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Struggling power play the focus at practice

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

You've probably heard by now that the Blue Jackets' power play has hit a rut.

It has been all the talk over the past couple of weeks, with the Jackets battling an 0-for-35 skid that's following them around like a shadow. They have not scored a power play goal since the trade deadline - think back to Mar. 4 against the Dallas Stars at Nationwide Arena - and they're trying just about everything to bust out of this funk.

For a team that has found goals hard to come by of late (and that includes even strength), the Blue Jackets could really use their power play to regain its threatening form and help them get above the playoff bar once again. As a result, they devoted most of their practice time on Monday to the power play and reinforcing some of the concepts that have made them successful.

"You can't just sweep it under the rug and act like it hasn't happened," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "We have to talk about it, work at it, and to me it's about controlling the emotions, too. We might come out tomorrow (against Detroit) on our first power play and we might not be able to get it in the zone...we can't let the lack of success affect us, because if it affects you on the first one, it's going to affect you on the second one and the third.

"Sometimes guys take it upon themselves to try and do something, and then you get away from your structure and the team aspect of the power play. I think that's human nature; our guys care, they want to make a difference, they want to win games. You want guys to make a difference but within the structure."

Richards wants to see the Blue Jackets get back to what made them an effective power play earlier in the season, and that was by shooting the puck often and not being shy about doing so. Having a healthy James Wisniewski and his big right-handed shot has been a significant part of it, but the Jackets also want to create a little more havoc down in front of the net.

"We were able to (practice today) and simplify it a little bit," Richards said. "It's just shooting the puck, the mentality of shooting the puck and creating some scrums."

Sergei Bobrovsky started Sunday's game on Long Island, marking his 18th consecutive start for the Blue Jackets and they want to be mindful of his workload down the stretch. They face one of the busiest schedules in hockey over the next three weeks and Richards said he spoke with goaltending coach Ian Clark and Bobrovsky to better manage his time spent on the ice.

Bobrovsky was granted the day off from team practice today, so Jackets pro video scout Mike Battaglia stepped in to man the nets with Curtis McElhinney.

"It's trying to manage Bob and his workload," Richards said. "He's playing a lot and these are big games, and this is was the game plan we came up with. This is just one day, with the way it's worked out, for us to manage him better."

Richards said that in hindsight, perhaps he could have used a bit more energy in Sunday's lineup against the Islanders, a game that unfolded slowly with not much going on. Corey Tropp? He's one possibility, and the Blue Jackets know exactly what they're getting when he's in the mix.

What about Jared Boll? He gives Richards another option since he has been cleared to play, but there are no guarantees that either gets back in the lineup in large part due to Blake Comeau's strong, physical play of late.

"The perfect scenario is you're able to get him in, but right now with the way Comeau has played, I really like the energy and the physicality that he brings," Richards said. "Right now, that's where we're at."

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