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On working together, and preparing to climb the ladder

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

“Two in a row” has seemed to be the Blue Jackets’ threshold over the last couple weeks. In order to climb the standings sooner rather than later, they know that has to change.

After starting 0-8, they won back-to-back games at Colorado and New Jersey, then dropped consecutive games to Washington and Winnipeg. Then it was two straight wins over San Jose and Los Angeles to open the California trip followed by losses to Anaheim and Vancouver.

The latest edition of this story includes wins over Pittsburgh and Arizona over the weekend, setting up for an important week of four games in six days beginning Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues are a team that plays similarly to how Blue Jackets want to consistently play: physical, aggressive, no-nonsense and a regular contender. In the ultra-competitive Central Division (easily the NHL’s best so far this season), the Blues are off to a solid start at 11-5-1, but sit five points back of division-leading Dallas.

“We want to be a straight-line team,” coach John Tortorella said. “We want to get going quickly, we want to get going north-south. We need to continue to improve defending. It’s not a complicated system that we’re trying to play. We don’t want a lot of thinking. We want to be a hard, straight ahead team and not overthink things.

“That’s a tough division. (The Blues) have had a great start, they’re very well-coached, they play as a team…yeah, it’s going to be a competitive game. If we’re not ready to compete, it could get ugly really quickly.”

The Blue Jackets also sported some new forward lines today:

Jenner – Johansen – Saad

Calvert – Foligno – Atkinson

Hartnell – Karlsson – Bourque

Rychel – Campbell – Boll

And, on defense, there were some new pairings:

Tyutin – Connauton

Murray – Goloubef

Johnson – Savard

Tortorella was asked about the thought process behind moving Nick Foligno to center rather than someone like Boone Jenner, who has also played center before the NHL (where he’s spent most of his time on the wing).

Here’s his rationale: “(Foligno)’s played center before. (Jenner)’s played center before, and I wanted to keep him on the wing, and that’s where Nick came into play at center. I like what (Jenner) has been doing on the wall. He’s been doing a really good job on the wall.”

There’s been a lot asked of the Blue Jackets’ centers since Brandon Dubinsky was lost to injury just prior to Friday’s game in Pittsburgh. Ryan Johansen has played a lot of minutes, William Karlsson as well, Gregory Campbell’s had to kill a lot of penalties and Foligno’s had to do all that while adjusting to a different position.

So far, so good (for the most part), Tortorella said. And with Foligno, it’s a work in progress but he’s seen some positive signs in the first couple of games.

“We talked about a number of different people,” Tortorella said. “I think Nick can handle the change. I just don’t want to screw around with Jenner’s game, because I think he’s doing so well on the wall. Nick volunteered, he’s played it, he felt comfortable and that’s what we went with.”

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