Do Blue Jackets players care enough?

In so many words, coach Todd Richards took aim at this touchy subject on Thursday after a 4-1 loss to St. Louis, a game that essentially was decided after the Blues scored three goals in the first period.

At the least, Richards called into question the Blue Jackets' ability to prepare and compete, to be self-motivating, prideful, professional athletes.

"We have to get more emotionally attached to games," Richards said. "The emotional attachment wasn't there, and then it's got to be created. Sometimes it's got to be created by me.

"I don't know what's going on inside our players' heads, as far as what their goals or objectives are to get themselves into the game. As coaches, we try to prepare them and certainly try to motivate them. But it comes down to players motivating themselves. They're professionals. This is what they have to do."

The Blue Jackets are 2-5-1 and have been outscored 10-2 in the first period this season, the most goals allowed in the first period by any club in the NHL entering last night. On Thursday, the Blue Jackets got back into the game with four second-period fights, and the sides played evenly the rest of the way.

It shouldn't require Jared Boll and Derek Dorsett risking injury to get the players motivated, Richards said.

"It's easy to get emotionally attached to a game if you have a tie to it somehow," Richards said. "If we were getting ready to play the New York Rangers, I guarantee there'd be motivation for the (three) guys we got from New York (in the trade for Rick Nash last summer). It's easy to get attached to a game like that."These guys have to find a way." The Blue Jackets only seem to play inspired against NHL powerhouses, teams that have the ability to embarrass them. Tonight's opponent, the Detroit Red Wings, might fill that bill. The Jackets hung with them before losing 4-3 in a shootout in the second game of the season.

"We have to believe right from the get-go," winger Brandon Dubinsky said. "We have to have the feeling that we're going to go win this game. We're showing way too much respect to our opponents right now. We're waiting for bad things to happen before we start getting ourselves going to answer. We have to correct that immediately.