Grant Clitsome: The Answer to The Jackets' Blue Line Struggles?

Patrick Drottar@pdrottarCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2011

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 23:  Grant Clitsome #44 of the Columbus Blue Jackets warms up before playing against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 23, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Earlier this week, the Columbus Dispatch stated that several Blue Jackets players, fans, and local businesses took part in a "Money on the Board" campaign.

The Columbus faithful promised to donate money to local charities if the Blue Jackets were able to pull out a victory against the Red Wings.

The campaign proved to be a success as the Blue Jackets pulled out a shootout victory in front of a sold-out Nationwide Arena. One of the three Columbus goals came from defenseman unknown, Grant Clitsome.

Clitsome was called up from Springfield, Columbus' AHL affiliate, on Jan. 9 after angered defenseman Mike Commodore was sent down to clear roster space for a rumored "blockbuster" trade.

This is Clitsome's second time in Columbus, as he was called up last year and was able to register one goal and two assists in 11 games.

According to several different sources, Columbus General Manager Scott Howson has been very busy on the phones trying to bring in an impact player to keep the Blue Jackets a contender.

One of the main things that Howson wanted was an aggressive defenseman who took a lot of shots and made the Jackets' power play relevant again.

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After the win against the Red Wings, Howson's blue line answer may be right under his nose in Clitsome. He was able to do something Columbus' power play has not been able to do in quite some time: score.

With a little over eight minutes left in the first period and the Jackets on a 5-on-3 power play, Clitsome drove a one-timer that tipped off of Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard's glove and into the goal, giving the Blue Jackets an early 2-0 lead.

Although Clitsome's goal was the only shot he took in the game, his presence on the blue line may be the fresh start that the Blue Jackets need. He is a breath of fresh air in a locker room that has suffered from Mike Commodore's unhappiness.

Having a player who actually wants to play night in and night out can make an immediate impact for a struggling team.

While Howson continues to work the phones for trades, these next few games are crucial for Coach Arniel to see what he has in Clitsome. What better way to see what you have in a player then to throw him in against the division's best team?

Although his first stint in the NHL did not go as well as planned, Clitsome could benefit from the new system brought in by Arniel.

As young defenseman Kris Russel continues to try and find a groove, Clitsome could find a permanent spot on the Jackets' power play if he continues to be aggressive at the point. 

However, if he, like the rest of the Columbus' blue line, becomes timid with taking shots, he could find himself back in Springfield. 

The home-and-home series with the Red Wings could not have come at a better time for Clitsome and the struggling Blue Jackets.

Detroit has been suffering lately from injuries to some of their top players. Pavel Datsyuk, Mike Modano, Dan Cleary, Brad Stuart, and Chris Osgood did not dress for Friday's game, while Jimmy Howard (bruised knee) and Tomas Holmstrom (broken hand) had to leave the game Friday.

If Howard is not able to go in Satruday's rematch, Columbus could take advantage of third-string goaltender Joey MacDonald. Pouring on shots may be the key to a home-and-home sweep and the beginning of a possible turn around for the Jackets.


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