Blue Jackets 5, Penguins 4 (OT): Letestu proves his worth yet again
Artem Anisimov, second from right, skates away from the net after scoring the first goal of the preseason for the Blue Jackets.
Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik will form two-thirds of the Blue Jackets’ No. 1 line. Other groupings that coach Todd Richards is fond of are Brandon Dubinsky centering Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson, and Ryan Johansen between R.J. Umberger and Nick Foligno.
The name that’s not listed is forward Mark Letestu. All he did last season was lead the Jackets with 13 goals.
“You certainly want a role,” Letestu said. “But if you’re in the league, I guess you learn to live with it.
“The way I look at it is this: (Richards) knows what he’s going to get from me every night. So maybe that makes it hard for him to keep me out of the lineup.”
Letestu had a goal and an assist last night in the Blue Jackets’ 5-4 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Nationwide Arena, the first of eight exhibition games.
Anisimov, Atkinson, James Wisniewski and Ryan Murray also scored for the Blue Jackets, and R.J. Umberger had two assists.
Umberger and Letestu assisted on Murray’s game-winner with 21.2 seconds remaining in overtime.
Letestu played between Blake Comeau and Jack Skille, and it was the Jackets’ best line on the night.
It was the kind of performance —scrappy, not flashy — that has been the norm since Letestu joined the Blue Jackets two seasons ago in a trade with the Penguins.
His numbers last season, including 14 assists, add up to 22 goals and 24 assists when extrapolated to a full 82-game schedule.
Those are pretty big numbers in today’s NHL.
“I didn’t want last season to end, the way things were going,” Letestu said. “We had a lot of success at the end, and the puck was really going in for me.”
Richards and Letestu have known each other for eight years, ever since Letestu was a minor-leaguer in the Penguins organization and Richards was his coach in Scranton, Pa.
Although Letestu wants a spot in the lineup to call his own, Richards intends no slight. And he acknowledged last night that this season could be just as nomadic for Letestu.
“Mark gives you that flexibility,” Richards said. “I can play him on the power play, at the point, center, right wing. He can play up in the lineup, too, the top two lines, because he has proven he can produce. As a coach, you want competition for ice time, and Mark pushes people. I know he does.
“But no, I don’t have anything planned. I don’t have an outlook for him, whether he’s going to be here, here or here.”
Last night marked Trent Vogelhuber’s NHL exhibition debut, marking the first time a central Ohio product has dressed for the Blue Jackets.
“It was great; it was amazing,” Vogelhuber said. “I was a little nervous, sure, but I feel like I got that out of the way pretty quick and played a pretty good game.”
Vogelhuber played 13 shifts over 8:31 of ice time, had two hits, one blocked shot and won 1 of 9 faceoffs.
Being on the ice with an NHL star like Evgeni Malkin was more than a Dublin boy could dream.
“I made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to get caught up in all of that stuff,” Vogelhuber said. “But I admit during warm-ups I was looking down to the other end of the ice. And yeah, it’s pretty cool to see Malkin down there.”
Left wing Matt Calvert was scheduled to play last night, but he was scratched because of a groin injury. He’s day-to-day.
“If this is Game 72, he’s in the lineup,” Richards said. “There is no sense pushing it.”
Dalton Smith took Calvert’s spot.