LOS ANGELES - A few days before the season started, Blue Jackets assistant coach Dan Hinote met with forwards Jared Boll, Derek MacKenzie, Colton Gillies and Matt Calvert.
LOS ANGELES — A few days before the season started, Blue Jackets assistant coach Dan Hinote met with forwards Jared Boll, Derek MacKenzie, Colton Gillies and Matt Calvert.
“It was simple and earnest,” said Hinote, who spent nine years in the NHL as a fourth-line forward with Colorado and St. Louis. “The way the schedule was set up, and the way our team was configured, I wanted them know that they were going to be a very important part of this team, and they were going to have to make a difference every night, every shift.”
The Blue Jackets’ fourth line has played a crucial role in their push toward the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“When I think of the games where they’ve brought us to life, and the games where they’ve scored big goals, and the games where they’ve had big shifts — long shifts in the other team’s zone that really changed a period or a game, it’s really easy to see how big an impact they’ve made for us,” coach Todd Richards said.
“We’ve given them a big role, bigger maybe than other teams rely on their fourth line, but they’v e handled it all. They’ve really delivered.”
Boll and MacKenzie have been together most of the season, most frequently with Gillies on the left but lately with Blake Comeau, a trade-deadline acquisition.
Calvert played with such speed and scoring touch that he has moved up into the top nine.
“That meeting I think meant a lot to all of us,” MacKenzie said. “It’s what you want to hear, that the fourth line is going to have a purpose, a big role with the team. The way (Richards) has used us, I’ve never felt so big a part of something as I have this season, and I think Boller would tell you the same thing.”
And he did.
“Every coach wants to roll four lines,” Boll said, “but Richie has been really committed to it. He doesn’t drift away from us if we fall behind. If anything, some nights he’s turned to us more often, to create a forecheck and get the energy going.”
The Blue Jackets entered play last night two points ahead of Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.Down with Detroit?
The Red Wings are on the verge of ending a string of 21 consecutive playoff appearances.
The Blue Jackets, who have never finished within 20 points of Detroit in any of their previous 11 seasons, could be the ones who end the string, a parting shot on their way out of the Central Division and the West. Both teams join the East next season in different divisions.
“You know what? It has nothing to do with the Detroit Red Wings,” Richards said. “It has everything to do with the Columbus Blue Jackets. That’s it. That doesn’t matter to me at all, it truly doesn’t.”Nikitin out, Savard in
The Blue Jackets were without defensemen Nikita Nikitin and Adrian Aucoin last night against the Kings.
Aucoin (lower body) was injured on Monday against Colorado and has missed the past two games. Tim Erixon has taken his spot in the lineup. Nikitin (lower body) left Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime win over Anaheim early in the third period. David Savard was recalled from minor-league Springfield on an emergency basis.