The Blue Jackets kicked off their two-day stay in Oxford, Ohio this morning with a detail-oriented, 90-minute practice at Goggin Ice Center’s Steve Cady Arena.
First impressions: the facilities are spectacular and look to be one of the finest in the nation. It’s pretty easy to confuse the press box with a loge box. The RedHawks and head coach Enrico Blasi have a tremendous home-ice advantage and it’s easy to see why.
Back on topic: there was a practice today - a very productive and thorough practice at that.
The Blue Jackets spent the better part of today’s session working hard at their special teams units, in particular the power play. Assistant coach Todd Richards has been very hands-on throughout training camp and will continue to be leading up to opening night. Head coach Scott Arniel says the results have been positive thus far.
Many of the drills focused on crisp puck movement and using several different avenues to create scoring chances. Rookie defenseman David Savard, who earned an NHL job with an outstanding training camp, took reps with Fedor Tyutin on the top power-play unit.
On the injury front, there was good news this morning as center Derek MacKenzie (lower-body) skated by himself before the full team practice began. Matt Calvert, who was sidelined with an injury through most of training camp, took a lot of practice reps yesterday and today, and Arniel said he anticipates Calvert to be ready for opening night.
“I wanted Matty to get all the reps so we can get him up to speed,” Arniel said. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow and Wednesday, and see if he’s ready to go (Friday).”
Arniel told BlueJackets.com earlier this week he expects MacKenzie to rejoin the club for practice around the middle of the week.
“(MacKenzie) will go hard tomorrow, and then he’ll join us (later in the week),” Arniel said today. “(Strength and condition coach Kevin Collins) will do some skating drills with him tomorrow to see where he’s at.”
The other significant specialty teams unit – the penalty kill – has seen extensive work in practice leading up to opening night. The Blue Jackets coaches plan to use several players on the penalty kill this season, including newcomer Maksim Mayorov, who drew shorthanded ice time during the preseason.
Winger Derek Dorsett, a big part of the club’s penalty-killing unit last season, has practiced with center Sammy Pahlsson on the team’s top unit during training camp and exhibition.
“A lot of work goes into it,” Dorsett told BlueJackets.com. “Being a penalty killer, it means you have to be ready every night to go against the other team’s top players.
“We have to make sure we’re working hard and getting to know the system ins and outs (before opening night).”
FUN AND GAMES
Today’s practice session was all business at Goggin Ice Center, but there was some levity this afternoon. After a paintball competition last night – which Dorsett surprisingly admitted didn’t go so well for him personally (kidding) – the players and coaches were drafted into groups for a competitive golf outing.
It’s a nice change of pace for the Blue Jackets, who just concluded a two-week training camp and eight exhibition games in 10 days.
“My team didn’t fare so well, I think we won one match and lost another,” Dorsett said. “I did get a couple of ‘kill’ shots in on Nasher.
“But golf is more up my alley.”
NEWS AND NOTES
-Three Blue Jackets rookies have requested and been granted a change in uniform number, general manager Scott Howson confirmed today. Ryan Johansen, who had been wearing No. 36, will switch to No. 19 effective opening night. Cam Atkinson will switch from No. 38 to No. 13, and finally, Savard will switch back to the familiar No. 58 that he wore as a member of the Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL).
-The Blue Jackets have assigned forward Martin St. Pierre and defenseman Nick Holden to Springfield (AHL) after they cleared waivers at noon today. Alexandre Giroux cleared waivers but remains with the team.
-Forward Ryan Russell was placed on waivers by the Blue Jackets today. If he clears at noon tomorrow, he will be assigned to Springfield.
-Practice at the Goggin Ice Center is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., and is open to the public. BlueJackets.com will be on hand once again to cover practice and deliver any and all news and notes.