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Overheard: Morning Skate

by Staci Pawlak / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets are set to take on the Calgary Flames tonight at Nationwide Arena at 7 p.m. Both teams are searching to establish some consistency and earn wins as the 10-game benchmark approaches and passes. See what some of the main storylines were from the media presser after the morning skate:

Nikitin’s back:

Nikita Nikitin is back in the line-up for tonight’s game after missing three games due to an upper body injury sustained in the game against the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 29.

Head coach Todd Richards said having Nikitin back will add poise and experience at the point and help the Blue Jackets spend less time in the defensive zone.

Here is a glimpse of what Richards had to say about Nikitin:

“Nikitin going back in on the back end will be a big help for us.”

“[He’s] a guy with some poise and can play in every situation, a guy who can handle the puck and make a good first pass.”

“It gets Nikitin and Tyutin back together. There’s a comfort level with both of those guys when they’re playing together.”

Read more about Nikitin’s return here.

A reprieve for Jack:

Nikitin’s return will alleviate some of the pressure on other defensemen like Jack Johnson, who has logged 30+ minutes in each game that Nikitin was out.

“It frees up the minutes for Jack. Jack’s been logging a lot of minutes, tough minutes," Richards said.

“Sometimes when you get in that role where you’re logging that many minutes, your game changes a little bit where you’re conserving energy in certain areas of the ice.”

On the decision to re-assign Johansen:

Yesterday, the Blue Jackets re-assigned Ryan Johansen to their first-placed AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons. Johansen played 34 games with the Falcons so far this season and scored 14 goals and 13 assists for a total of 27 points.

Richards said the decision to move Johansen came after seeing a dip in his play following the start of the season.

“He’s a young player. His battle level wasn’t the same as when we started the year,” Richards said.

“We want Ryan to be his best, and I know Ryan wants to be his best. This is just another step in the process for Ryan.”

Foligno says focus is key:

Nick Foligno talked to JacketsTV after the morning skate, and said the Blue Jackets need to simplify and get back to “their game.”

“Our forecheck is definitely the heartbeat of our team – I think that’s something that when we’re doing that, and we’re playing well, and playing quick out of our own end – we’re a dangerous team, and that’s something we’re gonna focus on getting back tonight," Foligno said.

“We’re a potent team and we can score goals when we give ourselves the opportunity. It’s just about making sure we’re focusing each and every night to do that and each and every shift. We can’t take any shifts off," he said.

“There’s a lot of guys in this room that are proud guys, and we want to come out with a good effort tonight.”

Despite Calgary’s struggle to earn points, Foligno said the Blue Jackets can’t take anything for granted.

“We’re gonna expect their best. We can’t take them lightly at all – we’re not in a position to be taking anyone lightly.”

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