So here's what you don't want to hear first thing in the morning as you step into your 40-seat jet for a quick flight to Columbus, "Sorry folks, this is your captain, it's going to be a bumpy ride." Actually, except for one part when we were landing, when I did tighten my seat belt while gripping the arm rests, it wasn't too bad. The important thing, of course, is being in Columbus, where everyone in town seems to be gearing up for tomorrow's Ohio State-Penn State game.
Dan Fritsche, who grew up outside Cleveland and played for the Blue Jackets the last four years, was telling me the Blue Jackets prefer to be on the road when OSU plays at home. The reasons, of course, are obvious: Nobody's coming to a Blue Jackets game if the alternative is a Buckeyes' game.
Also from the morning skate, the lines from yesterday's skate will remain the same: Nikolai Zherdev, the other homecoming guest, will play on Chris Drury's line with Markus Naslund while Fritsche takes Zherdev's spot on Brandon Dubinsky's line with Aaron Voros. Petr Prucha and Lauri Korpikoski are the healthy scratches and there are still only 22 players on the roster. Henrik Lundqvist in nets though both he and coach Tom Renney said there's no definitive plan yet - at least not a public one - for this stretch of three games in four nights. I'm still thinking Lundqvist tonight and tomorrow against the Penguins with Steve Valiquette Monday against the Islanders.
Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock had a few interesting things to say about Zherdev when asked about his former player. Specifically, I asked about Renney's comment from yesterday about getting Zherdev to play a more north-south game while still allowing for his offensive creativity. Hitchcock said he found he could talk and talk and talk to Zherdev about what he needed to do on the ice in order to play within a team system, but the only thing that really made Zherdev pay attention was giving him more responsibility on the ice.
"The bigger the role, the better he played," Hitchcock said. "The first year, we didn't give him any responsibility because he didn't earn it. Last year, he made a huge change."
Hitchcock mentioned that Zherdev was not training hard enough that "first year" which means Hitchcock's first season with the Blue Jackets in 2006-07.
Hitchcock also said ex-Ranger defensemen Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman are both doing well in their new roles. Tyutin is seeing more ice time, particularly on the power play and Hitchcock is impressed with his work there. At the same time, he called Backman "a surprise" in how solid he's played.
"Backman's not afraid to make a play," Hitchcock said. "It's a different element that we've not had before."
Hitchcock added Backman probably didn't have the best experience with the Rangers because of a lack of playing time.
Also spent some time at Tyutin's locker. I asked him if he was doing OK in Columbus. I guess I had a sympathetic tone to my voice and Tyutin jokingly asked why everyone was asking him that in that particular way. Shortly afterwards, Tyutin came to the Rangers' room to catch up with his old friends. He was joking around with Zherdev and Russian defenseman Dmitri Kalinin as well as Michal Rozsival. He also stopped by for a quick chat with Renney.
Anyway, lunch time now and then back to this desk to do some more work before heading back to the arena. More updates later...