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Game Preview #4 - Back On The Rails?

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After an 0-3-0 start and a call-out from their GM, can the Blue Jackets finally get into the win column?

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

That didn't take long.

"I’m surprised how, in just five days, we’ve gone from a very confident group to something that’s the opposite of that. Our confidence, our game … it’s off the rails right now. There’s no excuse for how we played in Buffalo. No excuse. Every team in this league is a good team, but there’s no excuse to come out with an effort like that, to go off the rails, so far from the way we’re supposed to be playing.

"We have higher expectations this year. That goes with the territory. As a professional, you have to live up to them. That’s how this business works. It's a results business. The front office, the coaching staff, the players ... we all have to handle the expectations and we have to deliver.

"We’re all accountable, from front office to coaches to players. Todd Richards is a good coach. The guys in the room have to play better. There aren’t a lot of guys in that group that have played up to their expectations, right? We have many guys playing below expectations, below the bar. Well, it’s hard to be good as a team when you’re not playing well as individuals."

--GM Jarmo Kekalainen

When Aaron Portzline came on the first DKM Hockey podcast of the pre-season, he noted that this team doesn't seem to be able to play "balls to the wall" until they *have* to. He also talked about how the players seemed to have a collective chip on their shoulder, as they know how good they can be but no one else in the league seems to agree.

Perhaps Kekalainen is simply tired of waiting for that collective shoulder-chip to take up residence, so he's accelerating the process just a bit.

Gauntlets like this are rarely thrown down so early in a season, but alas, here we are.

There was plenty to like in the pre-season, but as the GM (rightly) points out, that team is seemingly long gone. To wit, Todd Richards has already gone to the whiteboard to change up the lines, throwing the "chemistry" built throughout the entire pre-season out the window. And, despite my misgivings about sweeping line changes so quickly, I can actually see a method to the madness here.

The Jackets took seven minor penalties on Monday. Nick Foligno and Rene Bourque were responsible for five of them, and the Sabres scored on three of those Power Plays. In a 4-2 game, that's the difference. Both players received significant demotions in today's lineup. Whether or not we agree with the idea of changing the lines, it's nice to see that underperforming veterans are being moved down the lineup when they play as badly as they did on Monday.

A win--and more specifically, a dominating performance--would go a long way toward quieting the grumbling. It would just be a shame if it took a complete bomb-drop from the GM to accomplish that kind of motivation, just four games in.

Injury Notes

Nothing major for the Sens, as other than backup goalie Andrew Hammond, they are healthy.

For the Jackets, it looks like Alexander Wennberg is still a no-go with a concussion from Friday night. William Karlsson again draws in.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(0-3-0, 0 Points; 8th division, 15th conference)

Boone Jenner Ryan Johansen Brandon Saad
Matt Calvert Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Scott Hartnell William Karlsson Nick Foligno
Rene Bourque Gregory Campbell Jared Boll
Ryan Murray David Savard
Fedor Tyutin Jack Johnson
Kevin Connauton Dalton Prout
Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

Ottawa Senators
(2-1-0, 4 Points; 5th Division, 6th Conference)

Mike Hoffman Kyle Turris Mark Stone
Clarke MacArthur Mika Zibanejad Bobby Ryan
Milan Michalek Jean-Gabriel Pageau Curtis Lazar
Alex Chiasson Zack Smith Chris Neil
Marc Methot Erik Karlsson
Cody Ceci Patrick Wiercioch
Jared Cowen Mark Borowiecki
Craig Anderson
Matt O'Connor