The Blue Jackets held a brief 30-minute practice at Nationwide Arena this morning following last night’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings, and covered a short list of things that needed attention. Interim head coach Todd Richards focused heavily on working cycles, funneling the puck toward the net and creating scoring chances with people at the front of the net.
Derek Dorsett, James Wisniewski and Brett Lebda were absent from practice today and right winger Jared Boll – still recovering from a foot injury – stayed off the ice as well. Richards said the plan is for all players to make the trip to Denver this afternoon, despite Wisniewski being “banged up” going into last night’s game and a maintenance day for Dorsett.
Lebda, coming off a thumb injury a few weeks back, had to have the thumb examined this morning so he was not at practice.
Here are the line combinations used by the Blue Jackets during today’s practice:
YOUNG GUYS IN STARRING ROLES
For the remaining 19 games, several Blue Jackets are in a position to not only audition for roster spots the rest of the year, but solidify their role as the club moves forward. Players like Cam Atkinson, Ryan Russell, Darryl Boyce and others figure to get more ice time and opportunity with the departures of Antoine Vermette, Jeff Carter and Sammy Pahlsson.
In Atkinson’s case, he was sent back to Springfield (AHL) earlier this season and returned to Columbus as the AHL’s leading goal-scorer. He has a projected role at the NHL level, Richards said, and it only makes sense to use him in that role when he’s with the Blue Jackets.
“This is important for us to see them play,” Richards said. “If Cam Atkinson is going to play in the NHL, he has to play first or second-line wing. I don’t see him as a third-liner. The projection for him is to be in that spot, so when we call him up, we give him an opportunity there and it could give us a better idea.
“You can get a much better feel up here seeing him play against NHL players.”