Sunday, the Blue Jackets have wrapped up day two of three straight days of difficult practices and scrimmages.
So, what is head coach John Tortorella looking for as his players go through their training camp paces?
"I'm looking at the kids," he said after Sunday's on-ice action. "I'm trying to figure out (Emil Bemstrom), see where (Alexandre Texier) is. I saw him in Traverse City, I want to see what he does here. (Marko Dano) comes in here, though he's not a kid, he's a new player. I'm looking at the guys I really don't know a lot about because next up, we have to see exhibition games and how many (each guy will play)."
And, of course, there's the guys in net. With Sergei Bobrovsky gone, Columbus has Joonas Korpisalo and European import Elvis Merzlikins under contract, with Veini Vehvilainen also in the mix on an entry-level deal.
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It is, perhaps, the biggest question that needs answered if the Blue Jackets are to return to a fourth straight playoff appearance, and the head coach isn't ducking that reality.
"I am definitely watching the goalies, yes," Tortorella said. "It's gonna be a focus point. It has to be a focus point. It's a different situation here with our goaltending."
So what did the head coach see Sunday? In his words, two scrimmages that were a bit sloppier than the ones held Saturday in front of a packed OhioHealth Ice Haus. That's to be expected, the coach said, as it was the fourth straight day of hard work for his team that began Thursday with off-ice testing including the annual two-mile run.
But in addition, the coach thought the energy level was down simply because of the different vibe in the building. The first day of on-ice practices Saturday brought out the CBJ fans, who lined up before the 9 a.m. start to get in the building and then ringed the ice surface all the way around to get their first glimpse at the team. Sunday, meanwhile, was a bit more reserved.
"It was great," Tortorella said of Saturday's turnout. "I thought it was for (a convention being held in the arena), but when you take a closer look, everybody had their Blue Jackets jerseys on. For me, it's fun for the players because, as I've always said, players are entertainers. They want to play in front of people. It gives the atmosphere a little bit more juice.
"I think (Sunday's) scrimmage was markedly slower and sloppier. I think it's due to it's the fourth day, and there wasn't a lot of people in the building. I think (the fans) gave us a rise the first day of camp. I think we have some guys that are tired right now and the games weren't that good (today), but we figured it would happen."
Team 3 was the one to double up on scrimmages, losing the first 5-4 in a shootout to Team 2 before taking a 3-1 victory over Team 1. Seth Jones scored twice for Team 3 in the opening game while Ryan MacInnis and Justin Scott also got on the board. For Team 2, Riley Nash scored and had the winning goal, while Josh Anderson, Bemstrom and Nick Foligno tallied.
In the second scrimmage, Korpisalo turned in 20 minutes of shutout goaltending for the second day in a row for Team 1, while Ryan Murray and Oliver Bjorkstrand scored nice goals for Team 3.
The Blue Jackets will go through a similar setup Monday, with Team 1 set to play in both scrimmages, while all three teams will practice. The action in the Ice Haus is slated to be open to the public, with practices beginning at 9 a.m. and scrimmages starting at 10.
Nash Gets Going
Anyone who watched Nash last year knows what a tough start it was for the veteran, who signed a three-year contract as a free agent last summer.
Forty-three games into the season, he looked up in mid-January and had a solitary goal with three assists, rough numbers for a guy who had posted a 15-26-41 line the year prior in Boston.
"It's hard," he said Sunday. "You come in as the new guy, you want to put your best foot forward and you have one of the worst half seasons you've ever had in your career. It definitely does weigh on you. I just had to put my head down and contribute in other ways, and the second half it started going a little more my way."
That it did, as Nash finished with three goals and nine assists, including a key goal in a playoff positioning clash with Montreal in late March. He then tallied in the series win vs. Tampa Bay and had 1-2-3 in seven playoff games before a shoulder injury ended his playoffs.
This year, the hope is to get off to a much better start, and Nash has said he feels much more comfortable going into year two in Columbus. He's scored twice in three scrimmages thus far and added the shootout winner today.
"I need to start saving them," he quipped. "It is nice. It's just nice to get chances. I know whatever my shooting percentage was last year, I'm praying it's not going to be the same this year. If you get chances, it's going to even out. If I go up to a 13 percent or a 14 percent rather than a (3.7 percent), hopefully that contributes a little more offense."
The Blue Jackets continue to be without forwards Liam Foudy and Stefan Matteau in camp, as expected, because of injury. The only other missing body Sunday was defenseman Markus Nutivaara, who is battling illness.