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Blue Jackets set to start anew under Richards

by Brian Hedger
CHICAGO -- The Columbus Blue Jackets went through their first morning skate without Scott Arniel as their head coach on Tuesday at the United Center, as they prepared to play the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night.

Not much was different with assistant Todd Richards at the helm -- other than maligned center Derick Brassard moved back to the top line with Vinny Prospal and Rick Nash -- but there was an overall sense of responsibility being taken by players for what happened.

"This one's really hitting home," forward Derek Dorsett said. "(Arniel) taught me a lot, and he's a guy that put everything he had into it and just for some reason he couldn't get this group to click. It's a business and we all have to be professional about it and move on, but at the same time we've got to realize that we are part of the problem and we have to get our game back on straight -- and that's everyone individually, myself included."

The Blue Jackets have lost two out of the first three games on their current four-game road trip and have a 4-9-2 record in their last 15 games. They've also got just two players in the positive of the plus-minus rating category and have allowed 38 more goals than they've scored.

Columbus has also dealt with a suspension to top defenseman James Wisniewski and a slew of injuries to start the season that have all hampered the effort through the first half. Wisniewski (ankle) and top-line center Jeff Carter (shoulder) are among the injured currently, and it’s Carter's second ailment of the season.

It just seems to keep getting worse for the guys in blue, and now their coach has now been fired on top of it all.

"Anytime someone gets fired or traded, you never want to see that kind of stuff," Dorsett said. "We had Wiz suspended at the start of the year, we had (Carter) hurt and we ran into some injury problems and things weren't going our way. Then the snowball just started rolling down the hill and it just kept getting bigger and bigger. We kind of dug our way out of it, and then we hit some adversity and the snowball started getting bigger and bigger again. It's definitely a disappointing year and not one guy in this room's happy about it."

Richards, who was fired as the Minnesota Wild's head coach last season, backed up that sentiment and said the past day or two was tough on the entire team -- including himself. Richards actually had a chance to speak with Arniel and relate his own experience of being let go with him.

"The last 48 hours or 24 hours have been really tough on everyone," Richards said. "It's no different with me or everyone that's involved. When you're around somebody and you have respect for somebody, for how he was professionally and personally, when something like this happens it affects everyone. We've all felt the same way. That's why the last 24 hours have been difficult. It's been difficult on everyone."

What's left to do, however, is moving forward and still trying to correct the issues that have plagued this team over the first 41 games. There is still an entire second half of the season left to figure out a winning formula -- starting on Tuesday night against the Blackhawks, who ought to be hungry to stop a four-game skid of their own.

"The best way to do it is just start off on a winning note against a really good team here in Chicago," Blue Jackets forward Jared Boll said. "That's kind of the best way to turn the page is to get a win on the road versus a good team. As a player, it's tough to see a coach get let go, because you feel like it's your fault. You never want to see that happen. It can kind of spark a team to kind of look in the mirror and say, 'Hey, start picking it up,' and that's what we've got to do."
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