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Blue Jackets: 0 ... Devils: 1

Saturday, October 28, 2006

An impenetrable wall is nice (see: Pascal Leclaire once again pulling some insane, Ninja-type moves), but it'll never win any battles when the objective is to mount both a defensive and offensive campaign. I'm sure some crazy military general sometime in world history said something like that. There's so many tired out war quotes you never hear, after all.

That game soured my mood. Now I don't feel like continuing on with my final projects. Sadly, I must ... and I will.

Expect nothing from me until Monday ... if I even live that long. If the Blue Jackets' recent miseries don't destroy my soul by then, these projects probably will.

We're sorry. The blogger you're trying to reach is currently in a catatonic state. Please try again later.

My brain is busy oozing out of my ears, so let's do this quick before I continue to freak out over my final projects.

-Blue Jackets won.

-Offense was still anemic, however despite the horrible shots on goal count, there seemed like there was more meshing with the new line set-ups.

-The defense allowed so many shots it made me cry. But ironically they were doubly alert whenever Leclaire had a shot on him, so kudos for that.

-LECLAIRE IS A MAGNIFICENT BASTARD!!

-Fritsche isn't so much a magnificent bastard as much as he's just crazy-go-nuts on the penalty kill. It's like he was every single player on the penalty kill at any given time with the way he zipped around.

-Power play was wretched, however the penalty kill was unstoppable. 8-for-8? I know it's the Kings, but there were two prolonged 5-on-3s as well. Way to help out that penalty kill ranking.

-New Jersey Devils tonight. The Devils being my favorite Eastern Conference team and all (having grown up in New Jersey), this'll be fun to watch if I can tear myself away from my classes for it.

Time to get back to work. Go Jackets!

Game #08: Blue Jackets vs. Kings

Friday, October 27, 2006
Columbus Blue Jackets (2-4-1)

vs.

Los Angeles Kings (3-6-2)


Hey, guys! Can you guess who is in last place in the Western Conference!? I'll give you a hint: their name starts with "Blue" and it ends with "Jackets". Take your time, I know it's a pretty tough question.


I guess that's a little harsh, though. Even after the long weekend last week which consisted of three games over four nights, the Blue Jackets are still at least 2 games behind most teams in the West, with the Blues and the Flames being the only exceptions at 8 games. But that's really just silver lining around a gray cloud if you actually expect the Blue Jackets to win their next two games. And the first of those two games to catching up with a majority of other teams in how many games have been played this season is tonight, when the Kings come to town.

While the Kings aren't bad like the Blue Jackets have been so far, they're also definitely not good, ranking 12th in the West and 4th in the Pacific thus far. Their main goalie -- Dan Cloutier -- is having a rough time, and Mathieu Garon, the backup, has been outplaying him (it could be disputed that Garon is the current starting goalie at this point, too). Their power play is anemic (27th), which is a Godsend for a Blue Jackets team that has given up power play chances by the bushel the past couple games and been spanked thanks to them.

Meanwhile, plenty of things going on with the Blue Jackets, ranging from Fedorov telling Nash to calm down and not press so much, the reuiniting of the Z/Feddy/Nash line, Dan Fritsche returning to the lineup, and Alexandre Picard being sent back down to Syracuse. Your guess is as good as mine as to who is being scratched for tonight's game from those who are healthy and not being sent down. Balastik again? Possibly. While checking out the fantasy news on FOX Sports (yeah, that's a reliable source), I noticed with interest that Jason Chimera's name was not mentioned in the lines that were trotted out and put together by Gallant during this week's practices. No idea what's going on there, but being a Chimmer guy, I'd hate to see him scratched.

I need to get going now though, so apologies for the shorter than usual pre-game speculating and observing. I have a shower to take, a bus to catch, and a Starbucks down by Nationwide Arena to hunker down in for the next several hours along with my laptop and my final project assignments. If anyone out there cares to bug me before the game, look for a guy with shaggy hair, khakis and a dress shirt sipping on tea and eating coffee cake at the Starbucks down there. If you're a C-Bus resident, you know which one.

Go Jackets!

Fashionably late uploading.

Thursday, October 26, 2006
Didn't I promise I'd upload this last week? Well, better late than never. I hope tomorrow I'll actually have a better quality version without the hand shaking and the recording beginning belatedly. I was sort of taken by surprise when the CG graphics started up, so I only started recording about 4-5 seconds right after it'd started.

Like I mention in the description, that's not my voice at the end. My voice is sleek, and sexy ... oh, baby (not).


Icy to dull the pain, and hot to relax it away.


Icy Hots are my one true love (except for the girlfriend, of course). Seriously, if it weren't for these things being slapped on or wrapped around my right calf every several hours (it's been acting up whilst during daily exercises) I'd be curled up in a heap in bed, downing Aleve by the handful ... and as we all know, that's never a safe thing to do. Too bad these don't work on sore hearts and heads from an early season four-game losing streak, right?

I bet Alexandre Picard could use an Icy Hot, after that nasty hip check that sent him flying into the air and then landing right on the partition between the boards and the glass during the tail end of that San Jose game. Rob Oller (is he new? Is he taking over for Arace while he tends to personal matters?) talks about how even though he got banged up pretty bad, Picard's still been able to practice in the "no hit" jersey, which is a good thing.

Parma (Dan Fritsche) has also been given the green light for Friday when the Los Angeles Kings come down to C-Bus. So who wants to guess who is scratched and/or sent down? Jaroslav Balastik was the healthy scratch during Monday's game, and that was for Picard being called up. If Picard's able to play and is given the OK, Balastik more than likely stays in the press box for the game, which means someone else has to sit out. I remember an earlier Dispatch report floated the possibility of Jody Shelley being that somebody, so there's always that to consider. Then again, maybe Gallant does something drastic and sits out someone who most people think of as 'important', just to give the team (and said player) a shock to the system.

As always, we just have to wait and see. I'll be waiting and seeing from Section 217 tomorrow night. I'll be damned if I'm going to go on my November vacation next week before seeing the Jackets win at least once when I go to a game in person!

Blue Jackets: 0 ... Sharks: 3

Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Well, I guess I should stop putting this entry off. Not that I have been ... in all honesty, the whole final project week thing is causing me stress of the highest caliber, and so the Blue Jackets' four game losing streak is the last thing on my mind.

But maybe that's a good thing, right? It makes it easier to look at the situation with the CBJ a little more rationally, instead of jumping to snap judgements about what is going wrong, right, or whatever. In the end, though, there's a lot of things going on that need to be talked about. I'm not a coach, a general manager, or any of that sort of stuff ... I'm just a college student majoring in business and sports manegement who doesn't even have his Associates' Degree yet. So with that in mind, take much of my analyzation with a grain of salt.

First thing that I want to talk about is the coaching, and Gerard Gallant to be specific. I think what really stood out to me during last night's game, and I'm sure it did for other people watching on FSN Ohio, was when he had that outburst towards a fan near the tunnel as he was walking away from the bench at the end of the game, looking like he was ready to dive over the ledge and attack the nearest wayward angry fan that pissed him off.

I expect anger and agitation from Gallant, of course. I know one thing that stood out to me when watching a game last year was when he started banging and slamming the bench door repeatedly in anger over a call (in the process getting a bench minor himself). But even so, it may be time to start asking ourselves if the team is drowning out just about everything he says.

By all accounts Gallant has been running the team ragged in practices, and giving them speeches so ill-tempered and firey that if they were put on CD they'd need an "EXPLICIT CONTENT" warning. Everything you read about Gallant, it seems like he is doing everything that should be expected of a coach. And yet nothing is happening.

So what do you do when the coach is talking to proverbial brick walls in the shape of hockey players? Firing's one option, but there isn't exactly any coaches on the market (and don't mention Ken Hitchcock. Really, people ... the Flyers are even worse off than the Blue Jackets right at the moment, even considering his past success).

Keeping on the coaching issue for one more moment, what happened to the power play that was firing on all cylanders the first three games? Prior to that staggering layoff between the first three games and the ones following them, a lot of fans -- myself included -- seemed ready to start building a golden statue in Gary Agnew's honor for what many fans thought was him weaving long-forgotten magic that made the Jackets' power play as deadly as Gary Bettman's personality. Now? They can't so much as get it set up, and we're back at square one with the boos raining down every time the team fails on the power play.

Anyway, let's consider something else besides the coaching. Could it be the General Manager? Mr. "Either love him or hate him" Doug MacLean?

If it is, the only role he's played in this current debacle is not getting the right pieces of the puzzle for a strong team prior to the start of the season. Even though MacLean is the GM, Gallant seems to hold many of the cards when it comes to who he'd like to scratch, who he'd like not to play or be sent down, and so on. With that in mind, MacLean still could be blamed for the lackluster blue line which got hardly anything, if at all, in terms of a strength boost during the off-season.

After a little number crunching thanks to TSN's salary chart for each team, I've been able to guesstimate the Blue Jackets only have between $5-6 million left in the bank before they hip the cap ceiling. So let me ask you, the reader, what should be done with that cap space? Is MacLean supposed to go crawling to McConnel and beg to use that little bit of wiggle room, even though it already took some pleading and haggling to get the money for Nikolai Zherdev just before the season started? What if that cap space is needed later? And who is left in the free agent market who could bolster the blue line, anyway?

So far only two defensemen have been able to show their worth: the first one is, of course, Rusty Klesla, who despite having no points on the season so far can at least boast not having given up any even strength goals on his watch, with a plus-minus rating right at 0 over five games. The other one, and this is a bit of a surprise, is Anders Eriksson. Three assists over six games, and a +1 rating have him leading the pack both in terms of defensive awareness and helping out with the point output.

The rest of the blue line? Nothing more than mediocre to horrid. Duvie Westcott, despite six points in seven games, is at a -3 rating and plays with hardly any sort of knowledge concerning what is going on around him. Ron Hainsey? His scouting report all but sums up his (and the rest of the blue line's) problem: "Is far too soft for his 6-3, 211-pound frame. Needs more polish in the defensive zone. Is still a bit raw in all three zones."

Then there's the Captain, Adam Foote. Just like Hainsey he has 2 assists, but is also a -3. Unlike Duvie and Hainsey, I can't even come up with anything to say about Footer. Why? Because he's just been that much of a non-factor. It's hard to even come up with anything bad, let alone good, about the guy when he doesn't seem to do anything when he's on the ice. So he hits hard, he stands up for the teammates, and -- in my opinion -- is a great leader off the ice or when there's no game going on. That isn't helping in any sort of tangible ways when a win is on the line.

The defense, however, is not the only part of the Blue Jackets that isn't working. The offense, which is supposed to be this force of nature with all this "depth", has now been kept off the scoreboard for two out of the last three games, being shut out by both the Wild and the Sharks.

And why isn't it clicking? Well, one part of it could be the rapidly shifting lines that have been going on since the very start of the seasons ... though to be fair, it's hard to keep things in a state of stability when players are frequently being scratched, calling up, or rejoining after injuries.

It'd take several paragraphs to meticulously go over each forward's problems, one after another, so I'll try and sum things up in just a few, general comments about the lack of offense.

First? Passes aren't crisp, and players are reaching for the puck because of that. Anyone who has seen each game has seen that coordination between the players is at the lowest of the low right now. When passes aren't on the tape, a team can't break out, or try to go for any sort of offensive rushes, or anything of the sort.

Next? The players don't seem to have any faith in each other ... and yet at the same time they rely too much on each other. A weird paradox, isn't it? I'll try my best to explain ... in short, players refuse to just shoot the puck, instead trying to pass it along to another player who they feel is open. This is the exact same problem that the Blue Jackets had last season, where instead of just giving a shot a chance and firing from the point or just throwing the puck on net, they'll pass on the opportunity because they have doubts.

Now this is only if the Blue Jackets even get in to the offensive zone. That's where the lack of trust comes in. Look at players like Zherdev, who are trying to carry the team on their shoulders with all sorts of fancy skating that, in the end, usually leads to very little. That, on top of wayward and half-hearted passes from the forwards and players as a whole, leads to very little opportunity to try and set up any sort of offensive pressure.

This little ramble has gone on long enough, I think. And it really doesn't amount to much of anything, either. In all honesty, I'm still scratching my head at the whole situation, trying to think of what could be done to remedy this pitfall the Blue Jackets have found themselves tumbling in to over the past two weeks.

Well ... there's three more days until Friday's game against Los Angeles. We'll just have to wait and see if anything happens outside of more bag puck skates and bellowing at players during practices, won't we?

Game #07: Blue Jackets vs. Sharks

Monday, October 23, 2006
Columbus Blue Jackets (2-3-1)

vs.

San Jose Sharks (6-2-0)


Ugh. You ever have one of those days where you just feel like laying down and not doing a damn thing? This is one of those days for me, largely in part because this week is the last week of my second to last block of classes. With that in mind, just a slightly belated warning that things may be a little quiet around here this week, since my nose will be to the proverbial grindstone. Apologies for not having any sort of recap on the Penguins' game from Saturday, either. To make up for it? Just a few thoughts from the game, made short and succinct:

-Fredrik Norrena played both great and not-so-great at the exact same time. I really have a hard time trying to form an opinion on the guy so far, since this was only his first start ever in the NHL. So for all of you Blue Jackets fans out there calling for his head? Cut the guy some slack. What was he supposed to do, play like Patrick freakin' Roy?

-Has there ever been a penalty shot goal or shoot out goal so far this season or last season in which the puck richocheted off the pipes, then on to the goalie, then slowly trickled in? That actually surprised me a little. Not to say it wasn't a legit call to count the goal or anything, just that I hadn't seen it happen before.

-David Vyborny has 8 points in 6 games. Even if we expect no less from him, it's still great to see at least one of the Blue Jackets top six forwards producing at such a rate.

-How long until the defense "gels", and if it doesn't, how long until the Blue Jackets do something about it? I already said in comments in the game day preview I wrote that I have a hard time trying to figure out what the Blue Jackets can do about the defense situation at the moment, but there has to be some sort of action that can be taken when it comes to the players and bringing someone in, moving someone out, or whatever.

Anyway, let's move on to tonight's game against the San Jose Sharks, who are sitting pretty with 12 points out of a possible 16 so far. The scary thing? Even with a 6-2-0 record, they're still third place in the Pacific Division. As of recently, the Sharks have taken a bite out of both the Dallas Stars and the Detroit Red Wings, but then lost to equally potent Minnesota Wild on Saturday. So don't expect them to be coasting along on the ice after getting washed out 4-1 at home.

Speaking of divisional standings, though ... what's up with the Central Division, eh? As crazy as it is, despite the Blue Jackets 2-3-1 record in 6 games, they still are just a piddly 2 points behind a Red Wings team that's also stumbling out of the gate. In fact, the whole division looks like it's on hard times. Nashville's in 1st, which isn't surprising ... until you see it isn't exactly a strong 1st place with a 4-3-1 record. After that, every team is either at or below .500. I guess when the rest of your division is struggling, you can take at least a little solace in a slow start since it means that you haven't been totally left in the dust just yet.

That and the Blue Jackets are still at least two games behind everyone else in the division in terms of how many have been played. I guess there's some positive aspects to that annoying layoff at the start of the season.

Numbers and standings aside, two important things about tonight's game, first one being the anticipated return of Sergei Fedorov to the team. I really, really want to say I am excited to see him come back, but I also don't want to get ahead of myself and start saying that this will make everything different for the Blue Jackets when they play tonight. It'd be stupid to do that, even if a healthy Fedorov makes the team better. So far it looks like he'll be put on the 2nd line with Zherdev and Modin, though as always expect Gallant to start playing around with the lines the moment the team looks flat. That, and this was just what was seen during practice, so you never know.

Then there's also this doozy of a surprise: Alexandre Picard being called up for tonight's game. Picard, as you may recall, had a strong pre-season, however ended up being one of the last CBJ players to be sent down to Syracuse when the roster was finalized for the start of the regular season. MacLean even admits in the article by Portzline that Picard just got the short end of the stick when it came to who was sent down, and it really was a matter of space. So can Picard show that he wants to stay with the team in just one game? More importantly, will he even get a chance to do so if he's stuck in the limbo that is usually the fourth line?

I got to start reviewing my final project syllabus for each of my classes now, though, so I'll be wrapping this up here.

No recap tonight. For now just some offered condolences.

Saturday, October 21, 2006
While watching the Blue Jackets vs. Penguins game tonight, Jeff Rimer mentioned in passing that Matthew Arace, the brother of Blue Jackets' beat writer Michael Arace, was killed today in a car accident. For some information on the accident, nbc30 of Hartford, CT has the story.

I'll get on my thoughts concerning tonight's game sometime tomorrow during the day. But for now, I just want to extend my condolences to Arace. Any Blue Jackets' fans out there know he's a good writer that does a bang-up job covering this team, so I wish him the best.

Game #06: Blue Jackets at Penguins

Columbus Blue Jackets (2-2-1)

at

Pittsburgh Penguins (3-3-0)


Two games in two nights!? Oh my God!

And about time, too. Though this isn't the first time this season the Blue Jackets have had a two games in two days deal, after all. The season opened up with a game at home Friday and then a game away Saturday. With any luck the Jackets will rebound much like they did that last time too, where they lost at home then won on the road.

Then again, they do have their work cut out for them. Tonight they'll be up against the Hamilto-- ... Winnip-- ... Quebe-- ... Pittsburgh Penguins, and their mini-versions of Gretzky and Lemieux (Crosby and Malkin, respectively).

So how are the Penguins doing? Well, by all accounts better than I think most people would have imagined. Coming in to this season the Penguins were projected to be at the bottom of the barrel once again, despite the maturing of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and Crosby, as well as Evgeni Malkin's debut this week. Speaking of Fleury, check out both his GAA and his save percentage ... over six games the kid has a 2.71 GAA and a .925 save percentage. But the most important part of that equation is the fact that the Penguins are 29th in the league in shots allowed, averaging 35.5 per game. That's just sick. Reminds me of what Roberto Luongo regularly had to suffer through in Florida last season.

Despite the stellar performance by Fleury, the 3-3-0 record shows that despite the strong netminding, he isn't getting much support. The Penguins rank a mediocre 23rd in goals, and an abysmal 28th in shots per game. The twist here is their Power Play, which is ranked #2 in the league right now. So while they may not be scoring a lot, they will score if they get the man advantage, it looks.

Then again, the Jackets aren't exactly looking all rosey fresh after their last two games, either. 28th in goals (2 less than the Penguins), even less shots per game than the Penguins, and they're allowing a power play goal every fifth time they're down a man (80.6%)! The flipside is that even though the Jackets had the most wretched display of power play effort so far this season last night, they're still a respectable 6th in the league when it comes to their man advantage.

There's really a lot of questions swirling around the Jackets right now, even though this is just their sixth game of the season ... one of them being whether or not they can once again come back from a crushing defeat the previous night like they did at the start of the season. Another good question is whether or not the total roadblock that the top lines have hit recently will be overcome tonight? The top two lines have been kept completely off the scoresheet the past two games (though to be fair the whole team was kept scoreless in Minnesota), and the only people who produced were the Malhotra-Chimera-[Insertrandomwingerhere] line, and then Svitov with a laser shot in the waning moments of last night's game.

More disturbing is the total lack of energy that the defense seems to have. I already talked about this after last night's game, but it's a real concern to me that the defense is playing dead whenever the other team has the puck in the Blue Jackets zone. Have they been able to cut down shots? Frick yeah, and that's a good thing. But if they do give up a shot, they don't try and help Leclaire out. They just let him flop around like a fish flailing in vain to stop rebounds. And even if Pascal has the legs of a road runner, he can't "kick, save, and a beauty!" every single rebound on him.

So let's see what happens tonight. I'll be tuned in, new memorabilia mini-hockey stick in hand to use when happy or angry.

Oh, also ... while I was at last night's game, I was able to get a real low-quality recording of most of the new Blue Jackets' jumbotron CG opening on my digital camera. Hopefully I'll be able to upload that and show it sometime soon, for all those Jackets' fans who have yet to go to a game and see it. Really, I much prefer it over the old "zOMG swooping fighter jets!" thing last season.

Blue Jackets: 2 ... Maple Leafs: 4

Friday, October 20, 2006
Well, my mood that was pretty sour leading in to the final minutes of the game was at least temporarily alleviated in thanks to Alexander Svitov's goal at about 30-40 seconds left to go in the game. A little novacaine for the soul and whatnot ... though once it wears off I'll probably be smarting.

All in all, what a miserable experience. It isn't so much the loss that bothered me as much as the fact that where I was sitting (dead center upper row, which was an awesome view by the way) was also where the unofficial Glee Club for the Maple Leafs were. Seriously, it's like about 80% of the Leafs fans who made the trek down to Columbus for the game all planned in advance to sit together in one spot.

Now, the cheering and the "Go Leafs! Go!" chant wasn't what got under my skin. That's just what happens when you got a large contingency of visiting fans from a place like Toronto. But, dude ... dude ... this one guy two rows behind me. It was like he thought he was Jaws from ESPN and the NFL. Either that or he was the disembodied spirit of Jaws possessing a Leafs' fan for the night while his body was shut off since it wasn't the NFL weekend. Me and the people next to me were all but groaning every few minutes at his voice and some of the things he said.

But either way, this all has no bearing on the game, which was about as exciting as reading the unabridged version of War and Peace in one sitting. That first period was the end-all, be-all of snore-fests ... probably the worst first period so far out of any game for any team this season, both by the Leafs and the Jackets.

Things picked up in the 2nd period with a tit-for-tat of goals between the Jackets and Leafs, but then when Toronto got those two goals just a little over 30 seconds apart by Kyle Wellwood and Michael Peca, well ... it was like getting stabbed in the eye with a syringe.

What a disgusting effort by the defense, who sat on their haunches and look dumbfounded for at least two or three of the goals on Leclaire. And even more of a disgusting effort on the power play. Nothing like going 0-for-8 to bring back memories of last year's total man-advantage implosion that lasted the whole season. The boos when the CBJ didn't convert, of course, also meant everyone else had the same memories in mind.

But, hey ... let's look on the bright side (yes, there's a bright side): again, it's just five games in. The Jackets had to deal with one of the worst time off schedules ever for a team at the start of a season, and they still have five points out of a possible ten. And considering their history in October, it could be a Helluva lot worse than that.

Tomorrow? The Penguins in Pittsburgh! I got a feeling this won't be a 7-2 massacre like last season when the Crosby Express rolled into Columbus, but here's hoping the Blue Jackets at least shook off some of that additional rust they built up after a week off.

Game #05: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs

Columbus Blue Jackets (2-1-1)

vs.


Toronto Maple Leafs (3-2-2)


So finally the Blue Jackets get to play a game!

Seriously, who came up with the bright idea that a week break would be a smart scheduling plan at the very start of the season? If you look at the league schedule as a whole leading up to today, you'll see the Blue Jackets are the only team who has played just four games. It would be less of an issue if there was maybe a few teams with just five games under their belts, but in reality every other team has played at least six games since the start of the season.

Hell, why not just let them sit out the rest of October? No, really, I can wait a little longer.

... not.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I'm going to make this capsule short and succinct since I have a few things I need to do today before I even start heading down to the Arena District for the game tonight.

First up, Sergei Fedorov. Not playing. Not feeling ready, and MacLean confirmed this Wednesday on his radio show (and Drew at EoB also mentioned in comments he caught this on the news, too). It doesn't look like he'll play Saturday in Pittsburgh, either. There's a possibility he'll play Monday when the Sharks come to town, but it's getting to a point where we would all be better off just waiting for a definite yes or no to any upcoming game, instead of speculating. Like I mentioned the other day, the injury report has gone from bad, to great, to reserved, back to good, and ... you get the idea. It's been like a yo-yo, to say the least. So, Feds? Come back when you're ready; simple as that.

Then there's Bryan Berard, who only yesterday got a second operation on the back aches and pains that've been plauging him since last season and throughout this season. Time of return? If you wanted to make a positive guess, you'd say sometime in January, going by fantasy report and media report speculations ... but it's still extremely early to go and start making such assumptions.

Either way, looks like the blue line is going to be set for at least a while now. It's really hard to say what you should think of the current defense scheme, when you look at the first four games. In game one? Total doormats that let Leclaire get gunned at with 40+ shots. Two and three? A lower-average amount of shots that kept the Blackhawks and Coyotes at bay. Then the poor game against the Wild last Saturday.

You get the feeling it's going to be a real roller coaster all season.

This is going to be just the second time the Maple Leafs come to Columbus, amazingly. The good news? The last time they came back in 2003, the Blue Jackets won! Overall, however, the Leafs got a 2-1-1-0 record against the Blue Jackets. Then again, it has been about three years since the last game, so it isn't like those sorts of statistics will have much importance, huh?

Scary thought of the moment: going by the statistics, the Maple Leafs currently have the most shots per game in the league with a 37.3 average. So what does the CBJ need to do? Fight back with their hopefully still potent power play. The Maple Leafs ranked dead center at 15th with their penalty kill, meaning it'll be a real hit or miss on if they can get things moving when they have the man-advantage. If they can pour on the PP pressure they've been using to their advantage in three of the last four games, they can really make this a tough game on Toronto.

And with that, I'm out like Trevor Letowski (... laugh! Don't look at me like that!).

This is a post title. It is made of words and witty.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006
After a little dramatic back and forth with Time-Warner, cable service (and my cable modem) was re-connected this morning. If I was a smart person and actually got a standard phone line instead of my phone through the cable modem service, I could have at least gotten on via some sweet, delicious 56kbps goodness. Good thing I also have a Wi-Fi enabled laptop, since it meant I could at least take care of some non-hockey related items of business (see: school) before midnight via the neighbor's wireless router!

So, yeah. What's going on, right? It's the middle of the week and things are about as dead around here in Columbus as the Flyers were last night after the Sabres reminded them how they left the playoffs last season. I am so hating the fact I couldn't catch it on Versus because of the cable situation I had going on.

Other than that, I wanted to mention that along with Eric at Off Wing and James Mirtle, I've also gotten a big hankering to get back on the ice after at least four years without so much as a pick-up game at a local rink. When I was at the University of Missouri for a couple years, it was just about impossible to get to any sort of ice rink. And when you lack a rink, you just can't go play.

So now I'm really chomping at the bit here and trying to at least get back into respectable shape before I go and embarass myself. I've dropped weight at exponential speeds since I started excercising in late August, and another couple dozen pounds and I think I'll feel good enough to get out there and get my ice legs under me again. And since Columbus is brimming with ice rinks both in and around the region, it won't be a task just getting to one for once.

Man, I really am kicking myself for ever leaving Allegheny College now. Even if it was just club hockey, it was awesome.

But, anyway! The Blue Jackets are, by all accounts and reports, practicing to exhaustion with the time they have between last Saturday's demolishing by the Wild in Minnesota, and this Friday's game against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs, who will only be coming to Columbus for the second time in their history.

If the loooong ticket image isn't enough hint, I'll be going and be seated dead center in the upper bowl. As much as I love the vibe and the feel of being in the lower bowl, it's both costly and can be a real pain if you don't get just the right seat (see: middle and several seats away from the glass). That, and the price ... it's like someone's sticking a vacuum in your pocket if you ever try to look for decent seats around there.

The big story right now that is leading up to Friday's game? Will Sergei Fedorov play or not? It probably is not a good sign if Fedorov is still wearing the no contact sweater as late as Tuesday, but maybe I'm looking too much into that. What I do know is that it's been a real game of waffling when it comes to Fedorov's condition since he was first injured. Most people will recall the earlier reports in the start of the season that both Fedorov and Alexander Svitov were recovering at a faster pace than they were expected, which definitely helped fans to hold out hope for a speedier recovery than was first projected.

Now we're in the fourth week since the injury, so we're in that minimal time range for Fedorov's projected return. Fedorov himself is saying that this could turn out to be a game time decision, so all we can do is keep an eye out for any new updates on things. If he starts practicing without the no contact jersey any time today or tomorrow, that'll definitely take a load off my shoulders and help me jump from "wary" to "cautiously optimistic."

Closing up, I just want to throw out that despite the lack of anything positive from the Wild game Saturday, the CBJ still rank 3rd in the PP. On the other hand they now rank about 21st on the PK, in large part because of their giving up two power play goals on eight opportunities that the Wild had. Not pretty. Here's hoping they can start to move that PK up the charts and hopefully keep that PP clicking, especially if Fedorov is back in action and on the point for it.

When you arrive at the gates of Hell, this is what you see ...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

... and now you know why I've delayed any sort of content-filled blog entries for another 24 hours.

Be back tomorrow. Definitely. Maybe. ... hopefully?

(P.S. Thanks to all who also wished my dad a happy birthday!)

Nothing of hockey value in this post today.

Monday, October 16, 2006
Sorry, folks. Nothing from me today. Really, because of the horrible lull that the Blue Jackets are going through in terms of games scheduled for the first few weeks of the season, there's not much to go on.

That, and I have stuff to do today. So instead, I will devote this entry to wishing my dad a happy birthday:


Happy birthday, dad! Don't go working yourself too hard today, alright? You practically work to exhaustion travelling all over the place every day.

Blue Jackets: 0 ... Wild: 5

Saturday, October 14, 2006
I will now sum up my feelings throughout tonight's game through image memes, courtesy of Macrochan (warning: not all images at MC are worksafe, to any of you who go snooping around my favorite image macro site).


End of the first period:
So the first period starts well enough. Back and forth play, Nash gets two different awesome chances to score on the Wild, but both just aren't able to connect. The only real probably is that [expletive] of a neutral zone clogging plan that Jacques Lemaire has a raging hard-on for (then again being a former Devils' fan, I'm not one to talk). Then, somewhere near the latter part of the first period the Wild strike first, Rolston beating Leclaire. Not the best way to wrap up the first period, and it leaves you with a dirty taste in your mouth.


End of the second period:
Who the Hell do you think you are, Zherdev!? Freakin' Wayne Gretzky?! I couldn't keep track of how many times that Zherdev tried to do his one-man coast to coast skating, only to have a Wild player easily flick their stick and knock the puck away from a charging Zherdev before he could so much as get anywhere near the net for a shot. Let's not forget how shoddy the defense was around poor Leclaire. While he certainly had his own share of the blame for tonight's goal-fest by the Wild, at least two of the goals on him were just impossible to deal with, including a 2-on-1 that sent Leclaire, in vain, diving from post to post to make the save ... and not managing to do so.

The only good thing to come out of the second period? I finally got to see Fredrik Norrena in action for the first time as he made his debut. How would I sum up his play style? The word "unique" comes to mind thanks his fearlessness in sprawling, throwing himself around, and using his stick to surprise the opposing players. He stick checked at least 3-4 times in this game.

End of the third period:
Yeah, sure. Okay. Start going for the goon angle and picking fights. Shelly I expected it -- no, hoped for it -- from. But Adam Foote and that double minor? Come on, man. You're the Captain of this team. Regardless of whether or not the Wild's win was in the bag by the time you got hit with that penalty in the latter half of the third period, it was a boneheaded move and just caused a lot of frustration.

Norrena gives up his first goal in the NHL, largely in part because the team was down 5-on-3 at the time it was scored. The rest of the game somewhere around the 5:00 mark or so was spent watching the Wild play keepaway with the puck, and the Jackets maybe getting a few opportunities in the Wild zone just because the Wild didn't really feel like stopping them that late into the game.

So what did we learn here? Well, first and foremost, the Blue Jackets sat around like sad sacks most of the game, letting the Wild manhandle them in several different ways in the second period. Secondly? When up against a legitimate penalty kill, they didn't hold a candle to it. Lastly? While I understand Gallant's desire to try and find something that will click when mixing and changing the lines when down in a hole, there seemed to just be too much shuffling of the deck. It almost, to me, seemed like the more shuffling that was done throughout the second period, the worse it got.

In any event, just how much of this was rust? Look ... "rust", to me, is losing 3-2, or maybe even 4-2, if you're a decent team and all. But this? This was just getting slapped around by the Western Conference's current king of the mountain.

So just how much will this "rust" have an effect on the Jackets when they next play, a near whole week from now on Friday against the Maple Leafs? Guess we'll find out then, huh?

Game #04: Blue Jackets at Wild.

Columbus Blue Jackets (2-0-1)

vs.

Minnesota Wild (4-0-0)


So Vancouver's stumbled a little after a quick start to a 2-2-1 record, Chicago still has an off-season metric ton of negative projections to overcome despite still being 2-1-0, and that win against Phoenix everyone thought was so dominating since it was 5-1? Detroit showed everyone how to
really kill a desert dog via a 9-2 massacre at the Joe on Wednesday.

What does this mean? Forget everything we've seen so far, guys and gals. The Blue Jackets are meeting with a real contender tonight at 8:00 PM EST when they take on the undefeated Minnesota Wild.

Over four games, the Wild have a better power play and a better penalty kill. They've gotten 2 more goals and also given up 2 more goals than the Jackets, but that could all just be a matter of game differential. The Wild are also showing that despite having a defensively minded coach in Jacques Lemaire, they're not going to sit around this season, with a little over half of their roster registering at least one point. Offseason acquition Pavol Demitra leads the team with six points so far on the season (1 goal and 5 assists), so he's a threat that the Jackets will need to keep an eye on.

Injury-wise, the Wild are going to be down Pascal Dup-wheeeeeeee (Dupuis), who is out four to six weeks with a sprained knee. Outside of that their team core is largely healthy and fresh. They've had a day off since their 3-2 shootout win over the Capitals, so they're not going to be in any sort of rusty funk.

The Jackets, meanwhile, haven't played since Monday when they beat the Coyotes 5-1. Truth be told, the opening schedule for this 06-07 is all sorts of crazy and completely disliked by me. One game in about ten days? Why? Though the Jackets haven't played a game since the start of the week, they've been practicing since at least Wednesday.

In comparison to the Wild, even though the Wild's key GF, PP and PK stats outrank the Jackets, their points are spread much more across the whole team with only 7 of 21 players (that have played for the Jackets so far this season) not having anything on the scoresheets. Nash and Vyborny are forging ahead with 6 points apiece, and Duvie Westcott is surprising everyone with 5 points so far on the season.

Then, of course, everyone knows about the strong return of Nikky Zherdev and his two goals in his first game back. So right now the points are spread across a lot of the team, and they're producing as good as they possibly could be this early in the season (anyone who complains about 6 points in 3 games for two players must be a real pain to please, right?).

There are other concerns, though. Dan Fritsche is out with a shoulder injury for at least a couple of games it looks like, but fortunately nothing looks to be too severe. As a result, rookie Gilbert Brule will get another chance to show why he's one of the Calder favorites this season. If he doesn't do anything tonight, I'm going to go out on a limb and say he can start packing for his junior team (or Syracuse) since Sergei Fedorov looks ready to come back the game following this one. What better way to see if Brule is the real deal than a trial by fire against the Western Conference's hottest team right now, right?

News over the week:
Since I wasn't able to keep up to speed with things after a couple day break, let's toss out a few links of interest from across the mainstream media sites, as well as other places. From The Columbus Dispatch we have:

Fritsche lands on injured reserve - As mentioned prior, Fritsche is now on the mend with a shoulder injury that'll keep him out a few games. Brule's being slotted into the middle of the fourth line. I bet Jes is ready to kill MacLean for keeping his two favorite Jackets (Brule and Balastik) from any real ice time back there with Jody Shelley.

In another article on the injury, Sergei Fedorov's condition is touched on as well. I'm sort of torn on what to make of this. The sort of wavering condition on what they say is ligament issues keeping him out bothers me. On the bright side it'll be six days before the next game, which is against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Berard might need more back surgery - Not something you want to read about. Whatever the frack is ailing Berard just won't go away, and the longer it lasts the longer a great addition to an already lively power play is out. The blue line for the most part has been able to keep shot downs with the exception of the first game, and they're holding their own for the most part. But Berard is still a key part in adding some more long-term stability to the defensive corps.

Carter still adjusting to changes on, off ice - I'm not going to go feeding Carter to the wolves without mercy. A lot of things have happened since just before the start of the season, ranging from a nagging foot injury that he's played through, to Nikolai Zherdev returning and forcing some difficult decisions in terms of where Carter now has to play. Having moved between the 2nd line with Modin, and now the 3rd line with Malhotra and Chimera, it's easy to see how it can be hard to really find your comfort zone.

So be patient, fellow Jackets' fans. Give Anson some time, and hope that he'll start finding his legs once he stops being moved around from position to position.

Wrapping things up? Would you be surprised if not one, but two articles were written on the Blue Jackets outside of Columbus? Linda Cohn of ESPN and Larry Wigge of NHL.com both express their optimism on the Jackets and what they are seeing as some real building blocks and progress towards the future, and maybe even this season. Give them a read! It's worth the time to look them over.

Friday night ranting, raving, and questioning the "price" of hockey.

Friday, October 13, 2006
Hey, hey, hey! I'm still alive. I decided that since the Blue Jackets are on a bit of a break this week, that I also should take a day or two off to just kick back and relax.

Not that I was kicking back and relaxing, anyway. Even without this blog to write for, I practically live neck-deep in either class assignments, religiously active exercising, or just plain running around Columbus trying to keep busy with errands.

But you're not here to learn about me. You're here to read some random fan's writing and blogging on a National Hockey League team with a lovable bee mascot, aren't you? So let's get right to that.

... after I take a moment to go off on a little gripe of mine, of course. The gripe? The differential between the price of playing ice hockey, and the other major sports in the United States.

Now, listen. Obviously I'm not going to try and sell you some sort of hooey story where I say the price of equipment for hockey is cheap. Frankly, it's not. You got the pads, the skates, the helmet, the sticks ... it's all a pretty big shock to the wallet when you start off, either as a kid, a teenager, or even as an adult playing in the beer leagues.

But maybe we're looking at this the wrong way. Maybe we shouldn't be trying to compare the price of playing the real game with the other sports and playing those on the field. Instead, perhaps a better comparison of sports price can be used by taking the most basic, simplistic inventory from each sport.

What does a kid need to so much as start learning the most important aspects of hockey? ... no, not ice skates. While skating is certainly one of the key aspects of hockey, it can come later on. No, to me, what you need to get your kid is a street hockey stick and a street hockey ball. So I took a stroll over to Amazon.com, and this is what I saw for the prices on those sorts of things:

Shield® Hockey Stick - 53" (EA): $12.99
SHIELD HOTBALL - HOCKEY BALL: $2.45

Amazing! For just a Thomas Jeffson, an Alexander Hamilton, and change from under my couch cushions (that's $15 and change for the folks up North), I can have a stick and the ball that is needed to start learning the basics of stickhandling!? I don't believe it!

Dripping sarcasm aside, let's compare this to some of the pre-requisite items needed to so much as start playing the other sports in the U.S. when you're just a kid:

Spalding 63-249 Spalding NBA Street Basketball: $12.98
Keep in mind that not everyone has a basketball hoop on their garage, either ... let alone a garage in this day and age.

Wilson TDS Composite High School Game Ball Football: $24.44
You know, I never realized that standard issue footballs good for play use were that expensive. Seems a bit excessive.

Wilson A360 Series 14 in Baseball Glove: $29.95
Worth R9S RIF Baseball: $7.14
Ouch, man. I know, the glove is a little on the pricy side, but remember that it has to last. As for the ball, anything below that was tee-ball grade, or of softball quality.

Now, I'm sure there are people rolling their eyes out there, saying this is about as skewed and as biased a comparison as all get out. I won't deny it, either. Like I said previously, if we were to compare full blown equipment for playing in actual games of each sports, hockey is doomed from the start.

But that is why it's worth looking at the bare essentials. Furthermore, you always hear people talk about how "All you need is a ball and a friend for basketball/football/baseball", so why can't we compare just a stick and a ball/puck to that?

Besides, if you're strapped for cash and don't think you can afford a net to practice shooting into, I hear trash cans will make due.

Tecmo Super Bowl meets the 2005 NFL Playoffs!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Being one of the least interested people in football, it normally takes a lot to impress me when it comes to the sport or any sort of media that involves it.

This is one of those perfect examples of how to get my attention. A rendition of last year's playoff game against the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos, with a Tecmo Super Bowl twist:



Take note, NFL: this is how you'll get total video game losers like me to tune in to a game. Simply awesome stuff right here.

Putting things into perspective.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Okay, so let's put the most insane spin on the current Blue Jackets predicament, just for fun. Trust me, you'll laugh.

-The Blue Jackets are 1st in the Central by 3 points, and 2nd in the West (by the good graces of seeding by division leaders).

-The Blue Jackets have the 4th best power play, and the most goals on the power play (8) in the league. They also rank a not-too-shabby 16th in the penalty kill.

-They have the most goals, tied with Chicago and Buffalo with 12 goals.

-Pascal Leclaire has a .911 Sv.% and 2.67 GAA.

-Three Blue Jackets are in the top ten for points, Nash and Vyborny having 6 and Duvie Westcott having 5.

So, hey! Let's have a party, right!?


But, no. Actually, we as Blue Jackets fans shouldn't be partying hard. We should be optimistic, but patient. So let's tone down the desire to jump out of our seats and start clamoring for the Stanley Cup.


That's better. A little too dull, but it'll have to do.

In any event, let's put things into perspective. Even with Nikolai Zherdev's return, the lamp lighting that it seems a lot of players are doing, the jaw-dropping power play cooked up by Gary Agnew, and the various other positives that we should be heralding, the Blue Jackets are only three games in to the season!

It's also fair to remember who the team's opponents have been so far. The Blue Jackets have faced one team which has been projected between lower rung playoff spot, or just outside the playoffs (Canucks), one team that only Scott Burnside seems to think may pull off a shocking run deep into the playoffs if they make it (Coyotes), and one team that, with the exception of their stellar pre-season and an applaud-worthy win over the Nashville Predators on their opening night, are still considered one of the worst teams around the league (Blackhawks).

Of course Blue Jackets fans are chomping at the bit to grab on to any signs of light after five seasons of woe and misery at the bottom of the NHL heap. We're sick of being pessimistic about each season, and curling up in a hole whenever we hear one of our top players has been injured before the season even began.

But all this excitement has to be tempered. It has to be put in check a little bit, considering we're not even a full week into the season and have yet to play a team that people are projecting to make the playoffs. This Saturday, when the Blue Jackets make the trip to Minnesota to meet the Wild at the X-Cel Center, that'll probably be the team's first real test against a team that people like. And if that isn't enough, two of the last three games this month for the Blue Jackets are against dominant teams, the San Jose Sharks and New Jersey Devils respectively.

I'm not saying sit on your hands and start second-guessing when you should start considering the team the "real deal" or anything. But don't let a strong start out of the gate blind you to what is going to be a very uphill battle from start to finish.

Me? I'll be waiting until after the 10th game of the season -- November 1st at home against the Avalanche -- before I start settling in for however the season is looking. Speaking of which, Army of the Ohio will be on hiatus between November 2nd to November 10th while I'm down in North Carolina to see some longtime friends and girlfriend for vacation after my second to last set of classes wraps up at the end of this month. So just throwing that out there in advance. I'm sure End of the Bench will be more than happy to pick up the slack while I'm gone. :D

Blue Jackets: 5 ... Coyotes: 1

Monday, October 09, 2006
Every day should be Columbus Day!

What can you say after a game like that, you know? There were so many positives from this game that it's hard to keep track of what was the best thing that happened tonight.

Actually, no. The best thing? Nikolai Zherdev scoring on his first shift of the game on the power play, and then getting another goal after a deflection off of his skate later in the game. I have a feeling that anyone who was booing his return in Columbus is probably reconsidering their position on Zherdev now. And believe me, on opening night when his name was announced as a healthy scratch over the loudspeakers, there was enough boos amidst the cheers that you could tell there was plenty of bitterness left over from the summer's contract issues.

Pascal Leclaire was able to come back to opening night form as well, stopping 23 of 24 shots. The defense around him also tightened up much more compared to the previous two games, with Rusty Klesla's return definitely helping out in that department.

The power play was once again on target, and I'm ready to call Gary Agnew a magnificant bastard for having such an apparently immediate impact on how the team goes about using their man-advantage time. With tonight's 3-of-12 PP results, they're now 8-for-25, which is more than modest. And they still outnumber their even strength goals 8 to 4.

Points were spread around the whole team tonight. Let's see ... Nasher had a goal and two assists, and Duvie Westcott had the same sort of points. Anson Carter got his first goal as a Blue Jacket on a backhanded shot which surprised Coyotes' Ed Jovanowski and deflected into the net off of his stick or skate. Hartigan and Malhotra each had an assist, and David Vyborny cashed in with three assists of his own.

A couple notes of interest that played out before and during the game ...

-The Blue Jackets played in their alternate jerseys for the first time tonight. You got to love those jerseys. They're just so much more stylish and appealing than the regular home jerseys.

-So it was not Fritsche, nor was it Hartigan, or even Svitov or Balastik who got scratched tonight! It was, of all people, rookie Gilbert Brule. I want to say that I was blindsided by that decision and that I am surprised, but then you look at his low quality pre-season and slow start in the first two games of the regular season, and you see why he was probably sitting in the press box tonight and not on the bench.

-Brule probably won't be waiting long to come back to the roster, though. Dan Fritsche had to leave the game sometime in the first period and never came back. By all accounts the injury was to his shoulder (yeah, there's a surprise), and there's no real confirmation on the severity of the injury. Then again considering he left in the first and never returned, that's probably not a good sign in the least.

-After three games in four nights, the Jackets get a nice, week-long break before they head all the way to Minnesota this Saturday. Here's hoping they don't start to get a little rust on them from the small hiatus between tonight and Saturday. You never know.

Ian O'Connor: kindly shut up.

I have two computers: a laptop that I use in the living room and when I'm out, and then my tank of a desktop that has held through thick and thin since November of 2002. On my desktop, I still have MSN.com as my homepage when opening up my browser (even though it's now Firefox), just out of convenience for seeing daily headlines. This evening, though, I was welcomed to a rather annoying treat:



Behind that link on MSN.com you'll find an editorial by sports columnist Ian O'Connor, who apparently is a "special contributor" to FOX Sport's. Apparently he's also won an award for his writing.

I'm going to assume that the Razzie Awards have started a new award for writers outside of movies and films. But that's neither here nor there.

In his wonderful little editorial, we're welcome to the usual cruft of "No one in the United States cares about hockey", "This is why no one cares about hockey", "Hockey has horrible ratings", "Even [insert obscure sport/television programming] outrates hockey", and so on and so forth.

In short? It is the exact same article we've all seen several dozen times to the tenth power.

Now normally this wouldn't bother me. I'd normally expect to see this article somewhere in the middle of some list of headlines, I'd see it and roll my eyes and move on. Whatever, right? It's one out of a thousand articles run each year about how the NHL is pathetic, woe is the league, woe is the fans, game over.

But, no. It's the fact that this is one of MSN.com's top headlines today. That it's like they just had to take the most ad nauseum article by some hack of a writer who pretty much said things that we heard mid-way through last season, at the end of the last season, during the offseason, and once again at the start of this season.

And I'm sick of it. I'm sick of smiling and nodding and taking the same damn article over and over with a grain of salt. Most of all, I'm sick of feeling like I should just take in stride the fact that every week, there's always some new article churned out that just loves to rub salt into the wounds of hockey fans in the United States.

So this is a message just for you, Ian O'Connor. I know you probably won't see it, and I really don't care. But I do this for my own self-satisfaction:

NEWS FLASH: YOU HAVE BEATEN THE DEADEST OF THE DEAD HORSES IN ALL OF DEAD HORSES! CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR PROWESS AT BEATING HORSES SO DEAD THAT THEY MAKE THE CORPSE OF GENERAL ULYSSES S. GRANT LOOK FRESH! BE PROUD OF YOUR DEAD HORSE BEATING SKILLS!

With that out of the way, I have a Blue Jackets game to get back to watching. I hope everyone else is enjoying their Monday night.

Game #03: Blue Jackets vs. Coyotes.

Columbus Blue Jackets (1-0-1)

vs.

Phoenix Coyotes (1-1-0)


After a topsy turvy weekend which had the Blue Jackets give up a lead and lose in overtime to the Vancouver Canucks at home, then storm back from being down 2-0 and hold on to win 5-4 against the Chicago Blackhawks the very next night in Chicago, it's time to see if the team can handle a visit from Wayne Gretzky's desert dogs
tonight.

The most important highlights of tonight's game before it even begins? This will be the return of Nikolai Zherdev now that he's been given the green light for tonight, as well as the return of Rusty Klesla after he was suspended the first two regular season games for a questionable hit on Blackhawks' player Turomo Ruutu.

The question of the weekend has been who ends up sitting out with these two returning. Originally I'd judged that Alex Svitov or Mark Hartigan may become the healthy scratch for tonight, but double backed because of the fact that they're both centermen and so they're not compatible with being swapped out for Zherdev. That leaves Zherdev shuffling around the likes of Dan Fritsche, Jaroslav Balastik, or Anson Carter, as reported by Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch.

Consider each of those scenarios. Either way, Fritsche or Balastik look to be the odd men out depending on where Zherdev goes. I think what I am concerned about is the recent chemistry between Manny Malhotra, Jason Chimera, and Fritsche being put in jeopardy. Carter moving down to the third line, or Zherdev simply starting off at that line means that there'll be some time spent getting used to the setup between players.

There's a good chance that Zherdev may not even stick with just one line, depending on how things go tonight. Gallant's not scared of doing some shuffling of the lines, even when the team is ahead in a game, just to see how certain combinations will work. And with it being so early in the season, there's ample leeway to do so without too much concern.

In the end, I'm leaning towards guessing that Balastik is probably going to be sitting this one out. I get the feeling that the other night's show of cycling skill by Fritsche (along with Chimera and Malhotra in the final minutes of the Blackhawks game) is probably fresh in Gallant's mind. That, and although Fritsche and Balastik have one point apiece, Fritsche holds the advantage in +/-, breaking even at 0 while Balastik is a -2, meaning there may be some concern about his quality of effort in the defensive zone.

Meanwhile, while Rusty Klesla is also coming back, I'm not even going to try and take a stab in the dark at which defenseman sits out this game. The defense is so easily interchangeable once you get past the top line that it's really just a matter of compatability and who is hot and who is not at the time.

I'm going to wrap things up here, though. Man, I'm feeling totally drained and it's not even three o'clock in the afternoon! So apologies for not giving a little overview about the Coyotes and what to expect from them. Maybe if I snap out of this uber-grogginess I'll slide something extra up in an edit.

Go Jackets!

Sunday night babbling.

Sunday, October 08, 2006
In no particular order, a few things of interest that are picking at my mind on a lazy, one-game Sunday night ...

-Fun little fact, Blue Jackets' fans: regardless of whether the CBJ win, lose, or OTL against the Phoenix Coyotes tomorrow night, they're going to be 1st in the Central Division until at least Wednesday night, when the Coyotes go to Detroit.

Savour it while you can! Either that or start buying your playoff tickets in advance.

Haha ... ha ... haaa ... yeah, I crack myself up. I bet I crack up Red Wings' fans even more, too.

-Are there really no active Phoenix Coyotes or Chicago Blackhawks bloggers out there at all? All I was able to find was two blogs from that Most Valuable Network website, and they weren't exactly active blog material. The Coyotes one is condemned because the owner has no more time for it, and the Blackhawks one has seven entries in all between January and now. People, if anyone out there knows of any blogs for these teams, let me know so I can tack them on to the blogroll. The Coyotes I'm in no real rush to find one for, however lacking blogs for a division rival seems sort of sad.

-I wanted to mention this earlier in the week, but had no way to prove it. But then I saw that Alanah over at VCOE stumbled across a YouTube clip of Center Ice's new standby music and graphic, courtesy of her finding it via The Ice Block, and just had to mention it and show off the small clip. Whoever works at Sports InDemand must have one twisted sense of humor.



"So ... hey, baby. Is that a bag of pucks in your pocket? Or are you just happy to see me?"

-Now that Nikolai Zherdev is back in Columbus and it's presumed he'll be in the line-up tomorrow night against Phoenix, who gets scratched out of the line-up? All that comes to mind are either Alex Svitov or Mark Hartigan, but how does that work considering they're both more of the center-position quality while Zherdev is a right winger? It's a bit of a curious conundrum that needs some solving. But with less than 24 hours before the game, there's most likely going to be something out of The Columbus Dispatch or the CBJ website itself concerning any scratches or players being assigned to Syracuse to make room for him.

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"Rick" Roll
Created by Skraut

About Me


Name: Michael
Home: San Tan Valley, Arizona, United States
About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
See my complete profile

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