PREVIEW: Top veterans to play as Blue Jackets host Devils
Columbus, New Jersey to dress their top guns in Nationwide Arenaby Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com
BLUE JACKETS vs. DEVILS
Friday, 7 p.m., Nationwide Arena (BlueJackets.com/Live, Fox Sports Go, 97.1 The Fan)
As the Blue Jackets have taken the show on the road thrice this preseason, Nick Foligno has spent those three game nights at home with his wife and three kids.
In fact, through five preseason games, Foligno has played in just one. He attended the other home game, but when the Jackets went on the road -- and with the games not on television -- he chose to spend some valuable time with his actual family instead of his hockey version.
That, though, has led to some awkward questions around the neighborhood.
"My neighbors are like, 'Are you guys playing tonight?'" Foligno said. "I'm like, 'It's preseason. It's hard to explain. Don't worry, I'm not cut yet.'"
He delivered the final line with his trademark smile of self-deprication, but there's no denying the first five preseason games for Columbus were more about evaluating young players than they were about preparing for the season.
TRAINING CAMP: News, notes, and more
That changes Friday night, though, when the New Jersey Devils come to town. With the regular season exactly a week away for the CBJ, both teams will dress their veterans, and the two rosters looking like something you'd see on the Nationwide Arena ice from October to March when the games truly count.
That means Foligno and the rest of his long-tenured Blue Jackets teammates are treating the contest -- and perhaps Sunday's final preseason game at home vs. St. Louis -- as an important dress rehearsal.
"They're big for me personally, just feeling good about my game," Foligno said. "The first one, you just want to get through it and work out the kinks and the timing. Now it's fune-tuning your game and getting to where you want to feel as optimal as possible so you know come Friday of next week, we're firing on all cylinders. You have no more kinks in your game.
"I'm going to be approaching these like I would a regular-season game in a lot of ways just to get my mind-set wrapped around the fact it's go time in a week here."
While the captain's position in the lineup is secure, it would appear there are few spots left on the table when it comes to the 23-man opening night roster. It's always possible Columbus could make a recall in the final week, but of the 28 players remaining on the camp roster, only 25 have a legitimate chance to skate opening night.
That means, with roster members Liam Foudy and Brandon Dubinsky out for the start of the season because of injury, likely one of the 14 attackers and one of the nine blueliners will be trimmed before the opening faceoff.
Speculating a bit, that would seem to mean there's three spots available for the quartet of Sonny Milano, Emil Bemstrom, Jakob Lilja and Marko Dano up front. On defense, rookie Andrew Peeke is the most likely to be sent down given his lack of professional experience despite a strong camp.
But head coach John Tortorella cautioned no final decisions have been made, especially with two games to go until the rosters must be submitted by Tuesday afternoon.
He also reminded that because of injuries and other circumstances that come up throughout the season, even those already sent down to AHL Cleveland will be counted on as the season goes by.
"I think we have some good players that are down there now, and they're going to need to be counted on as far as when you go through the grind of a year," Tortorella said. "You are never going to have your 20-player roster healthy all the time.
"We're going to count on a lot of people as we go through this, and again, I'm still not sure where it finishes here as we get prepared for opening night."
Alexandre Texier - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Nick Foligno - Boone Jenner - Josh Anderson
Gustav Nyquist - Alexander Wennberg - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Jakob Lilja - Riley Nash - Sonny Milano
Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Markus Nutivaara - David Savard
Dean Kukan - Vladislav Gavrikov
Roster Report: The healthy players on the current CBJ camp roster not to dress will be forwards Emil Bemstrom and Marko Dano and defensemen Scott Harrington, Ryan Murray and Andrew Peeke. Dano, Harrington and Peeke played Wednesday in Buffalo, while Murray has been held out of most of the preseason as a precaution. Bemstrom was originally on the Friday night roster but was replaced by Lilja after missing practice Thursday with injury; he did return to practice Friday morning, though.