It’s officially October and the Blue Jackets kick off the new season in exactly eight days -- but there's still business to tend to in training camp.
There are two remaining preseason games that could impact who takes the ice at Nationwide Arena on Oct. 9 for the Jackets home opener against the New York Rangers.
While some players might want to fast-forward through the preseason, that isn’t the case for veteran defenseman Fedor Tyutin. The 32-year-old, entering his seventh season in Columbus, said having the right mentality for preseason games is crucial.
“You should go into the first preseason game with the right mentality and get yourself ready,” Tyutin told BlueJackets.com. “Obviously, it’s a little different when you have a bunch of young guys the first couple of games, but by now, you should be playing hard hockey and playing the way we will when the season comes.”
The first skate of training camp was on Friday, Sept. 18, and a lot has transpired since, both on an off the ice. Players have been trimmed from the roster (from 63 down to 31), and six preseason games are already in the books with the Blue Jackets sporting a 3-2-1 record.
Most recently, the Blue Jackets bested the Predators 5-2 at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night. While a win is always positive, coach Todd Richards said there were a lot of takeaways from that effort -- both good and bad.
“It was good, in a sense that we won the game," Richards said. "There was some good things in the game, things we want to continue to improve and there are some holes in our game.
"We still have two games left to play, and we have to go into those games with the intensity and the focus of getting better and doing the right things.”
One of the items discussed this week? Staying focused during the preseason games, which don’t actually count for anything. The Blue Jackets have raced out to 4-0 and 5-1 leads in their two most recent games, but Richards felt they let off the gas after accumulating a comfortable advantage.
Despite the ups and downs of both games, Richards said the veteran players are hitting stride in their preparation. For those players, the goal is to be in top shape for opening night, and it's something they work toward with each rep in practice.
Defenseman David Savard is one of those players who’s ready for the home opener, and he’s especially eager to play the Rangers.
“I’m really excited,” Savard said. “Obviously, the first game of the season is really fun to play, and New York the last few years has been a big rivalry, so it should be a fun night. We always know when we play those guys it’s physical, so I think we’re really looking forward to playing back-to-back against them.”
Savard said it's not difficult for him to find the motivation or energy for preseason games. In fact, he said he is looking forward to playing in the last two games and having an opportunity to focus on the new systems and better prepare for not just the Rangers, but for the entire season.
“It's important because you need to get back in that game shape, feeling the puck and everything,” Savard said. “I think you get to feel the puck a little bit more and it kind of slows the game down a little bit.”
“It’s about finding our game and obviously we finished really strong. It’s good to get back into game shape, and we’ve got two more games to go to get ready for the season.”
The Blue Jackets' final two preseason matchups are this weekend. They travel to Buffalo on Friday to take on the Sabres, and will return to Columbus on Saturday to play the Nashville Predators in the final game of the preseason.
Richards said in the days leading up to that final matchup, the focus will remain on the team’s overall 60-minute game. From here on out, the intensity level will only increase.
“We have to do things at a battle level and our intensity level both at practice and games, we have to continue to amp it up,” Richards said.