COLUMBUS, Ohio – Before the season started, Brandon Dubinsky scanned the Blue Jackets’ schedule and admitted that he had Nov. 7 circled.
The first game against his former team – the club that drafted him in the second round back in 2004 – would normally be a special night, one filled with a lot of anticipation and excitement. With the New York Rangers in town and several friends and former teammates still on the roster, Dubinsky said the usual emotions would be prevalent and pertinent to the situation.
GAME DAY: #CBJvsNYR
But given the circumstances with his new team, he expects it to be much different.
Seeking their first win in four games, the Blue Jackets host the Rangers tonight at Nationwide Arena in the first meeting between the two clubs since they completed two major trades in two years: New York acquired Rick Nash in a five-player, seven-piece deal in July 2012 and less than a year later, the clubs signed off on another multi-player trade that brought Marian Gaborik to Columbus.
Dubinsky, a key piece of the Nash deal, is looking forward to playing the Rangers but said his focus and energy is directed at getting the Jackets out of their current rut.
“Given where we’re at as a team, I don’t think about it anymore like I did previously,” Dubinsky told BlueJackets.com. “To me, it’s another opponent now, and a team that we have to find a way to get points off of. Right now, it’s all about our team and what we need to do instead of focusing on who we’re playing.
“Our focus has to be on beating the guy across from us.”
The first step toward that goal, Dubinsky said, is for the Blue Jackets to remain committed to their structure and their system. The system has produced positive results in the past and if they’re to break out of their current spell, Dubinsky believes they’re going to do so by sticking with what got them within a tiebreaker of the playoffs.
A major component of that approach is managing the puck properly, something the Blue Jackets have done for long stretches but just not long enough. The fine line they’re walking (coupled with offensive struggles) has reduced their already-slim margin for error.
“We’ve had some good stretches and put together some good minutes but the results haven’t quite been there,” Dubinsky said. “We can’t let the frustration creep into our game – we can’t deviate from the system or try to force it. That’s the structure that’s going to keep us headed in the right direction. We have to make sure take care of the puck, make the right plays and also realize that we can’t afford to make mistakes right now given that we’re not scoring a lot.
“We can either embrace it by sticking together, believing in our system and working our way out of it…or, we can cheat, get away from the system and continue to dig ourselves a bigger hole.”
Minimizing mistakes has been a big part of the message in the past couple of games, Dubinsky said. Keeping that number low is going to help the Blue Jackets start games better, play from ahead and not chase teams as often.
“It’s not like if you’re scoring three, four or five goals a game and you can afford to make a couple mistakes here and there and it’s no big deal,” Dubinsky said. “Right now we’re not getting that production so we have to be stingy. We have to try to go out there, get a lead, play loose and keep it simple.”