The last time the Blue Jackets went through a brief spell, they used home ice to their advantage and put together a three-game winning streak that pulled them back to .500.
With three home games ahead of them this week - two of them against Metropolitan Division opponents - it's safe to say that this qualifies as an important week. In the words of coach Todd Richards, Tuesday's game against the Ottawa Senators (a team that has struggled in its own right of late) is "huge."
Such was the message this morning after the team's first full practice since Thursday. The Blue Jackets sported new line combinations, as well, and they looked something like this:
Foligno - Dubinsky - Gaborik
Umberger - Johansen - Atkinson
Anisimov - MacKenzie - Letestu
Comeau - Chaput - Boll
*The defense pairs were mixed and matched with seven defensemen skating. It's not yet known if the Jackets are going with the same six defensemen tomorrow against the Senators.
Richards was asked about the Blue Jackets' second-period struggles, as they have been outscored 16-8 in the middle frame this season and it has sapped them of points along the way. Other teams are definitely taking notice, Richards said, and the Jackets want to break the habit before it comes a trend.
He said the coaching staff has tried a few different things to try and break out of the second period funk, but he also wants to try to a few more:
“We’re trying different things and we have to try more things to get us ready and to wake us up. I guarantee other teams are talking about it. A team starts well, finishes well, but that middle frame (is a) struggle. I would think that’s something Ottawa will be talking about. It’s getting ourselves ready to start the second period. We’re ready to start the first, but we have to reset and re-focus. That’s kind of the issue with our team right now is the consistency; we’ve had some games where we’ve played 50 minutes of a 60-minute game. I don’t think we’ve played a full 60 yet. There have been some games where we’ve played 40 and it’s been that middle frame. As a coach, it’s about solutions and trying to find solutions to the problem. I’m not much of a screamer or yeller, but we’ve tried different things.”
Now, for some injury updates and other assorted items...
- Richards said Nathan Horton has an important medical scan ahead of him this week. He didn't provide much detail, but it's certainly a key step in his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery.
- Matt Calvert has been skating on his own recently and could return to practice next week. Richards said he has "been progressing nicely" since undergoing abdominal surgery earlier in the season.
- No update on Boone Jenner's status, Richards said. He has not been practicing with the team since suffering a leg injury in the Blue Jackets' 5-2 win over Toronto on Oct. 25.
- As of Monday, no decision has been made on a starting goaltender for Tuesday's game. Richards said he wasn't leaning one way or the other, but called it a very important decision: “It’s trying to figure out what’s right for our group and what’s right for our goalies…both of them.”