For a hockey player, Alexandre Picard sure has done a lot to look like part of a game of table tennis lately.

Like the ball, actually.

Picard, property of the Columbus Blue Jackets since being selected in the first round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, has shuttled back and forth between Columbus, Ohio, and Syracuse, N.Y., home of the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate, more often than any other player on the team.

But he doesn’t care.

“It’s part of the game,” said Picard. “Everyone has to go through that to play here. Both teams, there are a bunch of great guys, and that makes it a lot easier.”

Picard was the victim of a numbers game as the Blue Jackets struggled to find ways to win this season. The team has just 13 wins in 34 games, and sits fiveoint ahead of St. Louis, one of the NHL’s worst teams.

“The team made a lot of trades this summer to try to get better,” said Picard. “They have a lot of players here and they are playing everybody.”

In his first game with the Blue Jackets this season, Picard tried to jump a check along the boards in front of the players’ benches. His momentum combined with the force of the hit forced the speedy forward off his feet. He slid along the dasher and went back-first into the post holding the glass at the corner of the bench.

“That was just an accident, I was trying to jump over him,” said Picard, who rehabbed from that hit for a while and then was sent back down to Syracuse.

“They had to drain my back twice after that, but now, it feels great. There are no problems.”

On another recent call-up, Gardiner resident and Maineiacs season ticket-holder Mike Burawski tried to visit Picard in Philadelphia, where he was supposed to face the Flyers. After warm-ups for the afternoon game, Picard was informed he was being sent back down. Undaunted, Burawski packed up and drove to Syracuse, and made it just in time to see Picard warm up for – and play in – that evening’s game.

“Those guys are unbelievable,” said Picard. “Everyone asked me what the Maineiacs’ jerseys were, and I was proud to tell them that was my junior team in Maine. I even took those guys to dinner after a game last year.”

Back in Columbus, Picard seemed to have found some staying power. After a recent game in Calgary, new Blue Jackets’ coach Ken Hitchcock raved about Picard’s performance.

“He was excellent,” Hitchcock told the Columbus Dispatch. “(Picard and his two linemates) are three really young guys. We would really like to give those guys added responsibility as the season moves on. They’ve got a little niche right now. They’re a checking line, and they’re dug in as a group, and we’ll keep them together.”

Picard knew he could still be sent down at any moment.

Last week, he was. Again.

“I just need to finish my checks all the time, I’m an energy guy,” Picard said. “I’ve learned a lot here, and I just need to have fun now. You live life once. Being sent down, that’s OK. I’ll play hockey and be happy.”

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