Blue Jackets notebook: Richards looks for ways to spark offense on road

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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EDMONTON, Alberta — Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards used a day off yesterday to ponder moves — from minor to radical — that might shake his club out of its doldrums on the road.

A 1-0 shootout loss at Vancouver on Tuesday dropped the Blue Jackets to 3-10-1 on the road, and it only furthered the notion that the they are a different club away from Nationwide Arena.

The Blue Jackets have 22 goals in 14 road games. They have been shut out (three) as many times as they have won.

“It’s a stunning figure,” Richards said, referring to the meager goal output. “There are certain matchups with our lines that we have to maybe reconsider.”

Richards said the club he sees at Nationwide Arena, where the Blue Jackets are 10-4-5, is feisty, chippy, energetic, etc.

On the road, the Jackets seem hesitant and timid, as if they have forgotten to pack their forecheck. They have been outscored 40-22 on the road, including 19-7 in the first period.

“We have to get more grit on our lines,” Richards said. “There are times where it seems like we’re second into battles … conveniently second into battles. And to me, it’s on the road where that is happening.”

What changes might be in store tonight against Edmonton?

Richards said winger Nick Foligno was questionable after a first-period hit on Tuesday.

Foligno finished the game but did not feel well yesterday morning.

The simple replacement would be to put center Sean Collins in the lineup. He was called up from minor-league Springfield late last week.

But Richards might not stop with that switch.

Defenseman James Wisniewski, who has missed the past 14 games because of a broken right foot, could return tonight, which has Richards thinking about a different alignment.

“There’s a possibility of us going with seven defensemen,” Richards said. “It’s something we’ve got to at least consider.”

It’s easy to say the Blue Jackets have earned points in 13 of their past 14 games (8-1-4), but the road struggles are an ominous sign. And the game on Tuesday was particularly troubling.

“We’d talked about it for three days, how we needed a better start,” Richards said. “What did we have, six shots on goal through 40 minutes?”

It was eight, but his point was well-made. If not for goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky’s 34 saves, the Jackets would not have sniffed a point.

And the Jackets play 10 of their final 15 games on the road.

Slap shots

The Oilers are said to be close to a deal that would send defenseman Ryan Whitney to Boston, but the trade was not completed as of last night. … Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin had a 43-save shutout in St. Louis on Tuesday. … Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky (left knee) had hoped to join the club on the trip, but Richards ruled that out yesterday.

aportzline@dispatch.com

@aportzline

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