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Vermette, Brassard lead Jackets past Malmo

by Risto Pakarinen
MALMO, Sweden -- Antoine Vermette scored a pair of goals and Derick Brassard had 2 assists as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Malmo Redhawks, 4-1, in a 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere series game.

The game was the last for the Blue Jackets prior to Friday's regular-season opener in Stockholm against the San Jose Sharks (3 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN).

"It was fun. We haven't played in almost a week, and the regular-season opener isn't until Friday, so it was good to get a game here," Vermette said. "It was different, with the big ice and everything, but I actually like it when there's more room."

It wasn't expected to be a particularly tough game for the Blue jackets. Malmo is in the middle of a rough stretch in their domestic league and rested some of their veteran players. Instead, their lineup featured 10 players under age 20.

The Redhawks play in the second-tier Allsvenskan league, one level below the Swedish Elite League, and currently are in fifth place.

The local paper calls the young players Babyhawks, but even baby hawks have claws. Especially early in the game, as during the first 10 minutes their quick forwards left the Blue Jackets' defensemen flat-footed on a few occasions. However, they couldn't capitalize on their chances.

"We actually predicted that they'd come out strong, with us traveling all day," Jackets coach Scott Arniel said.

"We started well, but backed up a little in the second period," Malmo's 19-year-old goalie, Jonathan Bjuro said. "Then we had a little bit of bad luck, but I think we were fine out there."

Columbus worked its way into the game thanks to a couple of Redhawks penalties. Malmo killed off the first shorthanded situation, but when they found themselves down a skater just 25 seconds later, they knew they were in trouble. Brassard found Vermette wide open in the slot, and he beat Bjuro, with a slap shot to the short side.

Just 17 seconds into the second period, Vermette scored his second, off a nice feed from Rick Nash from the right wall. Vermette, who had 6 points in the first five preseason games, beat Bjuro with a wrist shot that deflected off a Malmo defenseman and into the net.

"I was a little bit lucky there. I was trying to get the puck to Kristian (Huselius) at the far post, but the puck bounced and went in," Vermette said.

All three Swedes on the Columbus roster -- Huselius, Samuel Pahlsson, and Anton Stralman -- wore an 'A' on their sweaters for the special occasion.

"I don't even know what the rules are, so we gave the letter to all of them," Arniel said.

Vermette's second goal seemed to deflate the Swedes. Jakub Voracek made it 3-0 with a wraparound at 8:49 of the second period, and Mike Commodore pushed it to 4-0 with a one-timer from the slot six minutes later. Brassard picked up an assist on the Commodore goal.

Three minutes into the third period, the home crowd -- as well as the Blue Jackets -- got to hear a familiar tune, as the speakers blasted the Redhawks' goal song -- "Chelsea Dagger" by the Fratellis, which also is used by the Jackets' Central Division rival, the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Robin Alvarez deflected Tomas Larsson's shot from the blue line, beating Mathieu Garon high on the stick side for a power-play score.

Garon had replaced Steve Mason in the Blue Jackets' net halfway through the game.

"This was almost an exact opposite of what we've worked on, with puck possession and big ice, but that was to be expected. I'm happy that the preseason is over and that the regular season starts," Arniel said.

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