Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards compares this first matchup between his team and the New York Rangers since THE TRADE to running into an ex-girlfriend for the first time. It’s probably going to be a little awkward.
Awkward, weird, strange, whatever tonight’s game feels like, the most important thing for Columbus is that it feels like two points. These teams have been traveling opposite paths this season. After a 2-6-0 start, New York has won five of its last seven. In other words, “the old girlfriend” is looking pretty darn good. Conversely, the Blue Jackets have dropped eight of eleven after starting the season with two wins in their first three games. And, yes, some of those losses were downright, uh, not so good looking.
Marian Gaborik was the focal point of that big trade earlier this year that sent Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, and John Moore to New York. But he’s not the only one facing his old Rangers team for the first time since moving to Columbus. The game also marks the first time Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, who came to Columbus in the Rick Nash trade, face their former team.
“For us, it’s just another game pretty much, but for the guys who played there it’s a little different, I guess. But overall, whoever we play against, we just need points,” said Gaborik. “We need to score more goals, obviously, and find that extra gear for all of us and win one game and hopefully get on a roll.
“Obviously we’re a desperate team right now, and I have to bring more, and I will,” he continued. “I’m looking forward to this challenge. We need guys stepping up, including myself.”
The speedy winger is right about that. He has no points and is a minus-3 in his last four games, not coincidentally all losses for the Blue Jackets. And he’s certainly not alone. Several players who are being counted on to produce offense for this team are battling through dry spells. Ironically, their battles to produce points may have something to do with the level of battle to produce space and win the puck possession game.
“We have to bear down in those situations and just play straight ahead hockey,” is the way Gaborik put it. “You know, we’re a fast team, and we’ve been practicing the last few days about getting more speed in our game and being on the same page out there.
“I think we’ve done that; that’s going in the right direction, the speed of our club. We just need to get more offensive zone time and get some ugly goals. It’s all about everybody being on the same page and make sure we bear down. If we have the puck on our stick, make sure we don’t turn it over and just play a north-south game.”
So, with apologies to Thomas Wolfe, apparently you can go home again. That’s what Dorsett, Brassard, and Moore are doing today. They’ve arrived at their old home, to face the franchise that gave all of them their NHL starts. No doubt, the fans at Nationwide Arena will give them a warm, hometown welcome.
The Blue Jackets job is to make sure those three – and the rest of the New York Rangers – don’t feel comfortable enough to make themselves at home.