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After last night's split-squad contests that saw Blue Jackets players in both Columbus vs. the Buffalo Sabres and in Minnesota vs. the Wild, the team heads to Raleigh, NC to take on the Carolina Hurricanes - a new Metropolitan Division rival.
The 'Canes are playing their first game of the preseason and they'll be there to play with a fully-loaded roster. They have their top two lines intact, minus forward Jiri Tlusty, who was injured during a scrimmage last week. They'll have NHL-regulars Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Tim Gleason, Jay Harrison and Alex Semin in the lineup as well as highly-touted prospects Elias Lindholm and Ryan Murphy--both former first-round NHL Draft picks. Though Eric Staal and Cam Ward are both coming off serious leg injuries from last season, expect both to be in top form and ready to go tomorrow night.
The Blue Jackets will start Curtis McElhinney, who will play his second exhibition game of the season after starting the first two periods on Sunday versus Pittsburgh. He'll be more steady now that he has the first game under his belt and two nights of rest. Marion Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky will both be well-rested as they had the split-squad night off, but the Blue Jackets will also bring youngsters Boone Jenner and Kerby Rychel, who are coming off successful first exhibition games from Tuesday.
TRAINING CAMP CENTRAL
Here are complete rosters for tonight's 7 p.m. ET start in Raleigh...
Forwards: Aleardi, Collins, Craig, Dubinsky, Foligno, Gaborik, Jenner, Johansen, Joudrey, MacKenzie, Rychel, Skille
Defense: Erixon, Johnson, Larkin, Nikitin, Savard, Tyutin
Goaltenders: McElhinney, McKenna
*CBJ lines available after morning skate
Goaltenders: Cam Ward, Justin Peters
If the stacked roster is any indication, the Carolina Hurricanes are trying to gear up (and fast) for their regular season opener. The Blue Jackets are coming off a split-squad night that saw 46 players in action, but they will bring several well-rested players to Carolina, as well. It will be interesting to see how the Hurricanes' youngsters respond to the first-game nerves and if the Blue Jackets can get out to a better start than they did against Buffalo and Pittsburgh, considering they are now in a rhythm of preseason play.
The Blue Jackets are now a week into training camp and it's evident that players are aware of the battle for the last two forward spots and two spots on defense. The young guys are playing hard and know that at any given moment, cuts could be made and they will be back in Springfield, junior hockey, or on the open market. These guys have something to play for.
The situation is similar in Carolina, but more of the "veteran" players have something to prove. Staal and Ward are coming off injury and have to prove they can bounce back, and Skinner has to prove that he can return to his Calder-season form before concussions slowed him down. Fifth overall pick Elias Lindholm (2013) will get his first taste of NHL action and his first opportunity to live up to the hype.
This will be the Blue Jackets' first look at the Hurricanes in 2013-14, who will return the favor in Columbus for another exhibition game Sept. 26. The Metropolitan Division opponents will battle each other five times in the regular season. Take good notes, because these two teams will get to know each other pretty well over the coming months.
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