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The Sports Page: Blue Jackets on the Road

 Corey Barnes The Sports Page: Blue Jackets on the Road
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Columbus Blue Jackets Week in Review

When most Ohioans go to Florida during January they spend their time outside catching rays and ignoring the work they left behind. When the Blue Jackets went to Florida last week for a two game set, they brought their sticks and some intensity in capturing three out of a possible four points from the Lightning and Panthers.

Columbus opened play in Tampa Bay on Tuesday to meet the Southeast Division leading Lightning. The Jackets matched their hosts well during regulation; a goal each from R.J. Umberger and Derick Brassard kept pace with Steven Stamkos’ pair of goals. A scoreless third period meant the Jackets third consecutive overtime game. Five fruitless minutes of sudden death later, the game was headed to a shootout. CBJ keeper Matthew Garon did a bangup job keeping the puck out of the net for the first three shooters. Unfortunately, Lightning net minder Dwayne Roloson did the same. After Ryan Malone marked a tally for the Bolts and Antoine Vermette’s shot came up empty, the Jackets left the St. Pete Times Forum with only one point.

The next night, The Good Guys took their show on the road to Miami. The intimate home crowd of 11,629 was elated to see the Panthers take an early 2-0 lead, but Fedor Tyutin did his best to dampen their spirits with a late first period goal. Still trailing 2-1 with time running out in regulation, the Jackets pulled goalie Steve Mason for a sixth skater on the ice. Antoine Vermette netted the equalizer with less than a minute to go to send Columbus to their fourth straight OT game. The Flag Carriers came out in overtime playing as if they had to walk home if they didn’t win. Each of the four skaters on the ice was mobile, quick, and determined; they showed no signs that they had just played sixty minutes of tough hockey. With 1:27 to go in the extra period, the Jackets were awarded a power play. About thirty seconds later, recent call up Grant Clitsome fired a strong-armed shot from range that R. J. Umberger tipped into the top shelf for the game winner. Coach Scott Arniel and his team left the Sunshine State three points richer on the season. However, there was still one game left on their roadtrip.

Playing in St. Louis has always been difficult for Columbus. Going into Saturday’s game, the Blue Jackets had not beaten the Blues in Missouri since March 2007. Since the Blues were ahead of Columbus in the Central Division, getting at least one point was critical. After Steve Mason allowed two first period goals, it seemed that the Blues’ home streak would continue. However, Antoine Vermette and Jared Boll each found the net to tie the contest by the second intermission. The Unionmen started the final period firing on all cylinders. Within four minutes Andrew Murray gave Columbus the lead. With about five minutes to play, Nash’s power play goal padded the lead. Finally, when the Blues pulled the goalie for a sixth skater, Fedor Tyutin smashed the puck into an empty net goal to secure the Jackets a 5-2 win.

Columbus went 2-0-1 on the week in capturing five points, all on the road. Going back to the two-game set with Detroit, the Good Guys have eight points in their last five games. This is the kind of play that will have to be sustained if the Jackets want to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year. Columbus is still in 13th place in the Western Conference, but now sits a manageable four points out of the final playoff spot (compared to six points back a week ago). In the past five seasons, the eighth seeded team in the West has had an average of 93.6 points at season’s end; the Jackets are on pace for 87.125 points this year. Needless to say, they will have to display a very strong and consistent second half to make a legitimate push.

The Week Ahead

Columbus has only one game scheduled this coming week: a home affair with the Ducks of Anaheim on Tuesday night. The NHL’s 2011 All-Star game is scheduled for Sunday January 30 and will be televised on Versus at 4:00. Rick Nash is the lone Jacket set to play in the game.

The Kid Can Play

Often at the midway point of a season, many teams in different leagues look to make a trade to bring in some fresh legs and energy to a club. Though the Jackets may still make a move before it is all said and done, perhaps they have found some help from the minor leagues. Since being recalled from Syracuse on January 9th, defenseman Grant Clitsome has recorded five points (2 G, 3A) in six games for Columbus. He is averaging just under twenty minutes per game and seems to always find his way to the puck when he is on the ice. His plus/minus is two so far this year. He is greatly exceeding his pace from last season when he played eleven games in Columbus recording three points. Whether or not he will be able to keep up his play remains to be seen but the team’s record in games with Clitsome on the roster is definitely positive.

Columbus Crew and the MLS Supplemental Draft

The MLS subscribes to the “if some is good, more is better” theory when it comes to drafts. Last Tuesday, Major League Soccer held the Supplemental Draft giving the Columbus Crew the opportunity to pick up two more players. This marked the first Supplemental Draft since 2008, whose reintroduction syncs up with the return of the MLS Reserve Division (think single-tiered minor league soccer). With the 30th overall pick, Columbus selected midfielder Ben Sippola from Butler University. In 56 games for the Bulldogs, Sippola recorded 13 goals and 13 assists, eight and nine of which came during the 2010 season. Additionally, Sippola was named the 2010 Horizon League Player of the Year. In the third round, the Crew selected midfielder Andy Adlard from Indiana University. In four years in Bloomington, Adlard marked 19 goals and 17 assists. He was on the 2010 All-Big Ten First Team and Third Team NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region.  Adlard will be reuniting with fellow Hoosier Rich Balchan – Columbus’s first round pick in the Superdraft. Hopefully the on-field synergy they enjoyed in Indiana will continue this upcoming season in Ohio.

Corey Barnes is a third year at The Ohio State University studying business. He hails from Cleveland, Ohio and has a profound understanding of sports suffering and mediocrity. In addition to this column, he also writes sports things at buckeyenerd.tumblr.com and can be followed on The Twitter @Corey_Barnes.

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