Call it his second chance to make a first impression.
When Blake Comeau was acquired from the Calgary Flames for a fifth-round pick on the NHL trade deadline day April 3, he didn’t make an immediate splash with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Actually, he didn’t make an immediate anything, as he had to sit in Canada until his immigration paperwork was processed and missed the Blue Jackets’ game in Nashville the night following the trade.
After he finally did join the team in St. Louis April 5, Comeau played eight-plus minutes in each game of back-to-back losses to the Blues and then at home to the Minnesota Wild. In his third game with the team, the winger from Saskatchewan played less than 11-1/2 minutes in a 4-0 win over the Sharks, but that made it three straight games without a point for him in a Blue Jackets jersey. In the next two contests, a win at home against St. Louis and a road victory in Minnesota, Comeau was a scratch.
But Artem Anisimov was hurt by a hit to the head from the Wild’s Charlie Coyle in the Blue Jackets’ first game of the current six-game road trip, and he hasn’t returned to the lineup since. Enter Comeau, with another opportunity to make a strong impression.
In the team’s next three games, wins at Colorado and Anaheim and a tough, one-goal loss in Los Angeles, Comeau chipped in with two goals and an assist, at first playing with Derek MacKenzie and Jared Boll and then filling in for the injured Matt Calvert on a line with Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson. He says he’s just trying to add to the balance he feels makes the Blue Jackets a tough team to defend.
“I think so, for sure,” Comeau said. “If one line isn’t able to put the puck in the net, there are two or three other lines that have been scoring lately. I think that’s definitely one of the big reasons why we’ve had so much success is the depth that we do have, not only up front but on defense, and, obviously, everyone knows how well Bob (goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky) has been playing. So, it’s just a recipe for success, and we have to continue doing what we’re doing.”
Comeau, a second-round pick by the New York Islanders in 2004, says this road trip has helped accelerate the acclimation to his new team. There’s nothing like spending a week and a half with the same group of guys to increase the bonding process.
“Yeah, it’s nice to get on the road,” he said. “You really get to know the guys a lot more when you’re around them all the time. It’s a great group of guys, and it’s such a nice atmosphere to be a part of, and this playoff push has been awesome. It feels like every game is the most important game of the year, so the motivation and excitement level is definitely through the roof.”
But, really, the best way to bond with new teammates is to produce, as Comeau has since getting back into the lineup. It goes a little further than small talk and dinners, right?
“It does,” Comeau agreed. “It was nice to score the goals in winning efforts, as well. This time of the year you’re trying to do whatever you can to contribute, and I was fortunate enough to get a couple of goals in some big games. I feel like that’s why we’ve been successful this last stretch. We have great goaltending, obviously, and then we’ve got some timely goals by different guys, and every line’s been contributing. That’s what we’re going to need the last couple of games.”
With one game left on this potential season-defining trip (followed by the regular-season finale at home Saturday), Comeau says he and his teammates have done some fine work so far, but they’re well aware the objective hasn’t yet been reached.
“We knew it was going to be a tough road trip for sure, but I think we’ve set ourselves up nicely so far,” he said. “We know that it’s not over yet; it’s far from over. We have to win these next two games. You know, we don’t want to drop a single point. We don’t want to leave a ‘what if’ kind of thing.
“The last two games, we want to take care of business. Win these next two games, and whatever happens after that happens.”