getting shots to the net, and second and third opportunities,” Arniel said. “We’re harping on staying on the puck. If you had an open net, it wasn’t being casual and our goalies – we asked them to battle. When you’re not scoring goals, you have to find a way to manufacture goals.
“The emphasis at the end of the drill was to bury the puck.”
Mathieu Corbeil was with the Blue Jackets yesterday on an emergency recall basis, meaning he is required to be returned to his junior club within 24 hours. He served as the backup to Steve Mason before heading back to Saint John (QMJHL) this morning.
Corbeil’s flight to Toronto was delayed due to a flat tire, and he didn’t arrive until after the morning skate yesterday. After a whirlwind 24 hours that saw three planes, a hotel, a rink and a professional hockey game, the experience was worth it for the young goaltender.
“I didn’t even know you could do that,” Corbeil told BlueJackets.com yesterday. “I guess everything is possible. When I heard the news, I was extremely excited. I didn’t know what to do with myself.
“At the hotel yesterday, I got to nap and that’s the only sleep I had in like 48 hours. Anything to be here, though – I don’t mind it at all.”
Unfortunately, the goaltending depth situation looks to be more uncertain for the time being. With Mark Dekanich already out with an ankle injury, the Blue Jacket suffered another blow when Curtis Sanford injured a groin in practice yesterday. And, according to Arniel, it came at the worst possible time.
“Curtis Sanford was scheduled to play yesterday,” Arniel said. “A freak thing happened; he went through the full practice the other day and (Ian Clark) was working with Mase on some shootout things. Curtis wanted to jump in for a couple and popped his groin.
“It was unfortunate. We were going to make a switch there yesterday, but when you score two goals a game it doesn’t matter which goaltender is in there.”
After missing last night’s game and a practice session this week, defenseman Marc Methot participated in the full practice today and could possibly play this weekend. He stayed on the ice longer than normal to get some extra reps in, and Arniel said it’s likely that Methot will play in at least one this weekend’s games in Detroit and/or his hometown of Ottawa.
“It was tough to go yesterday (for Methot),” Arniel said. “He was still pretty sore. (The medical staff) felt the best thing was to give it another day, and he moved pretty good today.
“That’s a good sign. Having him against Detroit will be big, and hopefully when he comes in tomorrow, everything will be rosy and he’ll be good to go Friday.”