Blue Jackets-Avalanche Preview
Although they remain winless, the Columbus Blue Jackets at least have a heightened sense of optimism now that John Tortorella is in charge.
Mired in the league’s second-longest regulation skid to open a season, the visiting Blue Jackets believe there’s plenty to build on from Tortorella’s debut that could carry over into Saturday night’s meeting with the Colorado Avalanche.
Despite a 3-2 loss at Minnesota on Thursday, Tortorella liked the overall spirit and effort from his new team.
"We’re (0-8-0); moral victories aren’t going to help us right now," Tortorella said. "But for a number of minutes I thought we played hard."
Columbus, which has never dropped nine straight in regulation at any point, owns the worst opening regulation losing streak since the New York Rangers went 0-11-0 in 1943-44.
Coaching his fourth team after replacing the fired Todd Richards on Wednesday, Tortorella has already made his presence felt.
"He’s demanding," said forward Nick Foligno, who does not have a point in three straight contests. "You can hear him on the bench. But he’s teaching, too. You can hear it. It’s going to be a work in progress for all of us, but I liked what I saw."
Columbus overcame an early 1-0 hole against the Wild by closing the first period with goals from Alexander Wennberg and Brandon Dubinsky, who also played for Tortorella with the Rangers. However, Minnesota scored twice in the second then held on despite recording just four shots in the final period.
After sitting the previous two games, Sergei Bobrovsky made 20 saves to help the Blue Jackets yield their fewest goals of the season.
"I’m not down about it," Tortorella told the team’s official website. "We’re 0-8 and we need to find a way to get a win, but I thought we took a step in the right direction to what we have to do to try to get ourselves out of this."
Columbus won 4-3 at Colorado on Jan 4 while splitting last season’s two meetings. Dubinsky scored twice in that contest.
The Avalanche (2-3-1) have scored once while dropping back-to-back one-goal decisions, and are 1 for 12 on the power play in the last three games after going 5 for 10 in the first three. Colorado has remained competitive thanks to a unit that’s killed all 16 penalties over the last four contests.
"I think if we play like this (defensively), we’re going to win our share of games," coach Patrick Roy told the Avalanche’s official website following Wednesday’s 1-0 overtime loss to Carolina. "The offense will be taken care of. I’m confident that our guys will find the back of the net."
Roy also might have regained some confidence in Semyon Varlamov, who made 18 saves Wednesday. The veteran goaltender sat the previous two games after allowing 13 goals while losing two of the first three contests.
Though Varlamov struggled in the January loss to the Blue Jackets, he stopped 44 shots in a 4-0 victory at Columbus on March 7.
Jarome Iginla had a goal in each meeting with the Blue Jackets last season.
Colorado defenseman Tyson Barrie has eight assists in his last six games against Columbus, but will sit while serving the final of his three-game suspension for a hit on Anaheim’s Simon Despres last week.