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PREVIEW: Blue Jackets take on Sharks to begin California road trip

by Staff

The Blue Jackets are in uncharted territory, as for the first time in 11 years they are looking for a new general manager.

Jarmo Kekalainen was relieved of his duties Thursday, a sign that things must start progressing for a team that is learning how to win but isn’t quite there yet.

But if you’re wondering if the move will be a distraction for the team, head coach Pascal Vincent said things must be business as usual Saturday against the Sharks.

“You know, we’re gonna be challenged in that area,” Vincent said. “Talking about it is No. 1. But we’re going to try (to move past it). All year, we’ve been trying to control what we can control, and we can control this. We can only do what we can do to prepare for tomorrow and go from there.”

All season, Vincent has said the Blue Jackets are progressing, but times have been tough. But the head coach believes the process the team is working on will get there if the squad just stays the course.

“So you struggle, you struggle, you struggle, until you don’t,” Vincent said. “Our struggles early in the season, in the past few years, are different than what it is now. We’re playing a way better collective game. We see a bunch of guys that are all in.

“What we’re trying to do, we’re creating the culture, the accountability. We’re gonna keep that. It’s never ending for the coaches, for the players, for the organization. In an NHL season, even the best teams are going through some struggles. In our position, right now, we’re building something, and in order to build, you’re gonna go and you’re gonna face some adversity. And that adversity is sometimes playing well enough to win, but you don’t get that final result.

“Our focus has been on the process because that’s what’s gonna lead us to win more games. And we’re gonna stick to that plan because we show the players what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong. We hold each other accountable.”

Know The Foe: San Jose Sharks

Head coach: David Quinn (Second season)

Team stats: Goals per game: 2.11 (31st) | Scoring defense: 3.75 (32nd) | PP: 17.2 percent (23rd) | PK: 74.1 percent (30th)

The narrative: It wasn’t expected to be a great season in Northern California, but the start was brutal, with San Jose opening the campaign with an 0-10-1 start in which the team was outscored 55-12. Quinn’s team has had some recent success, but the Sharks are in the running for the No. 1 pick a year after taking Will Smith at No. 4 overall. San Jose has had just two top-10 picks in the last eight drafts – Smith and William Eklund, who went seventh in 2021 – so the cavalry might be a long way off.

Team leaders: Tomas Hrtel has paced the team with a 15-19-34 line but he is currently out with a lower-body injury. After that, Mikael Granlund has six goals among 30 points, while youngster Eklund has eight goals among his 25 points. Fabian Zetterlund has a team-best 14 goals.

What’s new: The loss of Hertl is a major blow, as he joins captain Logan Couture – who has played in just six games this season because of a groin injury – on the shelf. That’s some of the team’s top firepower, and putting pucks in the net has been a struggle all season for the Sharks. You could say the team’s recent play is a bit of an upswing, though, for San Jose, as the squad has followed a 1-14-1 stretch from mid-December through mid-January with a 5-2-1 record in the last eight games.

Trending: This is the first meeting between the teams on the season. Columbus swept last year’s pair of contests, including a 6-5 overtime win in San Jose that snapped a two-game losing streak in the Shark Tank.

Former CBJ: Anthony Duclair has landed in San Jose, with the former CBJ winger posting a 9-8-17 line in 48 games.

Roster Report

Projected Lineup (subject to change)

Johnny Gaudreau – Boone Jenner – Jack Roslovic
Yegor Chinakhov – Dmitri Voronkov – Kirill Marchenko
Kent Johnson – Cole Sillinger – Emil Bemstrom
Alexandre Texier – Sean Kuraly – Justin Danforth
Zach Werenski – Adam Boqvist
Ivan Provorov – Damon Severson
Jake Bean – Erik Gudbranson
Elvis Merzlikins
Daniil Tarasov

Scratches: Adam Fantilli (calf laceration, out eight weeks as of Jan. 31), Mathieu Olivier, Andrew Peeke

Injured reserve: None

Roster Report: Danforth (illness) didn’t practice and Gudbranson (injury) left practice Friday, but Pascal Vincent said both will be able to play against the Sharks. Chinakhov (upper body injury) practiced Friday and will re-enter the lineup as well.

3 Stats to Know

  • Johnny Gaudreau has collected assists in five straight games (0-6-6) and eight of his past 10 games (0-10-10) after posting an assist in Ottawa. He has recorded 3-17-20 in the last 22 games.
  • Boone Jenner has three goals in the last two games and leads the Blue Jackets with 16 goals. He played a career-high 26:42 Tuesday in Ottawa and had nine shots on goal
  • Milestone watch: Adam Boqvist is four games from 200 for his NHL career (22-60-82, 196 GP). … Zach Werenski is five assists from 200 for his NHL career (80-195-275, 456 GP).

Who’s Hot

Dmitri Voronkov has six goals in the last nine games and is among NHL rookie leaders in goals (13, third) and points (26, tied for sixth). … The team’s rookie stat line of 26-36-62 is first in the NHL in goals and third in points.

This Day in CBJ History

Feb. 17, 2001: Jody Shelley makes his NHL and CBJ debuts, skating 1:33 and earning 10 penalty minutes against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Nationwide Arena. Shelley fought both Steve McKenna and former CBJ enforcer Krzysztof Oliwa in the first period of a 3-2 overtime loss to a Pens team featuring both Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.

Feb. 17, 2017: Brandon Dubinsky scores 1:04 into overtime and the Blue Jackets post a hotly contested 2-1 win over Pittsburgh in Nationwide Arena.

Feb. 17, 2022: Patrik Laine notches his first hat trick with the Blue Jackets as well as his 300th career point in a 7-4 victory at Chicago.

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