Columbus, Ohio -- In fact, it was a pair of Ks that killed the Kings. For the second straight game against Carter's crew, backup netminder Darcy Kuemper was given the start, and for the second straight time he came out with the win. "Darcy is a great goalie, a real team player, and it's nice to see him succeed when given the opportunity." Kuemper has only started twice this season, both times against LA, and currently boasts a 1.95 GAA and a 0.919 SV%. Granted, the Kings are bottom feeders, and the Jackets scored in bunches, but nevertheless Kuemper has earned the confidence of his teammates.
Offensively, youngster Nikita Kucherov carried the load by notching his first hat-trick of the season. After Alex Steen gave the Jackets the early lead, Kucherov took over the game and scored a pair in the second period before sealing the deal with his third of the night around the midpoint of the final frame. Kucherov is now up to 8 goals in 14 games, and is on a point-per-game pace. Not bad for a guy still on his entry-level deal ($800k).
The Jackets have a few guys hovering around the PPG range: like Kucherov, Rickard Rakell sits at 14 points in as many games, and he's followed by Frans Nielsen, Alex Steen and Ondrej Palat who are all at 13 points. Nielsen however has only played 12 games.
While this past week has seen the Jackets face slightly weaker competition, the next few games figure to be a lot harder on the squad from Columbus. The Blue Jackets will face the Sharks (9-5-1-0) on Monday, then will breeze through the lowly Sabres on Tuesday before starting a home-and-away series against Nashville on Sunday. The next few games should give us a better indication of the Jackets' real potential.