Blue Jackets discuss dealing with adversity

James Wisniewski is the latest Blue Jacket to be on the mend.

Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With the news Tuesday night that defenseman James Wisniewski will miss one to two weeks with a broken finger, the tribulations facing the Blue Jackets keep mounting. The list of the walking wounded reads like a "who’s who" of this hockey team.

Nathan Horton (back), Brandon Dubinsky (abdomen), Boone Jenner (hand), Matt Calvert (upper body), Sergei Bobrovsky (finger) and James Wisniewski (finger) are all out of the lineup. We’re awaiting word on the status of Artem Anisimov after he took a check to the head in the loss to Ottawa and left the game in the second period Tuesday.

It would seem that Murphy, he of the "What can go wrong, will go wrong" law, has set himself up with a stall in the dressing room within Nationwide Arena. While it’s certainly a blow to the team to not have these guys on the ice, nine games into an eighty-two game season is way too early to throw-in the towel.

(Note: the following interview took place prior to Game 9 against Ottawa on Tuesday)

I asked James Wisniewski, Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson a series of questions about the adversity this team is facing. These are their answers.

Q: This season, it seems as if the team is facing a series of adverse conditions on a weekly basis. How do you cope with this?

Wisniewski: "It’s not like we haven’t faced it before. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, all this does is give other guys a chance to step up. When I came into the league, not a lot of us played at 18 years old. We had to play in the minors for a year or two and earn your stripes. When you came in you weren’t playing on the power play, you had to grind it out and earn every second you played.

"Guys are going to get put in situations where maybe they’re not 100% used to it. But, at the same time, it gives them an opportunity to step up their game and show what they’ve got."

HEATING UP THE ICE

Q: With all of the injuries to the team this year, is it a surprise that you’re hovering around the .500 mark?

Atkinson: "I’m not surprised at all. We had a pretty banged up group during preseason, as well. We’ve had a lot of young guys step up, as well as the older guys stepping up. We’re a pretty resilient group. It doesn’t matter who’s in the lineup.

"It seems like whoever’s in, whether you’re a young guy or an older guy, we’ve had some success. Obviously, we’re not satisfied with being a .500 team. We have to take each game and get better. We have to get back to playing a full 60 minute game."

Johansen: "No, it’s disappointing. We have a lot of great hockey players in this room. We’ve obviously had some good games where we played well. Then I look at the games that we lost, there are two or three of them that jump right out to me, that we had slow starts and mental lapses.

"We end up shooting ourselves in the foot. With all of these injuries going on, we can’t worry about it. It is what it is. We’ve had guys stepping up since Game 1 and we need to keep doing that."

Wisniewski: "Actually, I think we’re disappointed. I think we could have won some of those games that we lost. We went out west on a tough road trip but didn’t put a full 60 minutes together over the three games. We were playing against really good hockey teams and it was a really good measuring stick for us. It shows us what we have to get to, as a team, to become Stanley Cup contenders year after year."

Q: You’ve earned a reputation as a hard-working team that is tough to play against. Is overcoming adversity now becoming a part of that identity, too?

Atkinson: "Yeah, for sure, that’s what we want. We want to be a hard-nosed team that’s hard on the forecheck. When we do that, we have success by turning over (the opposition’s) pucks and creating our own opportunities from that. We’ve just got to keep doing that and we’ll be fine."

Johansen: "There’s an expectation, for sure. If guys aren’t meeting those expectations, you’ll be in the stands or in Springfield. For me, I didn’t meet the expectations or play very well and I talked with coach (Richards) Monday. I know I have to be better. He reminded me of that. That’s the standard here in this room and we all know that.

"That’s what’s awesome about playing here in Columbus for the Blue Jackets. There’s a way to play the game, a way that we want to play the game. If we don’t play that way, we won’t be successful. When we do play that way, we are successful. We’ve shown that we can do it and that’s what makes this game fun."