For the first time in a while, the Blue Jackets had too many players on the ice for practice - and that's a good thing.
Both Matt Calvert and Boone Jenner graduated from conditioning skates at the OhioHealth Ice Haus to taking part in full-team practice today, marking a positive step forward for a pair of players who have missed considerable time.
Calvert hasn't played a game since the first week of the season before undergoing abdominal surgery in Philadelphia; Jenner has missed six games with a leg injury suffered in the Jackets' 5-2 win over the Maple Leafs on Oct. 25. It's just one day, one step for both guys, but coach Todd Richards was happy to have them back.
"It's the first step as far as them getting back," Richards said after practice. "They were able to come out and practice with us today, they're going to make the trip with us to Washington and to Boston. That's more so they can be part of the team, and as coaches, we can start skating them conditioning-wise and getting them ready to go."
According to Richards, this is also a very early step. He doesn't expect either Calvert or Jenner back in the lineup for any of the Jackets' three games this week (Washington, Boston or at home vs. Montreal on Friday); instead, the team is targeting either of the two road games next week in western Canada.
Other notes from Monday's practice...
- The Blue Jackets have packed up and ready to depart for the nation's capital, where they'll face the Capitals on Tuesday. Richards was asked whether it felt like returning to the scene of a crime, considering what happened the last time the Blue Jackets played there: "I'm sure they're probably excited to play us, based on how that game went. At times, it got wide-open and there was lots of skating space for those guys to play in.
"I don't think we came even close to the price we had to pay to get a point or two points."
- Another positive day for Nathan Horton, as well. He skated in the Ice Haus along with Blue Jackets strength and conditioning coach Kevin Collins, and did so in full gear. Nothing too strenuous to this point, though, but Horton said he's been feeling great.
- Richards spent a lot of time post-practice talking about how the Blue Jackets don't shoot the puck well enough, despite games in which they rack up a large quantity of shots. It's one of the reasons why they aren't creating a lot of offense, Richards said, and it's something he and the team have talked about at length over the past several games. "I think of Wiz, and how he's gotten some points this year just by getting it toward the net, creating rebounds or deflections. As a group, we don't shoot the puck well.
"We do a bad job of getting it there and a lot of times, we're not getting it there and it's getting blocked. We have to do a better job of just shooting the puck."
- High praise for the defense pairing of Wisniewski and Murray from the coach today. Those two have been paired together since training camp and Richards really likes the way their games complement each other. The Murray/Wisniewski pairing is the only one of the Blue Jackets' defense pairs with a combined plus rating (+1); the other two pairs are a combined -18.