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Fast start key to shortened season, players say

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

The New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup in June of 1995, with the National Hockey League playing a 48-game regular season that began in mid-January. Circumstances are similar to what the league and its team face now, with the season likely to begin in the next two weeks.

For the Blue Jackets, the season can't come soon enough and nine of them took to the ice this morning at the OhioHealth Ice Haus in anticipation of things getting under way. More players are expected to arrive in the coming days and more are arriving today pending travel arrangements, but the prevailing emotion of excitement was the theme of the morning.

After a 70-minute or so skate today - which also featured former Ohio State forward Dave Steckel (Toronto Maple Leafs) - the focus shifted toward the re-shaped Blue Jackets and the club's outlook for what figures to be a fast and furious NHL season.

Who has the advantage? What do players and teams need to focus on to stay fresh? There was a variety of thoughts and ideas, which will no doubt be discussed in further detail once formal meetings and practices begin.

"You have to get out to good start, and you have to stay healthy," James Wisniewski told "We can't have a start like we had last year and be 1-7, that just can't happen. If you can start off hot, you're literally sitting pretty.

"The other key is making sure you come in and (take care of yourself). Lots of guys haven't played games in at least eight months, and there a lot of things you have to be aware of both mentally and physically."

While the NHL schedule has yet to be released, Wisniewski and his teammates have already discussed multiple approaches to the season and how to position themselves for the best start possible.

He said teams that play well at the beginning and the end are in a prime spot to make the playoffs, and with every game meaning so much, the Blue Jackets want to make sure they aren't one of the teams that fall behind early. By adding veterans over the summer, Wisniewski feels there won't be a lot of "getting up to speed" but more refining what they've already learned.

"We have a lot of good leaders here," Wisniewski said. "We have very smart guys...we're going to know each other. We've been talking amongst ourselves throughout the lockout and know what to expect. (Head coach Todd Richards) is really good; he's going to know the fine line between getting us back into shape and not pushing us too much."

And when breaking down the team's newest additions as well as its strengths, Wisniewski confidently said he thinks the Blue Jackets are well-suited for this season.

"We're the type of team that's going to be in your face every single shift," Wisniewski said. "Every line can skate, we're physical, our 'D' are mobile and we have great offensive skill with a good first pass. I'm really looking forward to the season."

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