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OVERHEARD: The Morning Skate

by Staci Pawlak / Columbus Blue Jackets

It’s a hockey night in Columbus for the next two days as the Blue Jackets take on the Edmonton Oilers tonight at 6 p.m. and the San Jose Sharks tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets practiced yesterday and skated briefly this morning. Here are some storylines from the media presser following today’s morning skate:

Wiz is back:

James Wisniewski will return to the line-up tonight against the Oilers. He has missed two games due to an injury sustained on Feb. 2 against the Detroit Red Wings. Here’s what he had to say about coming back from an injury:

“I feel good – feeling really good considering everything that’s happened. Just looking forward to getting back in the line-up. Got some good get well tweets and on Facebook, so that was really nice.”

Wisniewski said his focus is on getting back to helping the team win, especially in preparation of a six-game road trip coming up after tomorrow night’s game.

“These next few games are huge, really important to try and get back close to .500. There’s no easy games. Every team is close and you win three games in a row, you’re right back in the playoff run.

“These two games are absolutely crucial and to go back on the road, you just have to keep it simple… eat, sleep, and play hockey.”

Head coach Todd Richards also had a few words about Wiz’s return. Although Wisniewski seemed ready to go and had “no reservations,” Richards said the coaching staff will have to be careful about how they use him in tonight’s game.

“We’ll monitor him as it goes,” Richards said. “Obviously, he’s a power play guy… we certainly want Wiz on the power play, but we have to be careful. We need him truly for the five-on-five part.”

Scouting Edmonton:

Richards said they can’t afford to underestimate any opponent, especially in the NHL when teams frequently “steal” wins on their opponent’s home ice.

“They’re a talented group. Any given night, a team can come in and make you look bad. It doesn’t matter what happened the night before,” Richards said.

“They’re getting older, more experienced, which makes them more dangerous.”

Still, Richards said the Blue Jackets need to improve in a lot of areas if they want to beat the Oilers, including establishing a strong forecheck.

“We gotta force these guys to play in their zone,” he said.

On naming a captain:

As if he were a broken record (or CD), Richards said that he has not moved any closer to naming a captain, but is “close” to naming permanent alternate captains.

“We’ve brought in a lot of players… I wanted to see how our locker room would all shape up – who’s gonna step to the front, who’s gonna be the guy driving practice, who’s gonna be the leader on the bench, who’s gonna be the leader in the room,” Richards said.

“There’s so many responsibilities that go with being a captain. That’s why you gotta get the right guy, and he’s gotta accept that role and that responsibility, too, because not only is he the leader of your team in the room, he’s the leader of your team outside of the room,” he said.

“There’s a huge, huge responsibility that goes with wearing that ‘C.’”

Other tidbits from the coach:

On Mark Letestu: “He’s trustworthy. He’s versatile. He accepts any role. He wants to play. He wants to be the best player he can be, and he wants to help the team.”

On Sergei Bobrovsky starting in net: “It’s a chance to get him into a rhythm. He’s athletic, he works extremely hard, he’s very committed.”

On Nail Yakupov’s goal celebrations: “If he doesn’t score here, I don’t have to see it.”

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