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Talkin' Torts: Blue Jackets 'not done making our decisions'

Columbus has three preseason games left ahead of Oct. 4 opener vs. Toronto

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

Head coach John Tortorella says the Blue Jackets are "certainly not done making our decisions" when it comes to the 23-man opening night roster that will take on Toronto at Nationwide Arena on Oct. 4.

That's despite the fact Columbus is now down to 28 players in camp after Monday's roster moves that included sending down four veterans -- Zac Dalpe, Markus Hannikainen, Adam Clendening and Ryan MacInnis -- to AHL Cleveland who had to clear waivers and did Tuesday.

Still, Tortorella said, a number of players are expected to be recalled from those who have already been sent to the Monsters to fill the team's roster for Wednesday's preseason game vs. Buffalo. 

"I think it's probably about six or seven playing tomorrow night that were sent down," Tortorella said. "They may play a really good game tomorrow night and it may do different things with what we want to do the next practice. That's the great thing about having Cleveland right down the street from us. We'll see."

Video: Torts talks about the competition in camp

As for the rationale of cutting the roster at this point, Tortorella said it was about preparing for the season, especially as the Blue Jackets move to a slightly more responsible playing style with two young goaltenders in net in 25-year-olds Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins.

"We want to work on our systems more this year," Tortorella said. "We feel there's going to be some new bodies in our team, within our lineup. We want to work, especially away from the puck and how we're going to play that way. We think that's really a very important part of -- a little bit of not a change but more of a concentration early on in camp."

Tortorella also gave updates on some individual players as they reach the final days of camp.

-- On Hannikainen, who was sent through waivers to Cleveland on Monday: "Guys played better. Doesn't mean he's done. We're still juggling a number of different thoughts as far as what our team is going to be opening night. I'm sure Hanni is going to do everything he can to get back here and be a part of that opening lineup. We're certainly not saying no, but right now we felt some guys had played better to this point."

-- When asked about Sonny Milano, the team's 2014 first-round pick who spent most of last year with Cleveland after scoring 14 goals in 55 games two seasons ago with the Blue Jackets, Tortorella challenged the thought that defense is what has held the talented forward back. 

"The most important thing with Sonny is he does not always have to make an offensive play every time he's on the ice," Tortorella said. "That's what puts him in a little bit of a jam. I think he understands positioning. It's when he has the puck and he's trying to make something out of nothing when he really shouldn't, that's the problem. That's old for me, as far as how everybody thinks he's kind of a goofball. I think he's trying. I think he's been a good pro in scoring 14 goals one year and doesn't get a sniff last year. We're going to keep looking at him."

-- Tortorella also referred to Merzlikins as a "competitive (SOB)," but added "sometimes he may get in the way of himself because he competes so hard" as he's making his transition from European to North American hockey. Still, Tortorella is excited to have the fiery Latvian on the squad.

"I love his personality," Tortorella said. "I'd rather have a guy like that and have to talk him off the wall a little bit instead of trying to push a guy's (butt) up the wall. This is a really good situation with Elvis."

Merzlikins has appeared in two preseason games, giving up one goal on 18 shots Thursday in Pittsburgh before ceding five in a loss at St. Louis on Sunday. 


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