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Morning Skate: Preseason at Buffalo

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets



Fans, YOU can now vote for the #CBJ player of the game! It's pretty simple: watch for the tweet from @BlueJacketsNHL during the game & reply to the tweet with #(players' name) to cast your vote! 

In 48 hours, the Blue Jackets will be wrapping up their eight-game preseason schedule and the next item on the agenda will be opening night at Nationwide Arena. With a few unsettled positions on the roster, the Blue Jackets' coaching staff is approaching the final two exhibition games (one home, one away) as an opportunity to get one last look at the guys vying for spots before final cuts have to be made.

The roster currently stands at 33 players, but there are a few injuries that have opened the door for guys to get at least a look at cracking the NHL roster. Jared Boll, Derek MacKenzie, and Cody Bass have injuries at forward that will keep them out of the lineup for at least the next week or so, and Curtis McElhinney's lower body injury might keep him on the sideline for opening night, as well. 

Needless to say, these last two games are very important for a select group of players.

Here are complete rosters for tonight's 7 p.m. ET start at First Niagara Center in Buffalo...

Forwards: Anisimov, Chaput, Craig, Foligno, Skille, Smith, Calvert, Umberger, Johansen, Marchessault, Collins, Letestu

Defense: Erixon, Melart, Weber, Goloubef, Savard, Wisniewski

Goaltenders: Smith, McKenna

Forwards: Vanek, Hodgson, Stafford, Leino, Ennis, Ott, Girgensons, Grigorenko, Armia, Larsson, Kaleta, Scott

Defense: Myers, Tallinder, Ehrhoff, Pysyk, Weber, Ristolainen

Goaltenders: Enroth, Miller

From the sounds of it, both the Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres will be dressing youthful lineups for Wednesday's game at First Niagara Center.

The Blue Jackets called three players up from the Springfield Falcons for this game: Collins, Marchessault and Smith, giving a strong indication that the club's veterans are going to be rested in time for Thursday's preseason finale against the Carolina Hurricanes at Nationwide Arena. Sergei Bobrovsky, who started the previous two exhibition contests for Columbus, gets the night off and will resume goaltending duties on Thursday. 

And there's an added emphasis on internal competition for roster spots in these final two games: with three forwards (Derek MacKenzie, Jared Boll and now Cody Bass) out on at least a day-to-day basis, there are openings for the players remaining in training camp without a guaranteed spot. Players in the mix for those spots, such as Jack Skille, Ryan Craig and Michael Chaput, will be in the lineup in Buffalo and it represents a tremendous opportunity to impress the Blue Jackets coaching staff. 

The final roster is also far from settled on the blue line, where a handful of players are going down to the wire for the last couple of spots. Nikita Nikitin returned to practice on Tuesday but isn't quite ready to get back into game action, and Ryan Murray is starting to get his game up to speed, as well, creating an intense battle for one (maybe two) vacancies on the opening night roster. Tim Erixon, Cody Goloubef, Ilari Melart, Will Weber and David Savard - all in that conversation - will be suiting up for Columbus against the Sabres. 

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