For many stretches of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ history, finding two scoring lines have been a challenge for the squad.
Besides Rick Nash, the Blue Jackets have not had many scorers to compliment the captain. Over time, the Blue Jackets have added players like R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette, and drafted Derick Brassard. Over the offseason, all-star forward Jeff Carter was added to take much of the pressure off of Nash.
But all of a sudden, a crop of young scorers have matured and are pressing each other for a spot on the Blue Jackets’ opening day roster. This crop has allowed Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel to look at doing something that is unprecedented for Columbus; have three scoring lines.
“I liked the offense, I liked the fact I could roll one line after another and in the second period, it was very effective,” Arniel said after Columbus’ 4-2 win Thursday against the Minnesota Wild.
Teams across the league have transitioned their third-line from a checking-line to one that is expected to provide scoring. Arniel said going with three scoring lines to start the regular season is “an option.” The Blue Jackets skated with three offensive forward lines in Thursday’s game.
“I liked some of it but I didn’t like how we got a little careless at times and turning pucks over,” Arniel said. “I am not sure if it is the makeup of those guys recognizing that they are on lines with two other offensive guys and then they were trying to be too creative.”
Not only did Nash and Carter come through with a goal each Thursday, but so did youngster Cam Atkinson who was on a line with Vermette and newly acquired forward Vinny Prospal. Vermette and Atkinson assisted defenseman Fedor Tyutin’s goal earlier in the game.
Atkinson came into camp as a long shot to make the opening-day roster. Those odds aren’t nearly as long as nearly half the training camp roster has been cut.
“Like I said since day one, I am just taking one day at a time,” Atkinson said.
Following having to sit out of game action for a week due to concussion, rookie Tomas Kubalik returned in a big way assisting on Carter’s and Nash’s goals in the second period. Kubalik has only played in four NHL games his chances are looking good for surviving the final cut.
“I am very happy to come back and fight on for tomorrow,” Kubalik said. “I play my best and hope to get a shot.”
Blue Jackets top 2010 draft pick Ryan Johansen’s junior club Portland Winterhawks have started their 2011-12 campaign but Johansen remains in Columbus. He played with established forwards Umberger and Brassard.
“I thought my confidence shot up after (the Buffalo) game and I felt I did a good job again tonight,” Johansen said. “I think I have been doing a great job at both ends of the rink. I think I have been creating some offense.”
J. Justin Boggs, Columbus Wired