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Blue Jackets embarking on 32-game sprint to the finish

Following practice Thursday, Tortorella set the stage for the final two-plus months

by By Brian Hedger JacketsInsider /

John Tortorella isn't one to speak much about the Metropolitan Division, the Blue Jackets' place in the standings, their chase for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs or opposing teams.

The Jackets' head coach, however, did all of that following practice Thursday at Nationwide Arena, giving a clear picture of what lies ahead for Columbus in the final two-plus months of the regular season.

There are 32 games left, starting Friday against the San Jose Sharks (7 p.m., Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Go, 97.1 FM), and every single one will grow in importance as the days fall off the calendar.

The Blue Jackets have 58 points after 50 games, currently sit in the first Wild Card in the Eastern Conference and have just a four-point cushion between themselves and last place in the division - where the Carolina Hurricanes reside with 54 points.

Here's what Tortorella had to say about the upcoming sprint to the finish line:

"This is an NHL season, yeah. Look at the teams. Look at the league. This is the National Hockey League. It's a league that strives for parity. You've got parity. No matter what the team's record is, there are tough games every night. I think this is what makes you better. As I always say, I'm glad we're going through it. I wish I knew that we were in, that at the end of the year I had the crystal ball and I can say, 'Yeah, we're going to be in the playoffs.'

"I'd feel a lot more comfortable as you go through this process, but that's not the way it is. You have to fight for everything. Just look at our division. Our division was on fire early in the year. Now, everybody's come down. Everybody's losing games, everybody's in that same boat. Washington took off, [Philadelphia] had a 10-game losing streak, found its way, and now it just keeps getting bunched. Jersey's lost a bunch of games. So, we're going through the same thing a lot of teams in this league go through.

"It's how you handle yourselves when you get into this [final 32] games and trying to find a way to get a streak going to get a bunch of points. [Pittsburgh] crawls back into it. They're 8-2 their last 10 games. Eventually, we're going to have to find a run here of winning some games in a row, and I think that's what gives you an opportunity to play after the regular season.

"I like the way we've practiced the last couple of days. I'm anxious to play. [There's] a good San Jose team coming in here. We're going to have our hands full, and then we go back-to-back [against the New York Islanders on Saturday], so we're going to start playing the games now."

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