In the final of three meetings this season against the Montreal Canadiens, Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards would like to see his team be more disciplined and handle the start of the game a little better.
They were down 2-0 early last Saturday night at the Bell Centre, and last month at Nationwide Arena, the Blue Jackets led 2-0 in the third period before surrendering three goals in under four minutes. So, two different issues have arisen in two games against the Canadiens, a team that forces opponents to be on top of their games.
It’s even more magnified against Carey Price, one of the league’s elite goaltenders, who will make his third start against the Blue Jackets tonight. The Canadiens are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games and Price has been a large part of that. The Blue Jackets have scored three goals in the two meetings this season against Montreal.
“The first game, we took too many penalties and they capitalized in the third period,” Richards said. "For me, it’s a focus and coming out and understanding what we need to do. They’re a very good hockey team. This goalie doesn’t give up a lot, and it’s a credit to how they play in front of him. You have to make things difficult by getting to the inside, getting to his net.”
Same goes for the Blue Jackets’ ailing power play – Richards wants them in a shoot-first mentality, but he’s also liked the way they’re moving the puck. The results have not been there lately, but the Columbus power play is still top-10 in the NHL.
“We have to shoot the puck more,” Richards said. “I think sometimes we’re looking for the next best play or the pretty play. We have to shoot to create chances, shoot to create some momentum and shoot to break down the coverage.”
The Blue Jackets will be without Kevin Connauton, who is day-to-day with a lower body injury suffered Tuesday night. Jordan Leopold slots in and pairs with James Wisniewski.
Curtis McElhinney will start in goal tonight for the Blue Jackets after getting the night off Tuesday against Buffalo. The return of Sergei Bobrovsky appears to be on the horizon, but in the meantime, the Blue Jackets made a goaltending switch yesterday, sending Anton Forsberg back to Springfield and recalling Oscar Dansk.
Bobrovsky skated again this morning and could play this weekend, but the Blue Jackets are being patient and have not targeted a specific date for his return to the lineup.
“I can’t say he’s going (to play) this game or this day,” Richards said. “We’re just taking it day-by-day. I think we’re getting more aggressive, he’s starting to feel more comfortable out on the ice, but he’s still not at 100 percent.”
TOP SIX SWITCH
Way back on Oct. 9 in Buffalo (remember that?), the Blue Jackets opened with a line of Hartnell-Anisimov-Dano and it was one of their more effective units, getting a big late goal to lock up two points in the season opener and scoring a pair of goals two nights later in the home opener.
Richards made a tweak to the forward lines this morning, reuniting the aforementioned trio but also getting Nick Foligno back with Ryan Johansen in the hopes that it can spark the offense. Alexander Wennberg, who has drawn praise from the coaches for his play since being recalled, remains on the No. 1 line playing right wing.
With Anisimov still not taking face-offs due to his recovering triceps injury, the Blue Jackets may have Mark Letestu on the ice for the draw and then swap him with Dano.
“We’re trying something just to get a little more offense,” Richards said. “(Foligno and Johansen) have a history of playing together, and we like Alex playing on the right side with them. The other reason is Hartnell down with Anisimov and Dano. That’s how we started the year and they were pretty good for us there. It’s one minor change to try and shake things up a little bit.”