The Columbus Blue Jackets are off to the best start in franchise history, and improvement on special teams is a big part of that surprising success.
Barely two weeks into 2009-10, the Blue Jackets will try to match their longest winning streak from last season as they open a four-game road trip Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames.
Columbus (5-1-0) started the season with consecutive wins before falling 6-3 at San Jose on Oct. 8. The team has responded with three straight victories, including a 4-1 win over Los Angeles on Saturday night.
Columbus’ power-play unit has converted five of 21 opportunities (23.8 percent) after finishing at the bottom of the NHL at 12.7 percent last season. The penalty kill has scored twice and posted a 23-for-24 success rate, including a 5-for-5 performance Saturday.
Columbus is now in position to match its longest winning streak from last season. It won four in a row on three occasions en route to a team-record 92 points and the first playoff appearance in the franchise’s eight seasons.
The Blue Jackets’ current streak has been aided by Nash, who has three goals and a team-leading seven assists in five games since failing to get a point in the season opener.
The All-Star left wing had two assists in a 2-1 home win over the Flames (5-2-1) last Tuesday, giving him six in the teams’ last two meetings. However, Nash has been held to two goals and five assists in 12 career games at Calgary.
Columbus is 2-7-1 in its last 10 visits to Pengrowth Saddledome, including 0-1-1 last season.
The Flames, who rank among league leaders with a power play percentage of 34.8 (8 for 23), are looking to build on Friday’s 5-3 win over Vancouver. Five players scored to snap Calgary’s three-game winless streak.
Calgary’s 29 goals are spread among 15 players, while 20 have at least a point - tied for the league lead with San Jose and Dallas.
Brian McGrattan(notes) has a goal and two assists in his last three games. The right wing, known for his tough play, scored against the Canucks to mark his first goal since he had two as a rookie for Ottawa during the 2005-06 season.
“Any way that you can contribute offensively is a boost for our team,” said McGrattan, who was limited to five games with Phoenix last season due to a shoulder injury and a stint in the league’s substance abuse program because of a drinking problem. “We know our job. We have to play tough and physical in their end. If you can get a goal or two that really helps the team and helps the guys get going.
“To overcome the addiction part of things and to overcome major surgery, it’s been tough, but I can kind of see the rewards now.”
While the Flames have shown some impressive depth, Jarome Iginla(notes) has failed to get a point in his last two games. The All-Star right wing, Calgary’s all-time leader with 411 goals and 855 points, has two goals and two assists after leading the team with 89 points last season.
Iginla has 12 goals and 12 assists in 16 home games against Columbus.