PREVIEW: Blue Jackets close preseason vs. St. Louis at Nationwide Arena
Columbus gets one final tune-up before regular seasonby Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com
BLUE JACKETS vs. BLUES
Sunday, 5 p.m., Nationwide Arena (BlueJackets.com/Live, Fox Sports Go, 97.1 The Fan)
For the second game in a row Sunday, the Blue Jackets will put many of their top players on the ice at Nationwide Arena.
But while the Columbus hopes for a better result than Friday night's 2-0 setback vs. New Jersey when it takes the ice against the St. Louis, the most important thing is making sure the preparation is getting the team ready for its opener next Friday night vs. Toronto.
The best way to do so is to get out there and play the right way against another team.
"Games are games," assistant coach Brad Larsen said. "At the end of the day, it's the games that matter. You have to get into game action to get better. It's a tune-up game and we want our guys - we understand it's still preseason, it's hard to get amped up and ready to go, but there's still a responsibility that we need to be ready to go when that puck drops in the home opener, and this is part of our preparation. The only way to do that is to go out and do the right things."
As Columbus, 2-3-1 so far in the exhibition slate, closes the preseason against the defending St. Louis Blues, there are still a few things to get worked out.
At the top of the list is setting the final 23-man roster for opening night. The Blue Jackets certainly appear close to doing so -- "It's not rocket science to figure out who is probably going to be here day one," Larsen said - but there still appear to be a handful of forwards battling to see who will fill out the fourth line and the bottom of the roster.
While most of the spots are set, Emil Bemstrom, Sonny Milano, Marko Dano and Jakob Lilja have been in camp the entire time, but unless there's a late injury, there is room only for three of the four. At the same time, Eric Robinson has been recalled for the game against the Blues and also could force his way into the discussion with his performance Sunday.
Then there are forward lines and defensive pairs that need to be set. While the top three lines were similar during most of training camp - rookie Alexandre Texier with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson, the trio of Nick Foligno, Boone Jenner and Josh Anderson back together, and Swedes Gustav Nyquist and Alexander Wennberg paired with Oliver Bjorkstrand.
But in the third period of Friday night's game, head coach John Tortorella swapped Texier and Foligno, putting the captain with the team's top line and seeing how Texier would fit on a line that often sets the tone for the team. The fourth line and defensive pairs also must be settled on as well, and Tortorella acknowledged after the game he hadn't decided for sure how things would look on opening night.
For now, though, Sunday offers one final chance to tune things up before the real lights go on. After being shut out Friday, captain Nick Foligno said he wasn't too surprised considering it was the first chance for the Blue Jackets to put something approaching a full lineup on the ice.
Still, he is looking forward to sharpening things up and getting one more chance to do so against the Blues.
"We also know that we're running out of preseason games," Foligno said. "We obviously want to show well on Sunday."
Nick Foligno - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Gustav Nyquist - Alexander Wennberg - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Eric Robinson - Alexandre Texier - Marko Dano
Emil Bemstrom - Riley Nash - Sonny Milano
Ryan Murray - Seth Jones
Zach Werenski - Scott Harrington
Vladislav Gavrikov - Markus Nutivaara
Roster Report: Columbus announced its 20-player lineup Saturday, a group that swaps out three forwards and two defensemen. Robinson was recalled to join the group and will play Sunday, while Bemstrom and Dano move into the forward group. They replace Jakob Lilja, Boone Jenner and Josh Anderson. Defensively, Ryan Murray will play his second preseason game, while Scott Harrington will also play. Dean Kukan and David Savard will sit after playing Friday. Tortorella did not name a starting goalie when asked after Friday night's game.