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Blue Jackets Links

Rock out like it's 1981.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Nothing says professional image doctoring like taking AC/DC's For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)'s album cover picture, and altering it in a matter of seconds in Photoshop. Quite fitting that it has a cannon as the picture, don't you think?

Apologies for the delay in getting the link up, but now every one knows where to go to leave their suggestions for the cannon's name! I doubt I need to remind everyone that this is simply for posterity's purpose, and the Blue Jackets will not be naming their cannon anything at all, to my knowledge.

Doesn't mean we can't have fun, though, right? Have at it, Blue Jackets' fans! Just click the picture at the top left-hand corner and leave your suggestions! The poll with the various suggestions will go up this coming Sunday.

And now, a little music:

Mmm ... shark fin soup.

Monday, October 29, 2007
Oh, gee, thanks a lot, Minnesota. I thought expansion brothers were supposed to look out for one another! But, no, you went and let Colorado beat you, and bump us down to 5th in the West as a result. Thanks so much. Seriously.

... okay, all kidding aside, let's get to Saturday's game, since I feel at least mildly refreshed after napping the afternoon away. I swear, that music quiz took more out of me than I thought it would.

Sunday's game was ... well, it was something special.

-First game of the season where the Jackets won after being behind during the course of the game. Given, they were only behind for all of about a minute and a half, but it's all about the fact that they pushed harder than ever when they realized that if they didn't act quickly, they could very well get dragged into a proverbial quagmire. And seeing how rough that game was, they really could have been pulled into a sluggish game.

-First win for Pascal Leclaire where he didn't get a shutout, as well as his first win when he started the previous game (which he also won). Although the shot count was quite low, 18 to 17 in favor of Columbus, he still made some key saves that ensured that the Jackets' would stay in the game. Beyond that, this was all about getting past mental blocks. He had yet to put together two solid, back-to-back games ... and he had yet to win without keeping the opposing team off the score sheet. Congratulations, Pazzy ... like the guys at Puck Rakers have been saying, it'll be a bloody travesty if you don't get one of the Stars of the Month from the NHL.

-The ice was just plain bad. Via a connection or two, I heard that one of the ice technicians has recently left to work for the New Jersey Devils, who played their first home game at The Prudential Center on Saturday. It looks like he left after the home game against the Blues on Thursday, no less. So don't hold it against the rest of the crew, who probably had to carry the extra workload on their own shoulders until they find someone new to take over this guy's position. There's a week before the next home game, so there's time to check things out ice-wise and also find someone new.

-The Sharks were chippy, choppy, and at times dirty. I don't deny that the Blue Jackets' play a rough and tumble style of game, especially now with Ken Hitchcock ingraining that in to the team mentality, but the Sharks took it beyond a hard-hitting game with high sticks to both David Vyborny (which was completely ignored or unnoticed by the referees, despite the blood) and Nikolai Zherdev. There was more than one questionable hit of players in to the boards beyond the one that Steve Bernier was called for in the 3rd period. And Jeremy Roenick's banging around of Leclaire after he was knocked in to the crease at the end of the game was bush league. I'm sorry you couldn't get your two goals against the "weak" Blue Jackets, but suck it up.

In other news, as was first reported in a post today by Tom Reed at Puck Rakers, both Duvie Westcott and Fredrik Modin are back in practice and depending on how well they do, could be in the lineup against Los Angeles on Wednesday, when the team tangos with the Kings at the Staples Center. I have to admit, the Nash-Peca-Modin line intrigues me. Two big guys that can cause tons of havoc in front of the net can be pretty brutal, if done right. I wonder if Mike Peca will feel any sorts of height inferiority complex standing next to those two (I kid, I kid).

There's also the fact that Nash and Modin are both considered left wingers. And besides that line, there was also a line with Sergei Fedorov, Gilbert Brule, and Jared Boll. To tell you the truth, that one confuses me more than anything, since both Brule and Fedorov are centers. And Boll, even though he has been a force to be reckoned with on the ice in terms of drawing penalties and just plain pest-ing it up, still just has two points (both goals) on the season so far. I'll wait to pass judgment, however, until I see such a line in action (if it does, indeed, stay intact for Wednesday's game).

Attendance was 400 peoples (heh ... peoples) more than Thursday's game against St. Louis, so the Jackets' are starting to draw fans back little by little. But they need to continue to play the way they have been playing. A long week away from home with two late games on the west coast could also hurt their attempts to stay within the mentality of Columbus and Ohio sports fans who are pre-occupied with the Buckeyes, and possibly a better-than-average Cleveland Browns team. And with the NBA season just around the corner, some doofus named "King James" who reigns in Cleveland might pull some attention away from the Jackets, too.

Now, I have some laundry to take care of.

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Setting up the goaltender guidelines.

Saturday, October 27, 2007
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After Pascal Leclaire got his fourth shutout on Thursday against St. Louis, and Fredrik Norrena got his first win of the season in a brutal, high-scoring game against Chicago on Tuesday, I concluded that there are now a couple sets of rules instead of just the "We win if we get a shutout/we lose if we don't." Here's how things go, nine games in:

If Fredrik Norrena is in net:
-The Blue Jackets will win in a wild score-fest.
-The Blue Jackets will lose in a nail-biter, one-goal game/SO loss/OT loss.

If Pascal Leclaire is in net:
-The Blue Jackets will win via a shutout.
-The Blue Jackets will lose ... badly.

As always, these rules are subject to change. Suffice it to say, the one impediment that Leclaire has left to overcome is his current inability to record consecutive wins when he is in net, right after a game he won. And this is a big impediment at that, if the Jackets want to push for something more than .500 hockey. And just from watching them, they really believe they're better than just .500 hockey.

I'm going to presume that Leclaire will start tonight when the Jackets' welcome the San Jose Sharks to Nationwide, and win or lose, Norrena will get the call when the team flies out to Los Angeles for a game with the Kings on Wednesday. Of course, considering how my presumptions usually go, you don't want to bet on that statement.

Lost in the beastly play of not only Leclaire, but Rick Nash's 5-game goal scoring streak (with 9 points in all during that same period), one other player has been consistently producing for the Jackets the past two games as well, notching 3 goals and 1 assist. No, it's not Nikolai Zherdev, or even Mike Peca. It's actually Jackets' centerman Jiri Notovny, who I've admittedly -- and regrettably -- overlooked.

I admit, it's hard to say much about the guy, but in a sense, that's a good thing. He just seems to ... be there, whenever he tallies a point. He only seemed to appear from the very mist he's been concealed in when, before a befuddled Nationwide crowd on Thursday, he was given an automatic goal on what would have normally been a penalty shot. This happened due to the fact that he was in on a breakaway in the opposing zone while the Blues had an empty net, only to be hooked from behind enough to not be able to toss the puck home.

Even I had to take a second to figure out what was going on. Having never before seen a goal awarded in such a way before, but knowing the rule existed, I wasn't sure if he'd just be given the tally, or if he actually had to go through the process of an actual penalty shot on an empty net, and just flip it in. I got to admit, that would've been hilarious if he did have to do that. Well, until he ended up missing the gaping net, a la Dallas/Edmonton from last year. Not that he would!

Speaking of the crowds at Nationwide, they're still regrettably sparse. Thursday's crowd was a couple hundred short of 13,000 ... that extra 1,000 or so fans compared to the previous two home games must be dejected Cleveland Indians' fans. But, you know what? That's okay. Really. The team needs to show that this good start to the season isn't just some fluke. And while I don't want to jinx it, even if they end up blowing up in the final two games of the month, they'll still finish at .500 for the month of October, which would be their best opening month in team history.

Three things I want to see tonight:
-The Chimera/Malhotra/Fritsche line getting a point, after all that hard work they put in Thursday.
-David Vyborny hopefully continuing to shake off whatever was ailing him at the start. He has a three-game point streak going (3 assists), and he needs to just keep on chugging along.
-The Jackets' pouring it on hard in the beginning. The Sharks are wounded, and pissed from last night's bludgeoning at the hands of Detroit. I could tell that much from the snippets I watched on Center Ice, especially seeing Joe Thornton lashing out at times.

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Oh, my cannon has a first name, it's ... wait, it doesn't?!

Thursday, October 25, 2007
So. The cannon. It's a nice cannon, isn't it?

You bet your sweet backside it is. There's just one problem ...

It's still just "The Cannon." And frankly, if you're like me -- someone who likes to name different things they own, such as their computer or their goalie sticks or whatnot -- you feel the desire to give this beautiful, 1,800 lbs. a fitting name.

However someone like me just isn't good at giving names to things! And frankly, considering that ol' "The Cannon" is not just mine, but every Blue Jackets fan's cannon, it's only fitting that the name is something that every one can agree on, or at least come to some sort of consensus about, be it through recommending various names, or even picking several names and then running a poll for what is liked best.

So here is my idea, Blue Jackets' fans. Comment on this post, and come up with the very best names that you can think of. Sometime this weekend I'll put up a link in the top left corner, where that old NHL Draft link is, that'll go directly to this post. And from there, I'll give it about a week to see what people come up with.

At the end of that week, I'll go over the various suggestions with several other Blue Jackets' bloggers and fans -- yes, Drew, Tyler, Truth, Sarah, the rest of you CBJ bloggers, and possibly even you two guys at Puck Rakers, are being conscripted to help whether you like it or not! -- and pick the 5 or 10 best names to put in a poll that'll go for another week. And at the end of it, we'll hopefully have ourselves a name for our wonderful, "authentic replica" 1857 Napoleon.

Spread the word, folks! Make sure that as many names are suggested!

Fragile! THIS SIDE UP ^

Courtesy of James Mirtle, and via the Boston Herald, we have this little tidbit of information to chew on this early afternoon:

"According to sources in the B’s dressing room, Reebok has been unable to correct problems with the new jerseys introduced this season across the NHL and will replace them at the company’s expense with new uniforms made of the old materials."

Talk about shameful. What happened to the glorified talk about how the jerseys would make players 8% faster? Or how they would wick away all that excess sweat?

While conversing with a friend of mine about a month ago, the topic of why is sweat building up in player's shirts -- as well as other pieces of clothing/equipment -- came up. And really, while the jerseys might be all sorts of technologically advanced and be the next best thing to sliced bread, players are still wearing the same, sweat-gathering undershirts and padding that they've always worn. Reebok must not have factored in such a thing, which goes to show how far ahead they seemed to be thinking. Changing hockey jersey material isn't as simple as changing the material for an NBA player's jersey or MLB player's uniform; those athletes don't need to worry as much about whatever they have under/around their jerseys/uniforms as much as a hockey player, who deals with elbow pads, leg pads, hockey pants, gloves, and skates.

And of course, there's still that issue about the jerseys easily turning in to shredded ribbons with just a good, hard yank during a fight between two enforcers. While I certainly believe it when players say that the material is flimsier than the original jersey material, it does surprise me when I feel the different material with my hands. I thought the EDGE seemed sturdier, just based off of the fact that it was stretchier, thus capable to handle more stress to pull. But then again, I'm not an NHL hockey player.

Still, this makes me wonder: will RBK have to do anything about jerseys that are currently in stores, considering that ... well, frankly, the "EDGE System" is being done away with (whether it's a temporary or permanent setback is debatable)? And what about the other 29 teams in the NHL? Are the Bruins the only one clamoring for replacement jerseys with the old material? Or will the other teams also be given the option to ask RBK to make them new jerseys with the old material? All out of RBK's pocket, at that.

Edit (2:06 PM ET): Uni Watch adds to the intrigue behind this story, commenting on the jersey issue after talking with a spokesperson from the NHL:

"Just spoke with an NHL spokesperson, who told me that the Boston Herald report is incorrect. As it was explained to me, Reebok has informed each team that players who have “moisture issues” with the new jerseys (i.e., lots of water ending up in their gloves and/or skates) will be given the option to have the option to wear a jersey with a new front panel made of a different high-tech material. The spokesperson maintained that there was no league-wide move to scrap the new jerseys, nor was there any move back to “old materials.”"

Well that's certainly interesting. Grabbed from Mirtle, Eric Duhatschek from the Globe & Mail gives us a bit more information on the material/fabric change:

“There are certain panels on the front of the jersey which are being replaced with a performance fabric, an air-knit fabric,” said Mansur. “They are being given to the players who are requesting them. There is no going back to the old jerseys, no. It’s just the use of an alternate (fabric) to resolve specific issues.”"

Well, give Reebok and the NHL credit for practically coming out, guns blazing, before this bit of news simmered and stewed any longer than it had.


Epiphanies abound!

Monday, October 22, 2007
In lieu of Sunday's epiphany, I had another one just this morning, after sleeping off the hangover which was a 4-1 loss to a sub-par Vancouver Canucks team:

If you do not shut the other team out, you will lose.

Now, whether or not this rule applies to other teams in the NHL doesn't matter. What does matter is that seven games in to the season, this rule -- as well as last night's "shutout = win" rule -- is valid as it pertains to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Setting aside everything and anything that I've already read from either The Dispatch or other bloggers about Sunday's game, here's what I thought stood out to me the most:

-Curtis Sanford is not God, no matter how much praise people in Vancouver might give him for turning away 35 of 36 shots. If I had a video of last night's game in full to dissect, I'd probably only see maybe a handful of those shots come from anywhere that was not the blue line, or the general area of the outer offensive perimeter.

Right now, the only player that seems to be ready to crash the net and bang around is Rick Nash, who had last night's lone goal on that very sort of play on a 5-on-3 opportunity. Other than that, you'll only see flashes of other players daring to run interference between a few opposing players and the goalie. And more often than not, such as on goals from Jan Hejda against Dallas and Mike Peca against Buffalo, they'll only go in to that 'red zone' if the puck is free after a rebound, or after someone else caused a ruckus in front of the net.

-Conversely, Pascal Leclaire is also not God. Like a friend of mine said as we were talking after the game, expect to see him have some streaky highs and lows this season. Even though he has three shutouts already after just five games, he shouldn't be held to that standard of play all season long ... and frankly, to do so would be folly. He's still young by goaltender standards, and is going to go from brilliant to bomb in a matter of moments every so often.

I just wish it hadn't been on the very first shot against him last night.

-I lied; I'm going to touch on something I did read. Even though in The Dispatch there seems to be this impression that the Blue Jackets controlled most of the play -- and admittedly, it's hard to argue that when they held the Canucks to a big, fat goose egg when it came to shots in the 2nd period -- I simply didn't see it. Sure, they might have had possession of the puck more often, but that didn't do them much of anything when they got in to the Canucks' zone. The Canucks, for the most part, seemed actually quite calm when in their own zone, which led to the issue of no net crashing, no ruckus stirring, and nothing but slapshots from other zip codes that Sanford could easily brush aside.

-The penalty kill is no longer perfect at home. It was fun while it lasted, though.

-I really feel no desire to single out anyone who I haven't already singled out for good or bad play. Suffice it to say, it was hard to even stay interested in this match. And that's saying a lot, considering I gleefully followed the Devils during their glory years, when the neutral zone trap was at its best (or worst, depending on your opinion of it).

Tuesday the Jackets face the stronger, faster, better, younger, better coached, and better managed Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago. Despite Rocky Wirtz's recent declaration that he'll have the Blackhawks on Comcast SportsNet as soon as humanly possible (and seriously, the guy deserves praise for such a quick change from his daddy's -- recently departed Bill Wirtz -- opinion of television coverage), this particular game won't be on television anywhere. FSN Ohio isn't sending ol' Rimer and Gare on the road for this one, so neither FSN nor a feed via Center Ice will give you the Jackets on your television.

As a result, I'm spending tomorrow studying and tinkering on my Music mid-term project!

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Canucks visit Columbus!

Sunday, October 21, 2007
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I had an epiphany sometime Saturday, after getting home late in the evening.

If you shut out the other team, you win.

Obviously, the poor hockey fans who sat through last night's Rangers/Bruins tilt will disagree, since both of their goalies technically did get shutouts. But, still!

Anyway, let's reflect on that win against Buffalo on Saturday. How about that Pascal Leclaire, eh? Although he was largely untested by a frustrated Sabres team that was kept well in check, he made the saves he had to, earning his third shutout to lead the league. He is 2nd in the league in both Goals Against Average and Save Percentage, only behind Tim Thomas of Boston. He also ranks first in's largely pointless but still interesting Three Stars of the Night, the only goalie in the Top 10 besides Philly's Martin Biron.

Now the question is, can Leclaire put up back-to-back strong showings? Leclaire will get the start tonight, as reported by The Columbus Dispatch this morning. The last time he played in a game without Fredrik Norrena playing one between his starts, he was manhandled by an Avalanche team 5-1 in Colorado, though it's worth pointing out that the Avs are one of just four teams in all who have yet to lose at home (and one of three that have played at least four games at home).

Other notables from the Sabres game are Michael Peca, who after two games centering Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev, got his first two points of the season (1 goal, 1 assist). Nash now has three multi-point games on the season, and still leads the team in points with 4 goals and 4 assists. Zherdev, meanwhile, finally got his first goal of the season on an empty-netter. But regardless of the fact that it was on an open net, he deserved it for all the hard work he's been putting out. Seemingly returning from the brink after a weak pre-season, Z is playing an equally well-rounded game as Nash is in many ways.

The Blue Jackets have also not allowed any power play goals in any of their games, with the exception of the previously mentioned Avalanche game. Ranking 1st in the league, they're a total 30 of 32 on penalty kill opportunities. Give full credit to Ken Hitchcock, as well as assistant coach Gord Murphy for implementing such an efficient penalty kill. I know last season I just about had the firing squad ready for Murphy, after a particular Canadian road swing brought out the very worst in last season's penalty kill. But it looks like, from an outside perspective, he's learning a lot from the defensive-minded Hitchcock, as evidenced by the team's strong PK play.

As for Vancouver, Aaron Portzline has a great article up on Canucks' goalie Roberto Luongo, and I was quite interested in the part of the article where Jackets' goaltending coach Clint Malarchuk talks about his time working with Luongo, when they were both a part of the Florida Panthers' organization.

The Canucks are coming off a tough 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, in which Luongo let in three goals in a little over a six minutes in the 2nd period. While Luongo might be reeling at the moment with a couple of rough losses to the Kings, and a similar 4-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks earlier last week, he still has vexed the Jackets' in many ways.

This is a good opportunity for the Jackets to show they can win two in a row for the first time this season, and do it against a goalie who has frustrated them greatly in the past.

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Basketball called on account of ice ... or something close to it.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

WORCESTER, Mass. -- The NBA preseason game between the New Jersey Nets and Boston Celtics was canceled after one half Friday night because of damp court conditions at the DCU Center.

Boston led 36-33 at halftime when the game was called because of condensation forming from ice beneath the floor. The 25-year-old city-owned facility is home to the AHL's Worcester Sharks, an affiliate of the San Jose Sharks.

Read more ...

If I was a superstitious man, I'd say this was a premonition of things to come as the NHL finally overtakes the (lame) NBA in the sporting world.

Sadly, it's not. But I'll still smugly chuckle at the misfortune of basketball players. Not the risk of injury part, however ... that's definitely not funny.

Great googly moogly!

Friday, October 19, 2007
It's late, and I am sooo tired. And honestly, I am shocked -- shocked! -- at tonight's results, having been able to catch a good amount of tonight's game on the television at the Dispatch Ice Haus, even as I made sure my cousin didn't oogle the Junior Blue Jackets players too much.

So, keeping that in mind, here's a short version of how I feel about tonight's game:

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A longer version may come tomorrow, or packaged in with the pre-game for Sunday's game against Vancouver.

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We <3 Buffalo.

Thursday, October 18, 2007
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Considering it's the Sabres that the Blue Jackets are playing tomorrow night, I feel almost obligated to write a pre-game, much to my chagrin. Don't get me wrong, if I wasn't so busy strangling myself over my mid-term test results and getting ready for a long day of classes and other things tomorrow, I'd be all over this like Paris Hilton at a photo shoot.

That, and I'm once more going to miss a majority of the game, much like I missed the majority of the game against the Avalanche. I promised my cousin that I'd take her to the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets' home opener, without actually thinking about the fact that it conflicted with the Jackets/Sabres game. I'm sure I'll be able to catch some of it on the televisions at the Dispatch Ice Haus, but we'll see how it goes.

In any event, what should we expect from tomorrow's game? Well, the Sabres are currently moving along with a three game winning streak, after being thrashed by the New York Islanders in their first two games of the season. Given, the wins were against an 0-6 Thrashers team (now 1-6 as I type this), a Capitals team that'll be 3-3 after tonight, and a pretty 'meh' Toronto team who also sits at 3-3 at the moment. Not to take away from their wins, or anything. Just keeping things in perspective for those ever-so-cheery Sabres fans (I mock you because I love you).

Ryan Miller, the Sabres' goalie, has also been pretty 'meh', just going off of his .887 save percentage. But then again, considering the Sabres' -- prior to factoring in tonight's games -- lead the league in most goals for, he doesn't exactly have to be that good. I guess the loss of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere isn't hurting them too much; not yet, at least.

On the Jackets' side, well, I really think it's a coin flip on who will start in net tomorrow night. Although Pascal Leclaire did have the two shutouts to start the season off, the 5-1 loss to Colorado was all kinds of ugly, regardless of how much or how little he was responsible for letting five goals in. Fredrik Norrena has so far had one average outing, and one pretty good outing, but both of them have resulted in losses (one of them an SOL, mind you). So I'm not going to make any predictions ... they never go the way I think they'll go, anyway.

Fredrik Modin will continue to stay out, as he'll be scratched for at least another week due to his slight groin tear, as reported on by the Dispatch Boys at Puck Rakers. I don't think there's a snowball's chance in something hot that Jody Shelley suits up for the game against Buffalo, even if it's a good presumption that it's going to be a hard-hitting affair, especially after last year's wild tilt, coupled with the two pre-season games these two teams had. So once again, expect Curtis Glencross to get a chance to play.

Something I'd like to see -- or at least read about if I can't see much of the game -- tomorrow night? More of a presence from David Vyborny. I have faith that he'll begin to pick things up at some point. Also, let's see if Jared Boll can't get another point ... he's actually come close a few times since his goal against Phoenix, and I just have a good feeling that if he keeps up this style of play, something is bound to happen.

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These (Texas-sized) boots were made for kicking ...

Well, then. If that wasn't a kick to the you-know-whats ...

... five games in, and the top concern I have is the Jackets' lack of a killer instinct in the two close games they've played in so far. While the 4-0 drubbing of the Ducks, and the 3-0 win over the Coyotes were foregone conclusions by the time that the 3rd period had rolled around, the Jackets seem to have some sort of issue with delivering the final blow, or at the very least keeping cool under pressure, when they either have the lead in the 3rd, or take the lead at some point during the final period.

I'm not going to say that the Jackets controlled a majority of the game time like The Columbus Dispatch is; as time went on, the Stars started to become more and more comfortable within the confines of Nationwide, even if they weren't pressuring too much in the Jackets' zone. But even so, the Jackets had enough of a grip on the game that this should not have happened. By 'this', I mean the floundering, blundering, complete loss of any idea of what was going on around them when the Stars tied things up with just over a minute left in regulation.

You couldn't even blame it on the extra attacker once Stars' netminder Mike Smith was pulled. The Stars had already gotten things rolling in the Jackets' zone by the time he had come on, and with a couple of unforced passes, Brenden Morrow one-timed a shot right past Fredrik Norrena.

It's vexing. I'm feeling quite ... vexed right now.

This morning in Puck Rakers, Tom Reed makes an offhanded note about the Jackets' overall record in the shootout, which is 13-9. You know, I recall some two seasons ago when the shootout was first implemented, I could have sworn that they only lost twice in the damn thing. What I am wondering is, what in the world happened? The players who were normally called upon for the shootout back then are the same ones we have now, with the exception of one Jaroslav Balastik, who's currently stranded somewhere in Europe.

Why is it that the team seems to have progressively gotten worse at it since last season? Jackets' fans may recall a time last season when the results were so ugly, that Ken Hitchcock resulted to shootout tryouts during each practice, giving the "winners" the opportunity to take part in a shootout if it came to that during the next game.


Well. Looking beyond the fact that this was a SOL, at least Nikolai Zherdev continues to show that he's working his ass off. Would you believe me if I had said before the start of the season that at any point in time, he would be leading the team in assists? Because that's just what he is doing right now, with 5 in 5 games. Frankly, at this point, I don't care if he never scores another goal again, so long as he is one of the driving reasons that someone else bangs the puck home.

Rick Nash managed to shake off the doldrums that he's been in since the second game of the season, tallying a goal and an assist as well to put him at 6 points on the season (3 g, 3 a), despite the fact he was nursing a sore groin. And I want to commend Freddy-No on what was an otherwise a strong game by him, in my opinion. He was forced to keep himself awake while the Stars hardly tested him until the third period, at which point he handily stood up to a 15 shot flurry, only allowing one of those shots in ... unfortunately, it was also the tying goal. But them's the breaks.

Friday's game has the Jackets' in Buffalo. I would have preferred a winning record heading in to Sabres' territory. Forgive the pessimistic tone, but I got an ominous feeling about this upcoming game.

One final thought: Where has David Vyborny been so far this season? Normally the most reliable Jackets' player in terms of steady production (he's led the team in points the last two seasons), V has only 1 assist and no goals in 5 games. This couldn't happen at a worse time, considering how he'd said he hoped he could stay in Columbus on something long-term during the pre-season.

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Wonky schedules, and the Stars come to Nationwide.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
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Did you know that the Blue Jackets are one of just two teams that have only played four games so far this season? We're over halfway through the month of October, and every other team has played between 5 and 7 games, with 8 games being the most ... and only because the two teams that have played that many -- the Ducks and the Kings -- started a week early with that wacky "home-and-home" in London.

Anyone who had hopped on to the Blue Jackets' roller coaster early last season probably remembers that the CBJ also were slow out of the gate as it pertained to how many games they played in relation to other teams, too. I'm sure most people remember how often -- to the point of ad nauseum -- we were reminded that the Blue Jackets' had key "games in hand" in comparison to other teams in the Western Conference. That was because while other teams were rattling off game after game, the Jackets had a five day layoff between a 5-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on October 9th, and a 5-0 manhandling at the hand of the Minnesota Wild on the 14th. Then they had a six day layoff until their 4-2 defeat to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The three day layoff between this season's first Coyotes game and the recent game against the Colorado Avalanche, followed by a four day break before tonight's tilt against the Dallas Stars, seems to smack of a similar -- but of course not as long of a -- layoff issue as it pertains to the Jackets' schedule in October. Frankly, while I'm not about to go and say this is the reason the Jackets are in disarray (it'd be idiotic to use that as an excuse), it still bothers me.

But the show must go on, even if it's now been over half a week since the Jackets' last played. I'd generally been too busy enjoying my mid-term break to delve into the horrors that made up that 5-1 drubbing by the Avalanche on Saturday. Like I said in a previous post -- albeit in a haiku -- I was unable to watch the game. I wouldn't be doing the team any justice to talk about it all that much, beyond some very general comments. For example, the Jackets are no longer flawless on the penalty kill, allowing two goals to the Avalanche on the PK. Also, Pascal Leclaire also lost his shutout streak, but not before setting a new Blue Jackets' record for consecutive shutout minutes (that was only set last season by Fredrik Norrena, no less).

As for today's match-up, well, it looks like the injury bug is already starting to take its toll on the team. As reported by The Columbus Dispatch, Fredrik Modin will not be suiting up tonight as he nurses a sore/pulled groin. Modin, who has 2 assists in 4 games, has been one of the Blue Jackets more dependable guys on the ice, to say the least. Still, if he needs to rest, he needs to rest. It's still early in the season, and it's better that he's prepared for some of those longer stretches of games.

Other players who have been dealing with injuries are Rick Nash, who was also reported to be having some sore groin issues. However Nash is expected to still play tonight, which is a good sign. Meanwhile, Jared Boll -- who had been injured in last week's game against the Coyotes -- looks to be back in the lineup for tonight. He had been left behind in Columbus during the Jackets' trip to Colorado, where he nursed a sore shoulder.

Fredrik Norrena will get the start tonight. Considering the type of competitor that Freddy is, I'd expect him to play his ass off after seeing Leclaire play two games in a row, only to get brutally dispatched in the second game. This could be Norrena's opportunity to match Leclaire's strong play, after all.

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Junior Jackets Weekly - Oct. 14 - Oct. 20

Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Did you know that the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets updated their web page? Neither did I, but I have to admit it looks pretty slick when compared to the old site, which was simply a rehash of the old Blue Jackets' site.

I'm ashamed to admit that amidst the excitement of the NHL's regular season starting, coupled with my mid-terms last week, I completely neglected the fact that the OJBJ started their United States Hockey League regular season two Fridays ago, during a double dip on both Friday the 5th and Saturday the 6th against the Green Bay Gamblers.

Going by the standings alone, everything looks good so far for the Junior Blue Jackets, as they currently sit at 2-0-1 after a pair of wins in Green Bay, followed by a tough loss to the Indiana Ice, in which Jackets' defenseman Patrick Goebel managed to tie the score with just 51 seconds remaining in the game. The team would lose in a lengthy shootout that would go all of nine rounds.

Here's a run down of the OJBJ roster, highlighting the team's leaders in points, goals, assists, and PIMs:

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One of the more vexing problems when keeping track of the Junior Blue Jackets, I admit, is probably the fact that the only games I'll be able to see firsthand are the games I will attend in-person. Apparently the USHL is affiliated with a webcast group called B2 Networks, however I have yet to see any OJBJ games available for viewing on their site. And even if I did, it would require a subscription to watch USHL games; something I just can't afford as a lowly college student.

(Edit: I wasn't looking close enough. To my knowledge, all games will be broadcast by B2 Networks ... however the price for a USHL Season Pass is $140. I'm sorry, but that's about the same price as NHL Center Ice!)

Still, that isn't going to deter me from keeping track of this team. They deserve recognition, after all. And hockey in Columbus is hockey in Columbus, right?

In any event, the Junior Blue Jackets will be kicking off their home opener this Friday against the Omaha Lancers, who they'll also be facing the next day as well. The Lancers are one of only two teams with a 3-0-0 record. While the OJBJ have seemingly been winning thanks to some strong offense -- they rank 3rd in the league in goals for (out of 12 teams) -- they also rank 8th in goals against, meaning that they'll need to tighten things up in their own zone, as well as between the pipes. Corson Cramer, who has played 2 of the 3 OJBJ's games so far, is sporting just a .901 save percentage, while the Lancer's best goalie, Drew Palmisano, has an above average .914 save percentage.

I'll be at this game, so expect something with a bit more meat come next week's JJ Weekly. Hopefully!

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And now, for a little Army of the Ohio haiku ...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

...I can't watch the game...
I'll be busy all night long...
...My soul weeps strongly

If you win, they will come. Maybe. ... hopefully?

Thursday, October 11, 2007
After falling shy of a sell-out on opening night for the first time, the Blue Jackets saw attendance drop like a rock for their second home game of the season last night, when the Coyotes came in to town. The announced attendance, as you can see from ESPN's recap of the game, was 11,944 ... or about 66% of capacity.

Even before this season started, there had been signs that attendance was going to dip, even with the ouster of Doug MacLean as a peace offering to the fans, and the installment of more business savvy Mike Priest as Team President. Season ticket renewal, if I recall from reading The Columbus Dispatch during the off-season, was around 85%, which ultimately meant around 11,000 season tickets had been sold for this season. Now, I don't know if that only refers to PSLs or both PSLs and half-season plans.

This makes me wonder about a few things. First and foremost, are the Blue Jackets now announcing attendance as the actual attendance at the arena, as compared to tickets distributed or tickets sold? If there are around 11,000 season ticker holders, it's really hard for me to believe that only about 1,000 more tickets were sold or distributed for last night's Phoenix game. I recall that the Phoenix game from February I referred to in my last post had an announced attendance of 13,825 ... but honestly, having been to both that game and last night's game, this game definitely had more people in the seats and around the arena.

Second of all, was this a sign of fan discontent, or just the average sports fan in Columbus -- and areas of Ohio surrounding C-Bus -- being preoccupied with other things? The Buckeyes, for example, are probably drawing more fans (as if they need any more ...) and more of the average sports fan's cash right now because they're beating the odds. People love it when a team that has lower expectations beat the odds ... and even though the Blue Jackets are doing just that three games in, Buckeye dominance in Columbus and their rising up the BCS rankings trumps that.

Then you have the Cleveland Indians, who despite being about two hours north, will still be keeping some people in Columbus saving their money to possibly make the trip to see an actual playoff team. Beyond that, you also have the usual reasons for a low draw: it was a Wednesday night in the middle of the week, and regardless of the fact that Wayne Gretzky is a household name, it's still the Phoenix Coyotes.

But I'm not going to hit the panic button or anything. Even though Wednesday's game was a bomb as it pertains to attendance, it's still early. How will things pan out when, say ... Detroit comes to town on November 18th? Or the Ducks once more? Or how about the Stars next Wednesday?

In summary, there's really no need to panic ... not yet, at least. The Jackets' organization probably knew that this would be a rough year, not only on the ice, but probably also off the ice as well, as it pertained to attendance, and revenue as well due to said attendance. With pundits from all sides of the hockey media world predicting almost a universal second-to-last place finish in the Western Conference, expectations had to be low.

But it's always darkest before the dawn. So just wait, folks. Even if the Jackets don't make the playoffs this season, so long as they continue to bring the hammer down on teams that come in to Nationwide, the fans will come.

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I hear Coyote meat is a little gamey, but good.

Rewind to early February of this year, last season. One of the worst winter storms I've had to brave was on in full force in Columbus, as I bravely trudged a half mile down the jam-packed, snarled traffic-ed road that led to Nationwide. The Coyotes were in town that evening and the Jackets were reeling from that nasty road swing through Canada, where the penalty kill had pretty much imploded, and sucked everything inside of it like a black hole of death.

That Phoenix game was delayed for a half hour because of the storm, by the way. The Jackets would lose that game 3-0, before a very sparse crowd of maybe 10,000 or so in attendance (13,285 tickets distributed, but with the storm and all ...), and I've been wanting to see the Coyotes suffer at the hands of the Jackets since then.

So it goes without saying that I was positively ecstatic with last night's results.

Now given, the Coyotes have been projected by many different writers and media pundits to do even worse than the Jackets this season, and their lack of cohesion was on display last night. Despite some strong flurries in the second period, coupled with some modest power play pressure -- though they still lack any PP goals whatsoever in their first three games -- the 'Yotes looked highly discombobulated, and incapable of working as a team.

On the other side of the ice? The Jackets' came on strong with the style of play that got them that win against the Anaheim Ducks in their season opener. Even though all of the lines seemed to be clicking well last night, only one managed to stuff the goodies into the net behind Phoenix netminder David Aebischer, and that was the Jason Chimera - Manny Malhotra - Jared Boll group.

Tenacious, strong on the forecheck, and generally a real pain on the backcheck, they were giving the Coyotes fits all night long. To me, it seemed almost as if they had some sort of mental connection going on. We've known Chimera and Malhotra to play on the same lines together as far back as the 05-06 season, however Boll -- who is quite fresh and now all of three NHL games old as a rookie -- has practically hit it off with both Manny and Chimmer very quickly. Look no further than Manny's feed pass to a waiting, broken out Boll, who charged in on Aebischer like a freight train before deking, and sliding the puck home to cement the Jackets' 3-0 win.

But they shouldn't get all the credit, even though they deserve a lot of it. A ton of credit has to, once again, go to Pascal Leclaire, who now has back-to-back shutouts in his first two games of the season. While largely untested early on, once the Coyotes started to come on stronger in the second, as well as during their power play opportunities in the third, Leclaire kicked it up a notch and then some.

While it's only three games in to the season, and Pazzy's only played two of them, it's hard to curb your enthusiasm for the guy. Berated by fans for being physically weak and injury prone, Leclaire is playing as though he has a giant chip on his shoulder, and has something to prove to anyone who's doubted him up until now. And honestly, good for him.

Lastly, before I drag my tired, cold-suffering 'self down to the bus to get to my classes, Mike Peca had his Blue Jackets' debut last night. While modest during regular shifts throughout the game, I was greatly impressed with his penalty kill prowess. One thing that stuck out to me was how on one shorthanded opportunity, he bided his time as the Coyotes never put pressure on him, then tossed a pass off to Adam Foote for a great chance on net. While Foote didn't score, it showed me that Peca isn't the type to get rid of the puck like a hot potato, even during penalty kill situations. And that sort of poise is something that takes a long time to grasp.

By the way, my mid-terms are this week, hence the lack of updates since the weekend. Apologies, folks. Once I am done with them this Friday, I'll be able to breathe a little easier.

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Lost in the woods. Please send help.

Saturday, October 06, 2007
I dislike the Minnesota Wild for the very reason that I like the New Jersey Devils: they're defense-oriented, they are highly analytical, and they neutral zone trap you to death. Don't worry, I'm not one of those people that cries foul over 'The Trap' being used ... I just understand how damnably vexing it is when it's being used -- efficiently, I might add -- against you.

With that said, the game was pretty brutal to watch from start to finish. Although the Wild didn't take the lead until around 6:35 of the 3rd period on a goalpost clanger from Brent Burns, they controlled the flow of the game nearly all night long, with the exception of around the latter half of the 2nd period, when Adam Foote stunned just about every one watching by scoring a shortie on the Wild, and temporarily putting the Jackets up 2-1.

One thing that I noticed right off the bat was that the Jackets seemed to revert to their old ways of being unable to -- or not making the honest effort to -- break out of their own zone, instead spending too much time passing the puck back and forth. Of course, part of that could be a result of the way the Wild play, which isn't the easiest to break out against. But if this team truly is as good as their home opener seemed to show, they need to be able to push back against that sort of challenge.

Foote deserves credit for playing modestly well, including the aforementioned shorthanded goal. I wasn't pleased with Kris Russell's play tonight, as he seemed to be trying too hard, and at times pinching in much too deep. One play in particular, though it didn't lead to a goal, was the result of Russell staying out way too long on the ice -- apparently of his own volition during a line change -- and proceeding to cough up the puck as he tried to keep it in the Wild's zone.

Rick Nash, David Vyborny, and Sergei Fedorov? All kept off of the score sheet tonight. Nikolai Zherdev, although he notched two assists by helping with both Jackets' goals, unfortunately was also on the ice for all three Wild goals.

Fredrik Norrena was hung out to dry, despite a solid effort on his part. Saving 28 of 31 shots, he had to face way too many odd-man rushes, breakaways, and a variety of other shots and Wild scoring chances because of total breakdowns by the defense. Blue Jackets' players seemed to be falling all over themselves in the defensive zone, which only further cluttered and caused chaos in front of Freddy.

Still, give the Wild credit for playing their game. I'm going to have nightmares of Brian Rolston skating lightning-fast circles around me, taunting me as he zips around like a pest. A pest that can score, at that.

Now the Jackets have until Wednesday to return to Columbus, practice, rest, practice some more, have Ken Hitchcock mentally browbeat them until they remember how to break out of their own zone again, then take on the Wayne Gretzky-led Phoenix Coyotes.

As for me, I'll be taking Sunday off.

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Into the 'Wild'.

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I'm in a bit of a rush out the door this morning, in large part because I have to go and get an x-ray on my left foot, then run a variety of errands. Let's see if I can't cover the most pertinent topics concerning tonight's game before I shower and then jet.

Tonight's game is against the Wild, our wonderful expansion brothers from Minnesota. This'll also be the Jackets' first road game of the season, and the first of the Jackets' back-to-back games this season. The Wild, having been known for their strong play and record at home at the Xcel Energy Center, are probably not going to be anywhere near as big of a pushover as the Ducks seemed to be last night. The Wild haven't had to travel from California, to England, back to North America, and so forth over the past week and a half or so, and have had a day off since their 1-0 shutout win on Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Wild are, ultimately, the same Wild we've seen in previous seasons: defense-oriented, with steady and reliable goaltending behind said defense. This'll be a good test for the Jackets', who didn't have much difficulty in running roughshod over a tired Ducks' defense last night.

Unlike the Jackets', the Wild have also shown steady and stable growth and success on the ice since their inception. They have two playoff berths to their name in five seasons, and four seasons of above .500 records.

The bloggers that make up the Wild's blogosphere? Wild Puck Banter (though he's on temporary hiatus), The State of Hockey, who runs the MVN blog for the team, and Minnesota Wild Hockey.

Now, as for the Jackets ...

-Fredrik Norrena will be getting the call to start in net tonight. While I'm sure that makes Bethany as giddy as a schoolgirl, Freddy-No will have to now try and play on par with Pascal Leclaire's shutout effort last night. I have faith in Norrena, however I also have a realistic view on tonight's game, simply based off of the fact that the Wild can be downright brutal when in their own arena.

-Talking with a friend of mine last night after the game, I found out that the rotating A that you'll be seeing this season will actually be tied in to whether the Blue Jackets are at home or on the road. Last night you saw Sergei Fedorov and Fredrik Modin with the A on their jerseys, and that was because Ken Hitchcock has decided that they'll be the Alternate Captains when within the friendly confines of Nationwide. Tonight, you're going to see Rick Nash and David Vyborny donning the A, because they'll be on the road. Unless I hear otherwise, that's how things will work all season.

-Jody Shelley was scratched for opening night, which begs the question whether he'll suit up tonight. It's tough to get a bead on whether he will or he won't, just because at the moment, the three left wingers who suited up last night were Nash, Modin, and Jason Chimera. If Hitch decides to suit up 12 forwards and 6 defensemen instead of 11 and 7 like last night, it's a possibility. Shelley would sooner get slotted in to the lineup than Curtis Glencross, I think.

Puck drops at 8 pm EST. Hopefully I'll be able to catch all of the game, but if not, then definitely the 2nd period onward. Go Jackets!

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It took until the third goal at 7:58 of the 3rd period for me to finally exhale last night. Having remembered the collapse during last season's home opener against the Vancouver Canucks, could you blame me for being more frightened than enthusiastic over a 2-0 lead heading in to the 3rd?

But here I am the morning after, finding out that this dominant win over the Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks was not a dream. I mean, who would have thought that the result would be a 4-0 blowout, let alone in such a dominant fashion?

Before I get in to the game, though, let me just say that it's a real shame that this game wasn't a sellout. Shy by somewhere around 500 seats or so, this is one of those games that you wish had the arena packed to capacity and then some, just because of how perfect it would have been for fans who are currently feeling disenchanted or otherwise frustrated by the Jackets' past season woes. But still, this team does need to convince the people of Columbus that they deserve better attendance, and after one game, so far so good.

Also, the cannon? A thing of frikken' beauty! You couldn't have asked for a better way to kick the game off, let alone celebrate each and every goal. Show of hands, readers: how many of you expected that baby to be fired a total of seven times in the very first game of the season (start of game, goal, goal, goal, goal, two for winning)? That's one Helluva way to break that baby in, I know that much. And if that trumpeter who was standing next to the cannon is there for every game, too? That just makes it even more awesome. When he started blasting his bugle in the 3rd period, the 17,700+ in the arena started to rock that place.

Now, as for the game ...

-Rick Nash is on pace for 328 points (164 goals, 164 assists). Come on, you know he's going to get that many.

-Pascal Leclaire played great when he had to, especially during the flurries the Ducks had around him at key points. I'll admit, there were points where it seemed like he was a little iffy on some rebounds, which was tough to watch. But at the same time, the majority of his rebounds did seem to me as though they were intentionally directed elsewhere to ensure they'd be difficult for the Ducks to take advantage of. This is also Leclaire's second career shutout, which means he's already matched his season record for shutouts (1) from last season.

-The hit that Jared Boll landed on Travis Moen seemed to me less in the vein of something that was dirty, and more in the vein of something that a rookie does when they're too damn enthusiastic. It's clear in the replays that he left his skates, which is a big no-no. However he did not use his elbow, only using his shoulder for the hit. However the hit was also high and to the head, as was evident by the video of a bloodied Moen on the bench.

If he's suspended for a couple of games, I won't be too upset. Any more than two games would be a bit much, however.

-Jason Chimera looked like a hell hound with the way in which he zipped all over the ice. And I lost track of the opportunities that Fredrik Modin had to bury one in the back of the net, only to be rebuffed by some great goaltending by the Duck's Ilya Bryzgalov.

-How about the energy that Nikolai Zherdev played with, too? A far cry from the seemingly unenthusiastic slogging through the pre-season done by Z, he was bold enough to stand up Ducks' players in the neutral zone, was aggressive on both the backcheck and the forecheck, and whether you'll believe it or not, his bag of tricks -- which does indeed include his trademark toe drag -- were actually working. Perhaps the problem isn't so much whether Z overuses things such as the toe drag, but whether or not he personally believes that he can pull it off. Something that's more mental than anything else.

I could go on and on, really, with the players who deserve to be mentioned for their great games. But honestly, you get the idea. I'll wrap things up by saying that last night's effort by the Jackets was simply great. They were methodical, ruthless, relentless, and with the exception of a gruelingly long 2nd period in large part due to the 5 minute major the Jackets' had assessed near the end of it, they never really slowed down.

Now, let's see if they can keep it up tonight in Minnesota.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007
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Damnit, I've been waiting too damn long for this! Finally, after idling for two days as a bunch of other teams started off their regular season, the Blue Jackets will take to the Nationwide Arena ice, and hopefully kick things off in fashion when they face the Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks.

The Ducks (1-1-1), as most people know, started their season off a week early when they and their California brethren, the Los Angeles Kings, took a trip across the pond to England. After splitting 4-1 decisions, they came back home to North America, where their first game on American soil pitted them against the Detroit Red Wings, in front of a nowhere-near-filled-to-capacity crowd at the Joe. They then lose 3-2 in the shootout, trading the lead with the Red Wings at points throughout the game before losing in a 3-round shootout.

From what I've read so far, Todd Bertuzzi has so far lived up to the expectations that Ducks' GM Brian Burke had about him. He has one goal and one assist in three games, with 4 PIM as well. Another player of interest, of course, is Corey Perry, who currently leads both the league -- given, it's just two to three games in to the season for all teams tonight -- and his team with 4 points (2g, 2a).

Off of the ice, the Ducks await any sort of word or signs concerning a decision to whether Scott Neidermeyer, and perhaps of less priority Teemu Selanne, will or will not return to the team while they mull retirement.

Who blogs on the Ducks? Some guy who apparently won some Sports Business Daily award recently. I know I've never heard of this Earl Slick of The Battle of California.

... I kid, I kid. Congratulations to Earl, by the way, on his recent ranking in SBD's Top 10 NHL Blog list. Besides Sleek, you have Finny of Girl With a Puck, and Daniel of Ducks Blog.

Normally I'd have all the time in the world to stay up, and make this post as great as can be. But sadly, prior to the start of tomorrow night's game, I'll be on campus and around the city all day long, meaning that I need to go to sleep now ... lest I fall asleep on the shuttle when I drag myself to class tomorrow morning.

So to sum things up in the most succinct, most simple, and most easiest way possible:

-The Blue Jackets now have a cannon, and be ready to keep an eye out for Ducks players being shocked and awed when it goes off. Nothing says "OH GOD MY HEART!" like a 105 decibel cannon sound coming from the sky above you.

-Fredrik Modin and Adam Foote look like they'll hopefully be ready for tomorrow night's game, while Mike Peca is going to be sitting out with back spasms that have been vexing him for a while. Peca missed all pre-season games, so it's probably for the best. I know my gut is telling me to just presume that Peca is a bust already, but my brain is telling me to not be so brash, and that whatever happens, this was a calculated risk that was worth taking signing him in the first place.

-Pascal Leclaire is going to start opening night, no matter how much Bethany might "Bawwwwwwwwwwwww!" about it. He had a good training camp, a good pre-season showing in the games he played, and deserves this opportunity. Remember that even factoring in his injury woes, last season was supposed to be his first season as a starter, and only his second season after shedding the 'rookie' status. I'm not going to blame the sophomore slump on what happened to him, but he's earned the right to play tomorrow night. And that's all that matters.

-Kepis are awesome.

Go Jackets!

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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.
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