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Blue Jackets' Stralman plays a waiting game

by Todd Kimberley

"I think, when you have players like Stralman, it allows your other players to have patience too. When they see a player with that type of patience, it goes right throughout your lineup."
-- Ken Hitchcock on Anton Stralman

CALGARY --  Anton Stralman feels like he's finally found a home. The Columbus Blue Jackets' defenseman wishes he could say the same for his young family.

Since he arrived in Ohio via a Sept. 28 trade with the Calgary Flames, Stralman has fit right in on a blue-line corps that was looking for a puck-carrying, right-shooting defenseman.

The 23-year-old Swede, though, has been living the life of a bachelor -- at the worst time possible -- because of government red tape. His infant son Lowve was born Sept. 20 in Calgary while Stralman was at Flames' training camp, and fiancée Johanna Allert has been looking after their newborn and 2-year-old daughter Liv by herself in the Stampede City ever since. Their entrance into the United States has been delayed by immigration officials because Stralman and Allert are not legally married.

"They're stuck here (in Calgary), and that makes it harder on all of us," Stralman told Tuesday. "Of all the bad luck we've had, it's nice that we came here for a couple of days (to start a four-game road trip) and I could see them. He's growing fast. You can even see the development in a week -- more awake now, paying more attention to stuff.

"Johanna is doing a great job. It's been a couple of tough weeks for her. Really frustrating, as well. We thought the immigration problems would be handled in a couple of days. But every day it gets closer, right? Now we're really hoping that Friday is the day."

Stralman, a seventh-round draft pick of Toronto in 2005, has now been property of three NHL teams in less than three months, but has been able to make himself comfortable in coach Ken
Hitchcock's scheme.

His trade to Calgary from Toronto on July 27, with Colin Stuart also heading westward and Wayne Primeau heading to Hogtown, didn't come as much of a surprise, with Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke having sought more team toughness -- which is not Stralman's style -- on his roster.

But the Flames had seven defensemen on one-way contracts, and instead of taking the risk of losing him on waivers, GM Darryl Sutter dealt Stralman to Columbus for a third-round draft choice.

"He brings an element that we don't have, which is patience with the puck," Hitchcock told "He makes plays. I don't want to say that we're a bang-it-off-the-glass group, but we ... get it up and get it out. He's able to make direct plays where we normally don't make them, and I think that helps us.

"I think, when you have players like Stralman, it allows your other players to have patience too. When they see a player with that type of patience, it goes right throughout your lineup.

"I think our defense has gotten better because they've seen things he can do, and they feel like they can do it too."

In four games with the Jackets, prior to Tuesday's contest against the Flames at the Pengrowth Saddledome, the 6-2, 195-pound Stralman had averaged 19:18 on the ice, with a power-play goal in an Oct. 13 win over Calgary and four shots on goal. He's also taken over duties on the Jackets' first power-play unit alongside Fedor Tyutin.

"That's what you hope for, when you come over here -- to come to a team that wants your skills," Stralman told "Toronto, last year, wanted me to be more intense, and play more physical. I tried to do that, but that's nothing that's going to happen in a week ... and (the trade to Columbus) came out of nowhere.

"Since I came here, I feel like I can play my game. It feels good. It's a great feeling to come here and just play hockey. That's all I want."

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