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Blue Jackets OK with aches and pains of a playoff run

Sore and tired beats the alternative, Columbus players say

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

John Tortorella had a concern going into the Blue Jackets' second-round playoff series with Boston, and it might have been up there with how to handle Brad Marchand and what adjustments to take to slow down the Bruins' excellent power play. 

Amid the whole rest vs. rust debate held -- after its sweep of Tampa Bay in the first round, Columbus had eight days off between games heading into Game 1 of the series, while Boston had just one -- there was a key factor people seemed to be overlooking. 

Sneaking in some rest is probably good if a team wants to stay in the playoffs for the long haul, but there's something also to be said for that day-to-day feeling of being in the battle that is postseason hockey. 

In other words, being sore is a good thing. 

"I do believe the nicks and just the pains and the soreness, I think in playoff hockey, that makes you more ready to play," Tortorella said going into the series. "That's where I think (the Bruins) have the advantage going into one here because we are not sore, we are not in that state of mind." 

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In other words, being fresh is more than it's cracked up to be. After all, that's what the offseason is for, and it's pretty likely the 23 teams who didn't make the second round would gladly trade their current rest for that beat-up feeling that is accumulating in the bodies of the Jackets and Bruins. 

Or think of it this way -- isn't that feeling of being sore the day after a long run or a day of physical activity somewhat satisfying, in that way of its your body saying a mission has been accomplished? 

"I think everyone, the aches and pains are part of it," captain Nick Foligno said before adding with a laugh, "I don't think I've ever felt good since game one of the first game of my career." 

And to be clear, being sore is a different thing than being injured, like the upper-body injuries that have defensemen Markus Nutivaara, Adam McQuaid and Ryan Murray on the shelf.  

The line can be a bit blurry in playoff hockey, where it usually comes out after the postseason that Player X was playing with an injury no one knew about and Player Y's bruised whatever actually turned out to be broken. 

But if something is not serious enough that a player can reasonably play, then it's go time. Hockey players are a different breed when it comes to playing through pain, and this is the time of year when those bumps and bruises -- which likely piled up in a pair of physical overtime games to open the Boston series -- are in fact badges of honor.

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"If you feel like you are sore, you are tired, you feel like you're in the middle of the playoffs," defenseman Zach Werenski us. "For us, those days off, it didn't feel like we are in the playoffs at all. It felt like our season was over, just because the skates, you can't compare to playoff hockey." 

Mike Vogt, Nates Goto, Chris Strickland, Kevin Collins and Nelson Ayotte might not be household names in Columbus, but this is their time to shine. Vogt, the team's head athletic trainer, and the team's two assistant ATs Goto and Strickland help with the bumps and bruises, while Collins is the team's strength and conditioning coach and Ayotte is the team's director of high performance. 

They're the ones who are tasked with fixing and maintaining the players' bodies, and most of the players questioned Monday seemed to suggest the players came through the two overtime games to start the Boston series in decent shape. Josh Anderson and Riley Nash took maintenance days during Monday's practice, but there didn't seem to be any ill effects from the amount of hockey the team has played over the past two contests.

"I feel good. I feel refreshed," said Seth Jones, who played a game-high 38:01 in Game 2. "Young legs, I guess. Come back to me when I'm 30 and ask me the same question." 

For someone who has topped 30, though, this is still the most wonderful time of the year.  

"I feel good," Foligno said. "You just learn to play through that stuff. This is no different. This is when all those things don't matter." 

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