Jackets’ Atkinson regaining scoring touch

Every goal scorer will tell you the same thing: As long as they’re
getting their scoring chances, they’re confident pucks will start
finding the back of the net.

Blue Jackets winger Cam Atkinson was
surely getting his chances. He’s only been held off the shots-on-goal
sheet once this season – in the home loss against the Penguins earlier
this month – and leads the team with 60 SOG. Even in his recent six-game
goal-scoring slump, Atkinson was pouring shots on goal at the rate of
three per game.

Finally, in the home win over the Islanders
Saturday, the Connecticut native ended that slide when he lifted a
rebound over Isles goaltender Evgeni Nabokov for his fourth goal of the
season. Not so coincidentally, that win also ended the team’s five-game
scoring slide.

Atkinson followed up that goal with a beautiful
rush and five-hole finish on Capitals goalie Braden Holtby Tuesday in
the overtime loss to the Caps at the Verizon Center. It was his fifth
goal of the season, tying him with Marian Gaborik, Ryan Johansen, and
Brandon Dubinsky for the team lead.

According to Atkinson, the key for him is to do the same things he always does, even when he’s not lighting the red lamp.

“I
always think it’s just a matter of time if I’m not scoring,” he said.
“When pucks aren’t going in, I’m not trying to think too much; I’m just
trying to do other things to help the team win.”

The goals he
scored in the past two games are perfect examples of the multi-faceted
threat Atkinson poses to opposing defenses. In Washington, after being
sprung by a beautiful head-man pass from Brandon Dubinsky, he showcased
his speed and incredible hands to beat Holtby from in close.

Against
the Islanders, he used his quickness to burst to the loose puck at the
doorstep and lift it over Nabokov. Despite his relative lack of size,
Atkinson is never hesitant to dart in and out of the high traffic areas
in pursuit of scoring chances. He knows it’s imperative to play that
kind of game in today’s NHL to be an effective goal scorer.

“Getting
pucks through and having enough bodies in front of the net to whack in a
rebound is crucial,” he explained. “It’s hard to score goals in this
league, and more likely it’s going to be the guy who’s in front of the
net paying the price and getting those greasy goals.

“And it’s
not just going into the high-traffic areas; you need to be effective in
traffic,” he continued. “You need to have your balance. With me being a
smaller guy, I have to use my low center of gravity and – even if I
don’t score – hopefully get a penalty out of it if I’m working hard
enough.”

Last year, when the Blue Jackets started the season in
virtually the same fashion as they have this year, Atkinson was
unwavering in his belief that it was only a matter of time before the
team found its stride. He’s equally confident now that a significant
turnaround is imminent and says the key is not letting frustration seep
into the locker room.

“You can never get frustrated, because as
soon as you get frustrated, guys are going to start pointing fingers,
and then it would be a bad locker room,” he noted. “That’s not what we
have here. Obviously, we’ve been in a little bit of a slump, but we know
what it takes to get out of this thing.”