The Blue Jackets have had quite some time to stew over an embarrassing loss in Philadelphia. Columbus will try to put that defeat, as well as its awful start to the season, in the rearview mirror when it hosts the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at Nationwide Arena.
The Blue Jackets were routed by the Flyers on Saturday and the 9-2 loss dropped Columbus to 2-11-1 on the season. With just five points on the year, the Jackets are the only NHL team that has yet to reach double digits.
With several days off between Saturday's setback and this evening's game, many folks speculated that Scott Arniel would be fired from his job as Columbus head coach. However, Arniel has kept his job for the time being and he had his players go through a mini-camp during the hiatus. He hopes the hard work will pay off immediately.
"We talked about starting from scratch, and we did," Arniel said on Wednesday. "We got a lot accomplished and I'm real happy with how hard we worked. It's also very important for them to know that they worked hard, and there's no reason they can't go out and do that tomorrow night and Saturday."
One change that occurred since Saturday's loss was the acquisition of forward Mark Letestu from Pittsburgh for a fourth-round pick. Letestu had 14 goals and 13 assists in 64 games for the Penguins last year, but he has just one assist in 11 tilts this season. Letestu is expected to debut with his new his club tonight.
"He's a capable guy that has been playing behind some pretty good talent in Pittsburgh," Arniel said. "That's experience we need. He's not very old but he is a guy that's played in a good organization that does things the right way."
The Flyers scored five times on Columbus in the opening period and led Saturday's game by an 8-0 count after 40 minutes. Steve Mason made 21 saves on 28 shots and Allen York stopped 3-of-5 shots. Mason started the game and was pulled briefly before replacing York.
Columbus played its ninth straight game without forward Jeff Carter on Saturday and it appears as though he'll miss tonight's tilt as well. Carter hasn't played since suffering a hairline fracture in his right foot on Oct. 15 against Dallas. He had three assists in five games before the injury.
"He's closer," Arniel said after Carter skated on Wednesday. "We got more of him today, and felt a little bit better. He's probably (out) for tomorrow, but we'll look more towards the weekend."
Carter, who signed an 11-year, $58 million deal with the Flyers in Nov. 2010, was traded to the Blue Jackets this past offseason.
Tonight marks the first of three straight on home ice for Columbus, which is 2-4-1 as the host this year. The Jackets will also welcome Winnipeg on Saturday before closing the residency Tuesday against Minnesota.
The Blackhawks are currently in first place and 14 points ahead of Columbus in the Central Division standings, but Joel Quenneville's club enters tonight on a three-game skid. The latest setback came Tuesday in St. Louis, as Jaroslav Halak posted a shutout for the Blues in a 3-0 victory.
Corey Crawford allowed the three goals on 20 shots in Chicago's third straight loss. The Blackhawks last lost four in a row during a five-game skid from March 13-20, 2009.
Chicago centerman Dave Bolland suffered a lower body injury in Tuesday's setback and is questionable for this evening's tilt. Bolland has five goals and two assists in 14 games this season.
The Blackhawks are just 3-3-1 on the road this season, but they have won three straight and six of their last seven in Columbus. Chicago notched a 5-2 win over a visiting Blue Jackets club on Oct. 29, giving the 'Hawks wins in four of five and five of the last seven meetings in this series overall.