By Michael Caples –
DETROIT – It’s not like it was his first NHL game in his home state. After all, James Wisniewski has played in 390 games as a professional hockey player, and that has meant a few trips through Hockeytown.
But trips home for the Canton native are made a little sweeter when he helps set up the game-winning goal in front of his family and friends.
Wisniewski, the former Plymouth Whaler and assistant captain for the Blue Jackets, made the final pass to teammate Vinny Prospal to complete a come-from-behind victory in the closing seconds against the Detroit Red Wings Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena.
“We were working hard all game, we did a good job breaking up the play in the defensive zone, and we got an odd-man rush,” Wisniewski said after the game. “We had a great middle-lane drive by Vinny, [Derek Dorsett] pulled up, made a great pass over to me, and I just threw it over to Vinny. He was wide open, and he put it in the back of the net.”
The Canton native said that while the allure of playing at The Joe – he grew up just a half hour away – has worn off a bit, it’s still a special game for those closest to him.
“Well at first, it was surreal, but it’s my eighth year in the NHL, so it’s kind of past that whole thing,” Wisniewski said. “It’s kind of like a Wrigley Field…it’s fun. I get my family coming in, my family and friends can come see me play and I can see them after the game, and it’s always better after a ‘W’.”
Wisniewski was +2 on the night, after taking 25 shifts for 18:53 worth of ice-time. He now has three goals and five assists in 13 games this season.
He’s still looking for that first goal in his hometown rink, however. Wisniewski has played in 12 contests at Joe Louis Arena, and has recorded two points – both assists. None of his 22 shots on Red Wings goaltenders have managed to find the back of the net.
The Blue Jackets had more than just hockey on their minds after the win, however. Columbus forward Artem Anisimov was taken off the ice on a stretcher early in the second period after a collision behind the Red Wings’ goal with Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey. Reports around Joe Louis Arena later in the contest indicated that Anisimov would be OK, and the immobilization efforts were just out of precaution.
Wisniewski, who had suffered a concussion just two weeks earlier, said it’s never an easy thing to watch happen to a teammate or an opponent.
“It’s scary, because I think I just went through it about two weeks ago,” Wisniewski said. “I don’t remember much of it, but I mean, you never want to see that. After that game with us, when I was down, they showed great sportsmanship, slapping the boards and ice and all that stuff. Even though we’re battling and it’s a war out there, it’s still a big brotherhood. We’re all in this together, it’s our livelihood, we’re playing hockey for a living to provide for our families and our team, but you never want to see anybody get hurt.”