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For those pushing, the time is now

Some prospects have stood out, others have more to give as camp hits midway point

by Rob Mixer @RobMixer /

Postgame: Markus Nutivaara

Nutivaara's thoughts after loss to the Penguins

Markus Nutivaara's postgame thoughts after a preseason loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins

  • 01:21 •

The Blue Jackets have played five preseason games, which means they have three remaining. No math majors around here, but that's beyond the halfway point in a training camp that means an awful lot to a number of players.

Disclaimer: results are not to be over-analyzed in these games. John Tortorella has said as much, preferring to evaluate players' conditioning at this stage of camp and how they react both mentally and physically to the intense and demanding skating drills.

But within that scope, these preseason games do hold some weight because they represent opportunity. There's a limited window for players to make their case, turn heads and ultimately earn a spot on the final 23-player roster.

While some players have fared well, the Blue Jackets are still waiting for others to catch up. There's no set number of available jobs or roster spots, mind you, but management and the coaching staff want to be forced into difficult decisions.

Right now, they're not at that point.

"We want more, for sure," said assistant coach Brad Larsen, who coached Sunday's game against Pittsburgh. "You want to see them separate themselves for those final couple spots or you want guys to do that; again, it kind of ebb-and-flows from game-to-game right now and day-to-day in practice. It's time to try and separate yourselves from these other guys.

"For guys that are trying to fight for a job, especially, I don't think you start making excuses at this point. You've got to be better than that."

Here are some quick takes as camp hits the stretch drive:

1. Pressure is real: it's a different position to know that the coaches are looking for you to stand out, versus being the underdog that might have a chance. The Blue Jackets have a few guys in the former category, and one of them is Oliver Bjorkstrand. He's had a quiet camp by his standards so far but there's plenty of time to hit another gear - however, time is starting to run short. Said Larsen: "These guys are smart enough to know the positions they're in. Opportunities are in front of them. Pressure does strange things to people…all you can really do is control your game, play well and play to your strengths."

2. Bob's first action: Sergei Bobrovsky, fresh off a tremendous performance for Russia during the World Cup of Hockey, made his Blue Jackets preseason debut on Sunday and went the distance against the Penguins. He made 21 saves - a few of which were 'vintage Bob.' Larsen said Bobrovsky "didn't get a lot of help; he was busy in the net. As far as Sergei goes, I think he was fine."

3. Nutivaara is pushing: The name 'Markus Nutivaara' may not have been widely-known before this camp, but he is one of the names that keeps coming up, and it's solely because of his play. Not only does he skate well but he makes quick, intelligent decisions with the puck - something Larsen said is "tough to teach defensemen. Under pressure, he seems to be fine. He seems to make the right play, the right pass at the right time." One thing he wants Nutivaara to work on is getting stronger, which will help him in one-on-one battles down low and in front of the net. Nutivaara led all players with 26:52 TOI in the game.

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