It is hard to say when, where or how the Blue Jackets will acquire their defensive anchor. The answer might even be in Springfield right now. Who knows?

This column is about the center, the other position of need since the birth of the franchise. More, it is about the first line - Rick Nash, Derick Brassard and Jake Voracek, left to right. If you've watched the Jackets lately, you've noticed the first line every time it has rumbled onto the ice.

There they are again. Yesterday afternoon in Dallas, Voracek sprang Nash for the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over the Stars. Look out? The Jackets are 5-1 in the past six games, 8-3-2 in their past 13. It remains to be seen whether they can keep scrambling up the playoff ladder, a difficult endeavor in this age of three-point games and abject parity. They are in 12th place in the Western Conference and they've made up precious little ground of late, despite their winning ways.

But the direction is good. Goaltender Steve Mason has won 10 of his past 15 starts. Intermittently, long-lost defensemen are reappearing (hello, Anton Stralman). What is more, the energy and checking lines have been living up to their adjectives and supplying needed boosts.

The most startling development is the emergence of the first line. Nash has eight goals and 16 points in the past 15 games. Brassard has five goals and 13 points in the past 13. Voracek has five goals and 18 points in the past 21.

We're talking about point-per-game players during this stretch. As impressive - and rare, in these parts - as that may be, it does not come close to describing the recent impact of this trio of 26-and-unders.

They are dangerous. You can feel it every time they turn to attack.

This is a departure. As longtime Jackets fans can attest, lingering danger is a quality most often found in opponents. It is what you felt when Brad Richards was on the ice yesterday; it came right through the television. It is what you felt in Nationwide Arena when the Peter Forsberg-Matt Duchene-Milan Hejduk line was on for Colorado on Friday night. It is in the tension supplied by such All-Star centers as Jonathan Toews, Joe Thornton, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

The Jackets have one All-Star, Nash, and he is nearly as transformative as a potent centerman. He is doing for Brassard and Voracek this season what he did for a pair of veterans last season - when his then-linemates, Antoine Vermette and Kristian Huselius, had career years.