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Blue Jackets confident hard work will pay off

Monday marks the third straight day of hour-long scrimmages followed by an hour each of on-ice and off-ice training for all 60 players at camp

by Alison Lukan AlisonL / BlueJackets.com

Jody's Take 9/17/17

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It's day five of Blue Jackets Training Camp presented by OhioHealth, and it's when the rubber starts to hit the road as far as how head coach John Tortorella runs his camps.

Monday marks the third straight day of hour-long scrimmages followed by an hour each of on-ice and off-ice training for all 60 players at camp. It's also the fourth straight day of intense skating that started with testing and morphed into challenging drills at the end of each practice.

Tortorella has talked and talked about the skating his camp involves, but it's not just the volume, it's the pace at which players work through it.

With 12-13 skaters in each of the four groups in camp, lines for drills aren't long. There's barely 10-15 seconds to catch your breath between each rep. And with that number of players for a scrimmage, the bench is short. You are basically skating every other shift for an hour.

"It's definitely tough because you're always moving," Cam Atkinson said. "Even if we have a break, it's quick. You might only get a couple squirts of water and then it's back to another drill. But it's all for a reason, it's all for a purpose."

The Jackets are a bit more willing to go through the specific type of pain this camp brings this season. They put in the work last year, and it paid off. The team felt strong late in games, and held leads that they took into the third period, putting up a 33-1-3 record in that situation.

Knowing the results can come, Tortorella promised that this year's camp will be even harder than the last, and he's building day by day insofar as the skating demands he's putting on his players.

With more days of practice before the first exhibition game this year, that means the hard work can be put in without interruption. It also means mentally that players will be going at least one more day without the adrenaline bump of knowing it's a game day.

"(Monday) is going to be a tough day for them, it's going to be a harder skate after the practice," Tortorella said. "These are hard days for them because they are long days, but the boring stuff is the most important stuff at the beginning of camp."

Atkinson, who's been adhering to Tortorella's mantra of "always finish" even as the skating volume grows, laughs because when Tortorella has said a day is going to be easier, it certainly doesn't feel that way.

With every drill and every lap of skating, Tortorella stands at center ice counting down the seconds between each iteration, challenging that pace of reps as well as the reps themselves.

"It's obviously tough, but it's all going to pay off in the end," Atkinson said. "It sucks while you're doing it. For me personally, I feel better every day as far as my endurance. I might not always look like it out there, but I feel like it is slowly but surely getting better every day."

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