The Blue Jackets are home from their once-a-year trip to California. It was not the kindest of road trips. There were injuries and slow starts, poor play and mental lapses. They left the west coast having gone 1-2-0.
In the game against the L.A. Kings, there were some tense moments when forward Nick Foligno was stretchered off the ice on a backboard. Shortly after the game, president of hockey operations John Davidson told FOX Sports Ohio’s Jeff Rimer that Foligno was talking with the Kings doctors and would not be transported to the hospital.
This was a stark reminder that the game of hockey is just that – a game. Winning or losing loses its meaning when a player is injured.
"You’re more concerned about your teammate," said coach Todd Richards. "The game becomes secondary."
Friday versus the Anaheim Ducks, forward Cam Atkinson suffered a deep cut around his right eye after Ryan Kessler’s skate inadvertently found its way up and under Atkinson’s visor. While it is a rather gruesome sight, the good news is that was no damage to the eye. To quote Keanu Reeves from The Replacements, "Pain heals and chicks dig scars."
The team returned bruised and battered. Three games in four days against some very tough competition will do that to you.
Are there any positives to be taken from this seemingly brutal stretch of games? The obvious answer is that the team is playing .500 hockey, with a record of 4-4-0 (8 points). Secondary to this is that they got this trip out of the way early in the season and most of the Eastern Conference teams still have to run the California gauntlet.
They played some decent hockey in two out of the three games. Despite the loss, Columbus coach Todd Richards saw some good things out of the game against the Kings.
"We were much better," he said. "For a good part of the game, we were working, competing hard and doing a lot of good things. It was just a couple of plays where we just shut down for just moments."
Center Ryan Johansen has points in every game to this point, showing that he arrived in Columbus after the contract squabble very close to "game shape." With the pace he’s on presently, he will eclipse last year’s 33-30-63 totals.
Forward Scott Hartnell is proving to be a good addition to this young Blue Jackets team. He’s 1-9-10 through eight games and showing that he’s not afraid to park himself in the dirty areas around the crease.
Defenseman Ryan Murray made his season debut in the game against the Kings, with 17:55 of ice time. His knee would appear to be back in good working order.
"The good thing is I think Ryan (Murray) got through the game okay," Richards said. "So, that’s a positive sign."
Adversity does seem to follow this team like a lost puppy, wagging its tail for attention. And yet, they always seem to find a way to work their way through the tough times.
"It’s a disappointing result," said Richards of going 1-2-0 out west, "but there are some things we can take out of this. We have to eliminate those plays that end up in the back of our net. We worked hard for a good part of this game (vs. Kings).
"It’s always good to come home," he continued. "But we’ve got to take something from this trip. We can’t just sweep it underneath the rug like it didn’t happen. We’re going to have to figure out, as far as injuries, where everyone’s at."
Yes, they are a bit beat up. And yes, they didn’t win every game. But, the season is still in its infancy, with 74 games still to play. It is not time to hit the panic button, not by a long shot. This team has surprised in the past, and most likely will do so again.
They return to action Tuesday for a rematch with the Ottawa Senators within the friendly confines of their home.