Fresh off a three-game sweep of western Canada for the first time in franchise history, the Blue Jackets have turned their focus to righting the ship on home ice.
In a season where the dominant story line has been the seemingly endless run of injuries, one of the underlying (and perhaps most disappointing) themes has been the Jackets’ struggles at Nationwide Arena. Columbus owns a respectable 20-15-2 record on the road, but at home, it has been a far different story; the Jackets are 13-20-2 in their own building.
The disparity in results has been frustrating – to say the least – for coach Todd Richards.
“I don’t know what the average home record would be, but if you average 18-15 or 18-14, that’s decent. It’s not good, but it’s decent,” Richards said today. “That’s an extra (10-12) points and it puts you not in the playoffs, but it puts you close and makes these games big. We’ve been able to find ways to win hockey games on the road, and we’ve found ways to lose games at home.
“We’ve played some good hockey on the road. The thing that stands out to me is how we’ve lost games at home. We’ve been tied in the third period at home and lost games, and those are games you have to find ways to win or at least get points out of.”
They get another opportunity to improve their home record tomorrow night against the Anaheim Ducks, a team currently leading the Western Conference in points (99) but coming off a 7-2 drubbing at the hands of the New York Rangers on Sunday night.
Tuesday’s game will be the second of a five-game road trip for the Ducks, who will bring a familiar face along with them. Defenseman James Wisniewski will play his first game back at Nationwide Arena since the deadline day trade, but that’s hardly a focus for Richards and the Blue Jackets.
“It’s about putting in a full 60 minutes,” Richards said. “There have been games where we’ve had poor starts and we’re chasing the game. The Colorado game (a 4-0 loss on Mar. 7) is fresh. We’ve found different ways to lose games; we’ve played well at times and lost, but there have been some times where we’ve played poorly and deserved the loss.”
A COLLECTION OF UPDATES
The Blue Jackets practiced for approximately an hour this morning at the OhioHealth Ice Haus, while the changeover crew worked diligently to get the Nationwide Arena playing surface back together after this weekend’s NCAA Tournament games.
Not among those practicing were Ryan Murray, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Alexander Wennberg and Rene Bourque, so the Blue Jackets were a few forwards short during the practice.
Richards said Dubinsky (upper body) and Murray (lower body) are day-to-day but won’t play against Anaheim tomorrow. Anisimov and Bourque were banged up after the long road trip, but are expected to be available tomorrow.
Wennberg’s infected hand prohibited him from traveling with the team from Vancouver to Calgary late last week, but he has returned to Columbus and won’t play tomorrow. Matt Calvert has made progress in his recovery from a concussion, Richards said, and he skated with Dubinsky today after the formal practice wrapped up.