Pre Game Notes: Regular Season Game 6, Anaheim Ducks @ Columbus Blue Jackets

The Ducks are expected to continue to ride the hot hand with Frederik Andersen between the pipes tonight in Columbus (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

The Ducks are expected to continue to ride the hot hand with Frederik Andersen between the pipes tonight in Columbus (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

COLUMBUS, OHIO — This is my first time at Nationwide Arena in a working capacity, and boy…I could get used to this place.  Love the arena district, love the building, and there aren’t a ton of people trying to do the same thing you’re looking to do since it isn’t as big of a market as what I’m used to.

I spoke to Mark Letestu for an ECHL.com piece you’ll read later this week, as well as Ryan Murray, Curtis McElhinney, Frederik Andersen and Saku Koivu for stuff you’ll see on here and in print as part of my Wednesday column.

Let’s start out with Murray.  The 20-year-old was the second overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, and is looked upon to be a big part of the continuing efforts by the Blue Jackets to rebuild.  The skilled defenseman has already tallied his first NHL goal — “a bit of a garbage goal,” he joked — and is excited for the opportunity he’s been receiving.

“It’s been awesome,” he said.  “These guys last year made a lot of strides to get the team where they are now, and I just want to be a part of it moving forward and contribute as much as I can…there’s a great group of guys in this locker room; a lot of good character guys and a lot of good personalities.  It’s just a fun place to come to every day.”

Murray credited veteran blueliner and D-pair mate James Wisniewski for helping to bring him along at the next level.

“I’ve been playing with Wiz pretty much all season, and he’s always been talking to me.  He’s such a great guy for feedback,” Murray said.

“Every play, he’s always, ‘You can do this better,’ or, ‘That was a great play.’  He’s always letting me know what I can do better and what I’m doing right.  He’s kind of like my personal coach, I guess you could say.  He’s always there, and he’s always in my ear.  That’s a great thing as a young guy trying to learn more in this league.”

Meanwhile, over in the Ducks room, I scored a 1-on-1 chat with a very gracious Koivu, who was still beaming over the reception he got in Montreal.

“That’s one thing, is that I think you lose perspective on a lot of things, but when you know there’s not a lot of hockey left in your career, you try to enjoy it more and appreciate the success the team is having,” he said.  “As an individual, when you get a reaction like that as a visiting player from your old fans, those moments are pretty cool.”

The Ducks have won eight of their first 11 games, and the 38-year-old Finnish center has potted two goals and an assist to start out the year.

“I really believe that this is a team that can go far,” he said.  “At times, we’re playing really, really good hockey, especially 5-on-5 where I think our defensive game has been pretty consistent.  But offensively, we’re still trying to find the combinations and trying to find a little more offense.  The one thing we really have to improve is our special teams, both the penalty killing and the power play.  We’ve been struggling, but fortunately we’ve still been winning games and it gives you a little more time to get those things going.  But if you want to be successful, we have to be better in those areas.”

— Looked like Sergei Bobrovsky will start for the Blue Jackets, and Andersen will get the nod for the Ducks.  Michael Chaput is expected to make his NHL debut for Columbus as well.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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