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Blue Jackets invite fans to watch practice Monday at Nationwide

Simulated game at 11 a.m. designed to help team stay sharp

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

By Monday, it will have been six days since Blue Jackets fans have had a chance to see their team finish off a four-game sweep of Tampa Bay for the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoffs series win.

But fans will get a chance to see the team that has captured Columbus' attention Monday morning as the team has announced the team's practice that day will be open to the public and staged on the Nationwide Arena main ice.

The practice will feature a full-team simulated game and begin at 11 a.m. Doors will open at 10:30, and fans must enter through the Front Street plaza entrance. The first 500 fans will receive a free "It's Time" T-shirt.

SAY YOU'RE GOING: RSVP to Open Practice on Monday

And head coach John Tortorella wants to see you there.

"That's fantastic," Tortorella said. "(General manager Jarmo Kekalainen) and I were sitting around the office and Jarmo is the one who said, 'Why don't we just bring the people in?' I hope they come. These guys are performers. They want to perform in front of people, not coaches." 

Not only will it be a chance for the Blue Jackets to salute the 5th Line, it will allow them a chance to bring some game-day intensity into practice. Since Columbus finished off the sweep of the Lightning on Tuesday, the team took two days off then returned to practice Friday.

Meanwhile, Boston and Toronto -- who are playing on the other side of the Atlantic Division bracket, with the winner to meet the Blue Jackets in the second round -- played Game 4 on Wednesday and then Game 5 on Friday night. The Maple Leafs took a 3-2 series lead with a 2-1 win in Boston and will try to close things out Sunday in a 3 p.m. game.

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On the argument of rust vs. rest, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella is a bit worried what the time off will do to his team, who will have had more than a week off from competition before the second round begins.

"It's a big challenge for the coaching staff," Tortorella said. "I'm concerned as we move forward here. Some guys haven't been in this situation before. It's a big part of our job as coaches to make sure we do this the right way to get prepared for our next opponent." 

Staying sharp will be the biggest battle the Jackets have to face because of the layoff. Columbus certainly isn't going to complain -- it could give team members a chance to return to health, a key question on the blue line given the injuries to Markus Nutivaara, Ryan Murray and Adam McQuaid -- and the Jackets know winning in four games beats being on the other side of things. 

But the team still has to do what it can to keep momentum and be ready to go when the next round begins. In that regard, playing a simulated game in front of a crowd should help get the juices flowing again.

Game dates and times for the Blue Jackets' second-round games will be known once the Toronto-Boston series is decided. 

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