As the days of training camp dwindle down, opening night gets closer. And for the remaining players in the Blue Jackets' camp, the window is narrowing for a chance to make the opening night roster.
Head coach John Tortorella and his staff have let players know where they stand. Earlier this week, the camp was divided into two groups, with group one rostered with the players fighting for an NHL roster spot.
One of the players in that group is 27-year-old Zac Dalpe.
Dalpe's name isn't an unfamiliar one in the hockey circles of central Ohio. As a Carolina Hurricanes second-round draft pick, he played 76 games at The Ohio State University before turning pro in 2010. And while his hockey career took him away from Columbus, it led him to cross paths with Tortorella when both were part of the Vancouver Canucks organization in 2013-14.
And while the coach liked what he saw even then, he also knew what he needed to see more.
"Dalpe has great size, he can skate and shoot a puck," Tortorella said. "He can make a play, he's got all the things. And then when you think he's finally arrived, he just isn't consistent enough and that is the battle he has fought."
That feedback isn't anything new to Dalpe. But when he joined the Jackets, it was an opportunity to look at what he could become, and the motivation was both personal and professional.
Dalpe was claimed off waivers by the Jackets on Feb. 27. Nine days later, he welcomed his first child, a son. And that changed his approach to the game he loved.
"I got a whole new perspective on life and motivation," Dalpe said. "Not that I wasn't motivated before but I put the work in when nobody was watching. I'd like to think I'm getting a little rewarded for that and I just have to keep going."
The 6-foot-1 center's approach has been working. In 20 games with the Monsters last season, Dalpe scored eight goals and had seven assists.
His head coach has been pleased with his performance through this camp to date, and he's played three preseason games, including a two-goal performance in St. Louis.
Video: Dalpe talks about his two-goal game
While Dalpe sees that his work has earned him a spot not just in games, but also in the NHL practice group, he remains focused on his own game. Coaches are watching. Veterans are watching. It's not a time to get distracted from your game.
"I see who's on the ice and I understand that, but it's not going to make me comfortable in any way," Dalpe said. "I feel like I'm doing a lot of good things away from the puck. My defensive game has been good. I haven't killed penalties much at this level and I killed some the other night and felt good doing it.
"I feel I'm consistent with my day-to-day work, and now it has to transform onto the ice. How to do that, I don't have the magic potion, but I like to think I'm getting the hang of it."
- Tortorella is still hopeful center Brandon Dubinsky can play a preseason game, but they are taking it day to day. Dubinsky has been participating in full drills, but was a little sore after two hard practices yesterday and today.
- Tomorrow's game roster looks to be one full of young players who will get another look from Jackets' management. Tortorella says that some cuts will come Tuesday after practice, with another chunk coming after the game.
- Seth Jones (2-1-3), Cam Atkinson (1-2-3) and Sonny Milano (0-3-3) are your Jackets preseason points leaders through five games.