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Jackets look for rebound after Red Wing letdown

Ken Hitchcock has a new stat to add to his career.

The Columbus Blue Jackets’ coach has claimed 1,000 games as a coach in the NHL. He reached that milestone Wednesday night in a 9-1 drubbing by the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena.

After guiding the team to the best start in franchise history, Hitchcock now has Columbus at the top of the Central Division in the Western Conference.

“I think what is kind of scary for everybody is that our division is not one of those top two seeds for the first time in a very long time,” Hitchcock said. “We’re chomping away at the third seed and could end up as the 11th seed even if we lose one hockey game.”

Columbus has two games left in a four-game home swing. The team takes on the Anaheim Ducks Friday and the Edmonton Oilers Monday. Both games begin at 7 p.m. 

“For us, I think it’s a little early,” said Hitchcock, who became the 16th coach in league history to reach the 1,000 game milestone. “You start looking about game 25 to where you’re at as a team.”

Scouting Ducks and Oilers

The Ducks (6-8-2) claimed two victories before starting a four-game road swing Wednesday night with a loss at New Jersey.

Anaheim sits right behind the Jackets on the power play in the NHL standings at 12th place (21.4 percent). Forward Corey Perry is tied for fifth in the NHL in goals with 11, while center Ryan Getzlaf is tied for fifth in the NHL in assists.

Columbus has only won once in the previous seven meetings against Anaheim (1-4-2). The lone win came this season after the Jackets won 6-4 Oct. 24 in California.

“We have to play good at home,” forward Sammy Pahlsson said. “It’s hard to get points on the road so we have to get as many as we can here and get a good feeling in the group. We have a long road trip coming after this so we have to be in good shape going into it.”

The Oilers (8-9-2) defeated the Jackets 6-4 in Edmonton Oct. 22. In the game, Edmonton forward Dustin Penner took down Columbus by himself. He scored two goals with three assists in a comeback win against the Jackets after the Oilers were down 4-1 midway through the second period.

The third-year Oiler now has 11 goals and 11 assists for a total of 22 points in 19 games. The Jackets will need to do a better job of locating Penner on the ice.

After losing three of four during the road trip Oct. 20-25, Columbus has used the extra practice days at home this week to work on the areas they need to improve.

“There are things that we need to touch up in our game,” Columbus defenseman Kris Russell said. “The coaches find what we need to fix pretty quick in a game. That’s how we get better as a team. As a coaching staff, they do a really good job of helping us with that. As players, we take it upon ourselves to work on those aspects.”

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