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Columbus takes solace in hard work

by Risto Pakarinen
STOCKHOLM -- The Columbus Blue Jackets didn't get the win they wanted, but there's another W-word that describes their regular season opener very well: Work. The Blue Jackets worked hard, and worked all game, but the San Jose Sharks' two power play goals, and Antti Niemi's solid goaltending were too much.

"San Jose is a good team, we just have to keep them off power play. They have a lot of talent, but if we do that, we have a chance," defenseman Mike Commodore said after Friday's 3-2 loss in their Compuware NHL Premiere game.

"I was pretty nervous, to be honest -- it was the first game, so you don't really know what to expect. We also have a brand new system we're trying to work here," defenseman Anton Stralman said.

Despite the loss, the Columbus players still found a lot of good things to build on in the future.

"It was a close game, and I think we showed great character coming back from two goals down, we really worked hard. I think we played a heck of a game 5-on-5. We could have won the game just as well," said forward Kristian Huselius, the game's second star. The Stockholm native scored the Blue Jackets' first goal, cutting a 2-0 deficit to 2-1.

Columbus had its chances as well. The first power-play unit with Stralman on the blue line, Rick Nash to his right and Nikita Filatov to his left, produced Huselius'  goal and created several other chances.

The Jackets have high hopes for Filatov, the sixth pick in the 2008 Entry Draft.

"Having Filatov, as a right-handed shot on the left side makes a big difference. He's got a good shot, he's a real sniper, he just has to get a little more comfortable there, he's going to score a lot of goals from there," Stralman said.

The Blue Jackets' power play didn't come as a surprise to the Sharks, said goaltender Niemi.

"We had talked about their power play, and watched some video of it, so we were prepared. They got one of our defensemen a little out of position there, so Filatov could pass the puck across the slot area. I almost got it, though, I think it may have hit me on the shoulder, and then the post, before going in," Strahlman said.

With 17 minors called in the game, nearly half of them in the second period, it was the power plays that determined the flow of the game.

"The special teams had to work a little more today and it does break the momentum a little bit," Stralman said.

"I'm not surprised about the number of penalties, though. It was the first game for the teams, and for the refs. It's a little hard to figure what the law is."

All in all, Columbus played the way coach Scott Arniel surely had intended, with good forechecking, and pressuring the puck. The Jackets outshot the Sharks 32-28 and kept Niemi busy for much of the night.

"I had some looks, some good ones, and I'd like to have finished them off. Hopefully in the next game," Huselius said.

That next game is in 21 hours, when it's the Sharks' turn to host the Blue Jackets at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm.

"We'll try to settle the score here. The Sharks are one of the top teams in the West, but we had as many chances as they did tonight. It's an important game tomorrow," Huselius said.

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