Scott Arniel was hoping that a day off from practice yesterday would help his team return to the rink refreshed to begin a new work week. Following a nearly 90-minute practice this morning on the Nationwide Arena ice, he got the desired result.
It was a tough weekend on the ice for the Blue Jackets, who lost back-to-back road contests at Detroit (5-2) on Friday night, and a heartbreaker the following night in Ottawa. Much of the practice session this morning was spent going over details – an “X’s and O’s” refresher you might say – in advance of tomorrow night’s return engagement with the Red Wings.
Arniel dedicated several drills to working on the penalty kill, an area he said showed improvement before allowing five goals in two games over the weekend.
“We had a stretch where we went two games without giving up anything, and the last two we gave up five (power-play goals),” Arniel said. “There were some grey areas that we needed cleaned up. We had some questions on some things that we talked about, so we wanted to make sure we’re all on the same page.
“It’s not a lot different than the attention we put on our power play. It’s improved now, and we also have to make sure our penalty kill is good.”
Goaltender Allen York got his first full skate in with the team since being recalled late last week from Springfield, and worked a bit with goaltending coach Ian Clark after the drills had been completed. Steve Mason, donning the purple pads that he will sport tomorrow night for “Hockey Fights Cancer Night” at Nationwide Arena, occupied the net at the opposite end. Clark worked extensively with both goaltenders between drills.
BACK IN ACTION
Defenseman James Wisniewski, suspended the first eight games of the NHL’s regular season, is ready to make his Blue Jackets debut tomorrow night. It figures to be a double dose of excitement for the normally-exuberant blue liner – as a Michigan native, he gets to play against the team he grew up watching and he finally gets to join his teammates on the ice.
Wisniewski has tried to remain as attached as he possibly can, watching games from the press box to get a better grasp on systems and taking extra reps after practices. Though he hasn’t been in the locker room as much as he would like, Arniel said his presence will be more than welcomed.
“I’m not even close to being as excited as he is,” Arniel said. “He was so happy today that he didn’t have to do any extra skating.
“We brought him in here for a reason. He’s pretty excited about getting back and playing and helping us however he can. We’re not sitting back nad waiting for James Wisniewski to be the sole answer here, but this guy knows how to play back there. (With defensemen out due to injury) we could use his experience.”
Wisniewski admitted playing against the Red Wings does carry some extra incentive, but more than anything, he’s chomping at the bit to be on the ice with his team. He’s going to play a significant role for the Blue Jackets and even more so with Radek Martinek and Marc Methot nursing injuries. Columbus faces a Red Wings team in a foul mood after losing 7-1 to the Washington Capitals on Saturday night at the Verizon Center.
“The biggest thing with (Detroit) is you have to pressure them, but at the same time, you can’t turn it over and just hand them the puck,” Wisniewski told BlueJackets.com this morning. “A team like that can bury you if you’re not careful.”
TRICK OR TREAT SNEAK PREVIEW
There were some laughs in the Blue Jackets locker room today as old Halloween pictures of some players made their way around the room. BlueJackets.com and Jackets TV will have a feature on these enjoyable memories from the players’ childhood, many of which were supplied by the players’ families. But one teaser: let’s just say we “spotted” center Derick Brassard with the funniest costume of the bunch – and he claims he doesn’t remember wearing it.
NEWS AND NOTES
-Arniel updated the injury status of a few players. First, center Jeff Carter’s foot is still tender and Arniel said the club will know more of a possible return when he can put a skate boot on without pain. Arniel confirmed Martinek, hit by Darren Helm early in Friday’s night game in Detroit, suffered a concussion and will be evaluated by team doctors. Methot has a broken thumb from blocking a shot and his return to game action is not known at this time.
-Arniel said he is considering giving Mason a rest at some point during an upcoming stretch of four games in six nights, but he is not committed at this time. Arniel said he will talk to Clark throughout the week to determine the best course of action.