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Jackets "not managing the third period"

by Brian McCormack / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets weren’t all that great through the first two periods of Tuesday night’s 5-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. But they weren’t all that bad either.

“I thought we were okay, and I thought they were okay,” said Dalton Prout after Wednesday’s full-team practice. “They were ripe for the picking and we didn’t dictate the game, we didn’t play with the energy we needed to. We kind of let them hang around because they weren’t at their best, and then a couple bad penalties…”

A couple penalties and the game was out of reach. For a game that was on the whole stale but manageable for the first two periods, things fell apart in the third.

That’s becoming somewhat of a trend for these Jackets, a team that has been pretty strong in the second period but now has a goal differential of -16 in third periods. The Red Wings scored three in the third last night to beat the Blue Jackets in regulation for only the second time in their last 12 meetings.

After the game, Jack Johnson thought the third period stats were a product of the Jackets’ lengthy losing streak that was recently snapped. Some players agreed, noting that teams playing from behind will give up more scoring opportunities because they need to take more chances, to take more risks when they are ‘chasing the game.’

Todd Richards didn’t quite buy into that notion.

“Sometimes you are playing from behind and that can be part of it, but there’ve been games where it’s been 2-2 going into the third period, like Dallas and Ottawa twice,” said Richards. “It’s not just games where we’re trailing, there’s games where we’ve been close or even ahead in New Jersey. It’s just us not managing the third period.”

The Blue Jackets have now scored four third period goals in their last ten games, and none since their Nov. 8 loss to Tampa Bay.

Other stuff from around the rink…

- Richards was disappointed in his team’s flat performance against the Red Wings, but couldn’t place particular blame on any one group.

“I wouldn’t say it was the top of the lineup or the bottom of the lineup. It was everybody,” said Richards. “Myself included, in finding ways to be better as a group to win hockey games. It wasn’t just one group.”

- One unit that Richards was somewhat pleased with was the third line of Alexander Wennberg, Adam Cracknell, and Artem Anisimov. Richards was happy with Wennberg in particular, who seemed overwhelmed earlier in the season but has shown solid growth in November.

“I think he’s more involved in the game. He’s still finding his way in the NHL, playing in new buildings and against new players, and sometimes there can be that awe factor,” said Richards, noting the significance for a Swedish kid to line up against players like Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall.

“I’d say over the last two weeks ago, I’ve seen his play steadily go up.”

- Boone Jenner was moved out of the middle at practice, skating on the first line wing with Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno.

“Some of it is trying to find some chemistry, some energy, some positive things,” said Richards, who experimented with Jenner at center during his brief training camp and then used Jenner down the middle to cope with Anisimov’s absence from the lineup. Brandon Dubinsky and Mark Letestu will also return at center in the near future, but there were no new updates on their status after practice.

“He (Jenner) played with (Johansen) last year and there was success there. So some of it is just trying to rekindle that fire of offense. Boone can be infectious with the way that he plays.”

With Jenner flanking Johansen, Brian Gibbons took turns on the fourth line during line drills at practice, as did Cracknell. Wennberg skated between Jack Skille and Matt Calvert.

“It’s finding solutions,” said Richards of Gibbons’ move down the depth chart. “It’s not just him, there’s lots of guys that fall into that. There was a stretch there where he was really good for us. I don’t think he’s been bad, but we just want him really good again.”

- Foligno spoke with a slight lisp after practice. He missed the remainder of the third period after a scrap with Red Wings’ defenseman Brendan Smith, having lost a few teeth in the process.

Foligno didn’t appear too concerned about it. They were already fake teeth, anyway.

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