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Slumping Jackets, Calgary Flames meet Friday night in Columbus

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Slumping Jackets, Calgary Flames meet Friday night in Columbus

The Canadian Press
By:

"Two teams . . . that are struggling right now," veteran Jackets defenceman Adam Foote said Thursday. "You're going to see desperation and urgency. It should make for a good game."

The Flames were pegged as Cup contenders. The Jackets were seen by some as a good bet to make their first foray into the post-season.

They're both off-track right now, the Flames 14th in the 15-team Western Conference at 3-7-1 while the Jackets sit 13th at 3-6-1. But Foote says it's a dangerous game when players start thinking about where they should be in the standings instead of where they actually are.

"You don't want to get too far behind but at the same time if you start thinking about that and thinking so far down the road as far as playoffs, then you're going to put more pressure on yourself mentally and you might grip the sticks a little tight," said Foote. "But on the flip side, you don't want to say, 'It's OK, it doesn't matter, it's early and we'll turn it around.' Then maybe the guys don't focus and play with urgency.

"So it's a fine line, I think, and you have to read your dressing room."

Which as captain of the Jackets, is precisely Foote's job.

"There's been plenty of meetings over the last few weeks," said the 35-year-old Toronto native.

Somehow, a team which features such firepower as Rick Nash, David Vyborny, Nikolai Zherdev, Fredrik Modin, Anson Carter, Sergei Fedorov and rookie Gilbert Brule sits 27th in the NHL in goals per game at 2.20.

"Sometimes when you have the talent, you try to do too much," said Foote. "I find that that's what's happening right now. We get frustrated when we don't put the puck in the net and then try to do it every single shift, pushing the envelope instead of just buying our time, playing a simple game and letting our talent take over when the chances come up.

"I'd like to see us grind it out more and our talent will take over."

Foote chose his words carefully but he's obviously perturbed by some of his team's work away from the puck.

"I believe when you have a young team that playing away from the puck in the neutral zone . . . the guys further away from the puck that are gliding, that's when you get in trouble in this league and it's something that's hard to teach," he said. "And that's something we have to understand."

The NHL's grapevine is full of chatter regarding Gerard Gallant's future behind the Jackets bench but Foote says the players are fully behind the head coach.

"Guys are playing hard for him and they like him," said Foote. "The work ethic is there on our team. He's in a tough situation. There's a lot of pressure here. The guys are playing for him, we just have to keep it positive and stay together.

"We'll get better," added Foote. "It's not a matter of not having talent, or not trying, or not having a good work ethic, it's just understanding that you don't have to do everything all the time. Just play within your system and keep it simple sometimes."

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Slumping Jackets, Calgary Flames meet Friday night in Columbus