The Columbus Dispatch

Blue Jackets’ Peeke looks to make life tough on opponents


Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Andrew Peeke has put an emphasis on playing a more physical game this season.

That emphasis was on full display in the team’s 4-3 win over the New Jersey Devils Saturday, when he set a career-high in hits with eight and was a disruptive presence throughout.

After Thursday’s loss, facing the Devils again two days later gave Columbus an opportunit­y to directly apply the lessons they learned and work to produce a better outcome. One of the areas they identified for improvemen­t was the physical play, something Peeke doesn’t need an invitation to engage in.

“Reviewing from last game, looking at some of their forwards, if you play physical on them and limit their time and space, it makes it tough for them,” Peeke said. “I really tried to focus on that, eliminate plays and take out the body.”

Learning to play 60

The Blue Jackets have been unable to string three full periods of hockey together, particular­ly on their recent 310-1 skid.

But their most recent faceoff was also their most complete game in weeks, and by beating the Devils, they came away with their first regulation win since Dec. 5.

“The past couple games, we’ve gotten the lead or a team’s tied it and we weren’t able to maintain the consistenc­y throughout the game,” Peeke said.

In the first five minutes of the game, Columbus led 2-0 on goals from forwards Oliver Bjorkstran­d and Boone Jenner. But by the time the period was over, the Devils had evened the score, taking advantage of lapses by the Jackets that, in previous games, would’ve proved insurmount­ably deflating.

This time, they managed to avoid panicking.

Rookie forward Yegor Chinakhov scored his second goal of the season to regain the lead at 9:31 of the second period, though the Devils were able to counter minutes later. But once again, the Jackets didn’t collapse, and a fullextens­ion save from Joonas Korpisalo sent them to the locker room for the second intermissi­on tied at three goals apiece.

“A save like that wins us the game,” Peeke said. “Coming into the locker room, coming off a save like that, right at the end of the period on the (penalty kill), that’s just a momentum-booster for us.“

Exactly five minutes into the third period, Bjorkstran­d scored his second goal of the night — a one-timer from the high slot — to give the Jackets the lead for the third time. And this time, they were able to hang on.

“I think we’re going in the right direction,” Bjorkstran­d said. “I think we’re getting there now. Now the key is to keep this going. We can’t take steps backwards.”

Korpisalo gets first win since Nov. 22

It hasn’t been an easy season for Korpisalo, who saw his teammate Elvis Merzlikins sign a five-year extension before the season started — a move that indicated this will likely be Korpisalo’s final season in Columbus.

On the ice, Korpisalo struggled. And off the ice, he battled through two bouts of sickness — a NON-COVID illness in early December that was severe enough to land him on injured reserve and COVID-19 at the end of December — before having to step in as the starter after Merzlikins suffered a lower-body injury

Jan. 1.

Saturday, he made his third consecutiv­e start for the first time all season and finally picked up a win, his first since Nov. 22 and his first win at home since April 6. Korpisalo finished with 27 saves on 30 shots.

“Thrilled for Korpi,” Larsen said. “He’s had a year. He really has. A lot of crazy things have happened. Felt like last game, he found his rhythm again. Settled in. He had another solid game tonight. It’s good to see him get in the win column.”

In other goaltendin­g news, the Blue Jackets have assigned goaltender Jeanfranco­is Berube to the taxi squad, Berube, 30, was added to the roster on emergency recall Jan. 4 but did not appear in a game. @baileyajoh­nson_

 ?? ?? Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Andrew Peeke (2) and New Jersey Devils center Michael Mcleod (20) fight during the third period of Saturday’s game at Nationwide Arena.
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Andrew Peeke (2) and New Jersey Devils center Michael Mcleod (20) fight during the third period of Saturday’s game at Nationwide Arena.

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