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Notebook: Umberger, Brassard step up in Anaheim

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets are flying home today from California before heading back out on the second half of their six-game road trip tomorrow. They'll play three games in four nights, including a back-to-back set against St. Louis (Saturday) and Chicago (Sunday).

As they leave the Golden State without a victory in the three-game trip, the Blue Jackets are well aware of what needs cleaned up before they face the Red Wings on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena. In Monday's game against the Ducks, they controlled most of the opening period but committed a pair of costly turnovers that quickly allowed Anaheim to take the lead.

And according to coach Todd Richards, extending their lead was as important as managing the puck better; with the number of quality chances produced in the first 15 minutes, the Blue Jackets could have assumed a commanding lead but could only break through for a single goal.

"The first 11-12 minutes of the (first) period we had chances and spent a lot of time in their zone," Richards said. "It would've been nice to get that second one...and then, that's kind of what they do. We have the puck on our stick a couple of times and we just don't execute; then it's turnover and it's in the back of our net.

"We have to find ways to win games. We did a lot of good things, but in the end, it wasn't just good enough. Wherever it is, whether it's scoring more goals or keeping pucks out of our net, we have to make plays. We played 55 or 56 minutes of good hockey, but it's in that span of four minutes or so that costs us (the game)."

Not only do the Blue Jackets need to do a better job of limiting their own mistakes, but Richards said they must get more out of the opportunities they create themselves. Whether that means odd-man rushes, power plays, chances off turnovers, the Blue Jackets also have to make opponents pay for careless play with the puck.

"You make too many mistakes and you'll pay for it," Richards said. "They make mistakes on plays, too, but we just weren't able to finish. Those are the opportunities and chances...we need to be an opportunistic team and when we get an opportunity, we need to cash in on it."

If the Blue Jackets are going to play a consistent brand of hockey and generate more offense, they need more production from veterans like RJ Umberger and Derick Brassard. The duo, which enjoyed a lot of success on a line with Cam Atkinson to close out 2011-12, had combined for just three goals entering Monday's game in Anaheim.

Umberger played one of his best games of the season against the Ducks and used his size to create space and make plays with the puck, while Brassard had a bevy of chances before scoring his third goal of the season, bringing Columbus within a goal in the third period.

"I thought it was their best game that I could remember," Richards said. "They both looked like they had energy, skated well and Umby won a lot of battles, won a lot of races for pucks. And then it's what he did once he got the puck on his stick; he had the puck and was playing big and was able to make some plays out of that."

A seventh-round pick of the Blue Jackets at the 2008 NHL Draft, Sean Collins finally made his NHL debut on Monday. In his first full pro season with Springfield (AHL), Collins has been a valuable and versatile player for coach Brad Larsen, who has used him at both center and wing.

Collins, 24, took 22 shifts in the game and played 15:31 on the left side of Umberger and Brassard. Richards liked the way Collins complemented those two with his size and ability to work the puck on the cycle.

As of this writing, the plan remains for new Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen to fly to the United States and meet the team in Detroit on Wednesday. Kekalainen, hired as the third GM in franchise history on Feb. 13, is still awaiting final approval on a work visa and that process is expected to be completed soon.

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