Word on the street is the Blue Jackets will be getting a defenseman back in the lineup tonight, is that correct?
All joking aside, the return of James Wisniewski is the predominant storyline in advance of another chapter of the Central Division rivalry between Columbus and Detroit. Signed in the offseason to be the Blue Jackets’ go-to offensive defenseman, Wisniewski has served his eight-game suspension rendered in the preseason and is more than ready to go.
There was some extra pep in the Blue Jackets’ collective step as the team took the ice for its morning skate at Nationwide Arena, not surprisingly led by Wisniewski, who is now back to taking the standard number or reps in practice. As is standard for morning skates, it was light but not short on ample preparation. Several items that coach Scott Arniel wants his team to execute against the Red Wings were on the agenda, including special teams work and the transition game.
Still seeking their first victory of the season, the Blue Jackets figure to be a hungry team on home ice tonight against a club that brings out every team’s “A” game.
“We need to bring the same kind of mentality (each game against Detroit), we can’t go and change our identity,” defenseman Kris Russell told BlueJackets.com this morning. “We have to play a steadier game, make simple plays and the pucks deep – make it hard on their ‘D’ to make plays.
“With their skillset, you want to limit their time and space. We’re excited about this game; it’s a huge test and a chance for us to turn things around.”
Russell said the extra work on the penalty kill was beneficial in terms of reinforcing systems work and feeling good about it even after a rough weekend, giving up five power-play goals in Detroit and Ottawa. In the two games prior (against Dallas), the Blue Jackets did not allow a single power-play goal against.
“I think (improving the penalty kill) is your execution and your systems,” Russell said. “Detroit is a team that creates a lot, with guys like Datsyuk that can make saucer passes. It’s about executing the way we want to play, pushing them so they’re the ones running into mistakes.
“We have to make them work harder than us.”
|Jimmy Howard |
TWO HUNGRY TEAMS
This past weekend was not kind to either the Blue Jackets or the Red Wings, as both teams did not enjoy success on the road. Detroit met up with the Washington Capitals in a matchup of the NHL’s only unbeaten teams on Saturday night, and came away with a 7-1 loss at the Verizon Center.
Ty Conklin, who is expected to be in goal tonight in place of regular starter Jimmy Howard (birth of his son), remained between the pipes for all seven of the Capitals’ goals.
“I think you’re going to find two fairly hungry teams,” Arniel said. “Mike Babcock is probably focusing his team on playing their way and doing the right things and improving on their last game. We’re doing the exact same things; for us, we need to continue to hammer on what we have to do. We know (Detroit) is an excellent veteran team that knows how to play.
“They’re going to be looking to improve on their last performance and we want to do the same."
Arniel said despite the slow start to the season, his club has remained upbeat and come to the rink with a positive attitude determined to right the ship.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Arniel, on what the return of Wisniewski means to the Blue Jackets:
“It gives us a veteran defenseman at a time when we have a few of them out. He’s a guy that we brought into this organization to give us some offensive skill, and also to have some good compete and some battle. We have to be fair to James that it’s his first game in an awful long time, and he’s going to have some rust and he has to get his game underneath him. He’s a guy that’s real excited; this day couldn’t come fast enough for him.”