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Midweek Report 10/13/09

Three games later, the Columbus Blue Jackets are still off the their best start in franchise history. A loss on the road at San Jose Thursday night, followed by consecutive victories over Phoenix and Calgary lead the Jackets to their 4-1 record, and a spot atop the central division.

Last Three:

At San Jose:

After successive wins over Minnesota and Vancouver to start the season, the Blue Jackets took their winning streak on the road to face Dany Heatley and the San Jose Sharks.

Columbus struck first with an opening period goal from Rick Nash, but San Jose was relentless, scoring four times in the second, and twice again in the third to reach the 6-3 final.

Heatley, acquired by the Sharks from Ottawa only a month ago, recorded his eighth career hat-trick, with the third goal coming on a late-game penalty shot.

At Phoenix:

Recently acquired goaltender Mathieu Garon got his first start Saturday night in Phoenix, and capitalized on the opportunity.

Garon was perfect, stopping all 36 Coyote shots, and leading his team to a 2-0 victory in the desert. It was the first shutout of the year from CBJ net-minders, after reigning Calder Memorial Trophy winner Steve Mason recorded ten a year ago.

Rick Nash tallied his second goal of the season on a beautiful tic-tac-toe pass from Huselius and Brassard. R.J. Umberger put the icing on the cake with an empty net goal with 17 seconds remaining, also his second on the year.

Calgary:

Tuesday evening’s affair was the first game back on home ice since the season opener, and offered a tough test in the then 4-1-1 Calgary Flames.

Calgary got on the board first with a goal from former Blue Jacket Curtis Glenncross, and led 1-0 after one.

The Blue Jackets countered with two goals just 2:04 apart, scored by two former Flames in Anton Stralman and Kristian Hueslius, the first coming on a five-on-three man advantage late in the second period.

Rick Nash assisted on both goals, extending his multi-point game steak to four. Huselius has also put-up points in four straight games.

Mason was able to hang on for the victory, making  22 saves in a 2-1 Columbus victory.

The Youth:

After spending a brief one game stint down on the second line, Derick Brassard returned to the top line for Saturday night’s game against Phoenix, and has played well since, recording assists and creating opportunities in both games.

Jakub Voracek and Nikita Filatov have been quiet recently; both were pointless through the past three. Filatov was a healthy scratch against Calgary.

Mathieu Roy tallied an assist on a Chimera goal at San Jose, and is +1 on the year.

Power Play Watch:

Columbus was 1-3 on the PP against San Jose, 0-2 against Phoenix, and 1-4 against Calgary. This brings the season total to 3-15, or 20%

The power play was an area of need for the Jackets a year ago. The 20% the team is averaging this year is much improved from the 11% the team averaged last year.

The Kill:

The penalty kill, on the other hand, seems to be an area of great strength for the Blue Jackets. Columbus entered Tuesday night’s game as the best penalty-killing team in the NHL, and did not do anything to hurt that status, killing off the only penalty they took all night.

Columbus was 4-4 on the kill at San Jose and 6-6 at Phoenix, including a late-game double minor to Derick Brassard.

On the year, Columbus has killed 17 of 18 penalties, or 94%.

Fortunately the Jackets have done a good job killing off the penalties, but an even better way to prevent power play goals is to stay out of the box in general, somewhere many Jackets have spent significant time over the past few games.

Central Race:

With eight points, Columbus has claimed their spot at the top of the central, but is closely followed by Chicago, who sits just a point away with a 3-1-1 record.

St. Louis, Nashville, and Detroit each have four points.

Chicago leads in goals for with 19, while Columbus leads in goals against average with 2.2.

In recent years, with Columbus, Chicago, and St. Louis all struggling, the division was know as the “Comedy Central.” Now, the division may be the best in all of hockey. Who’s laughing now?

Injury Report:

Defenseman Mike Commodore (groin) and winger Fredrik Modin (knee) both remain on the injured reserve.

Commodore is listed as questionable for Saturday night’s game against the Los Angeles Kings and Modin is expected to be out until at least late October.

Up Next:

The Blue Jackets face off against the 4-1 Los Angeles Kings Saturday Oct. 17 at Nationwide Arena, then head back on the road for a four-game western trip making stops in Calgary, Edmonton, Anaheim, and Los Angeles.

The Kings have won four in a row after dropping their season opener and are led by wingers Anze Kopitar and Ryan Smith who each have four goals on the season.

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