Why have the Blue Jackets been better on the road this season?

Mar 10, 2015; Raleigh, NC, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets forward Scott Hartnell (43) celebrates his second period goal against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. Columbus defeated Carolina 4-3 in a shoot out. 

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The home of the Blue Jackets, Nationwide Arena, has been referred to as the ‘friendly confines’ many times. Although in this season filled with myriad injuries and other anomalies, that term has been used less frequently.

Columbus has a paltry 14-20-2 record that belies the fact that this was a tough building to play in just one season ago. Where the Blue Jackets have been much better is when they take their show on the road, notching 20-15-2 outside of Ohio.

"It feels like on the road we play more relaxed," said rookie center Alex Wennberg. "I don’t know if we want to win so bad back home, that we kind of lock up. On the road we can play our game and don’t have to be fancy. That could be it. I mean, we have to find a way to win at home, too."

The team has turned it on recently, going 8-2-0 in their last 10 games, good for fourth best record in the NHL. Their last 10 road games have seen them accrue 7-2-1. What is it about the road that has been good to them? In an injury-filled season where they have lost 470 man games going into Friday’s tilt with the Chicago Blackhawks, what has worked?

"I wish I had a reason, I really do," left wing Nick Foligno said. "When you get on the road, guys are thinking let’s get a good meal, we’re all together. You just have that mindset. Whereas when you’re home, there’s family and whatever. It’s not that you’re not focused, because you kind of use game day to get focused."

"When you go on the road, you’re already thinking about the game. Especially with a younger team, it sometimes helps to bring you closer together. Maybe that’s part of the reason. When you go on the road, it’s purely focused on hockey. That’s not anyone’s fault, nor is it good or bad. It’s just life."

They face two Western Conference teams in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday with the Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues. Both teams are former Central Division opponents of the Blue Jackets.

"Oh, they’re going to be easy games," Richards said jokingly about playing the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

They’ve done quite well, going 14-12-0 against the Western Conference this season. They’ve gone 8-6-0 against the Pacific Division, while their record against the Central Division is more evenly split at 6-6-0.

"I wish I could put my finger on exactly what it is," Blue Jackets bench boss Todd Richards said, "the difference between the road and home. Because if we knew exactly what it was, it’s something you can deal with, go in and fix and repair. It’s strange, because you would expect it to be the other way around."

"It’s not easy to play and win on the road. I think on different nights, it is different things. I expect our road record to be where it is. What I didn’t expect, I don’t think anybody did, is where our home record is at. For me, it’s about starting here at home and being ready. Is it a simple thing as being focused?"

The Blue Jackets home record finds them sitting 15th in the Eastern Conference, just two points ahead of the last place Buffalo Sabres.

"When you’re on the road and you’re sitting in the other teams’ locker room, you hear the crowd and I think there’s a little bit better focus because you understand because you’re in Chicago and playing in their building. You go to St. Louis and you’re playing in their building. Right away you know, you better be ready to go. If you aren’t, you may be chasing the game. I think that gets you a little bit sharper at times."

One facet of their game that has been good all season is their power play. They have been a top-10 team with the man-advantage for the majority of the year, and currently have the fifth-best power play in the league, converting 22.0 percent of their chances. They scored 49 goals on 223 power plays over 73 games.

Their home power play ranks seventh-best, while the seemingly sharper-focus of being on the road has them fifth-best at 21.4 percent, scoring 24 goals on 112 opportunities.

"I would say the biggest thing for me, with all the moving parts (injuries) we’ve had," said Foligno, "it kind of unifies the team. When you’re on the road, you’re together; the guys that are new feel like they’re part of the team. Sometimes when you’re home, you go off to different areas or guys have families. So, it’s not as unified as when you are on the road."

"When you go on the road, you’ve got a job to do. You band together and you find a way. I think it kind of helped our team gel a little bit faster and have that mindset of everyone thinking about the hockey game. Another thing is that I think we’ve been able to get some big momentum games on the road."

It’s not that the Blue Jackets are looking to find lightning in a bottle. But finding a way to get back to their winning ways at home, coupled with maintaining the road record they’ve accrued this year, will see them take that next step in their development as a team.

"But, by no means are we happy that our home record is as abysmal as it is," said Foligno. "It’s the difference in being a playoff team. If you have a good home record you’re usually in the playoffs. Obviously you’re seeing the reason why we’re not, because our home record hasn’t been good enough. I want to find a way to get us playing real good hockey at home."

Finishing strong and playing the right way will be something they can take into the offseason and build on for next season.

The Blue Jackets take on the Chicago Blackhawks Friday at 8:30 p.m., with the FOX Sports Ohio pregame show "Blue Jackets LIVE" beginning at 8:00 p.m.