It was a heavy, skating intensive-practice for the Blue Jackets after disappointing 5-2 losses on back-to-back nights against the Maple Leafs and Islanders. While head coach Todd Richards called it a “work day” for his club, there was a player out on the ice who definitely could benefit from a hard practice to push himself.
Ryan Murray was on the ice with his teammates, taking part in the majority of practice. Murray was in the mix for full-ice rush drills and took some contact in battle and breakout drills. Murray did step off the ice towards the tail end of practice, but returned after the workout to continue some skill work. It’s clear that the Jackets are still being very cautious in bringing Murray along.
“(It's mostly about Murray) being allotted time in practice,” said Richards. “It’s not necessarily keeping him out of drills or placing restrictions like that. We’re going to give him X amount of time in practice, and when that time hits, he’s done.”
Murray has been working to strengthen the muscles around his knee to a point that he can make a return. Determining when that knee is strong enough will be a decision for both Murray and the team's medical staff to make.
“I think (athletic trainer) Mike Vogt has a really good feel for what’s goin on from working with him every day," Richards said. "But then you have to trust what the player’s telling you. We can examine him, but it comes down to how he feels out on the ice. You want to make sure that in a player’s mind we are doing the right things, he feels that way, and then when it gets there it’s 100 percent.”
The Blue Jackets continue to preach patience with Murray, making sure he’s at full-strength before he returns to game action. Richards doesn’t anticipate Murray’s activity to be changed much until after the All-Star break, at which point Murray’s progress will be evaluated again in search of that strength and comfort level.
“Who knows when we get to that point, but hopefully it’s sooner rather than later," Richards said. "We’re not going to rush this thing.”
Other stuff from around the rink...
- Four Blue Jackets were missing from practice in addition to the injured Jack Skille. Cam Atkinson and Mark Letestu had maintenance days, while James Wisniewski and Scott Hartnell were under the weather. Richards expects all four players back at practice tomorrow, but he will obviously monitor the conditions of Wisniewski and Hartnell. The Jackets currently have 12 healthy forwards on the roster, with the lower body injury to Skille expected to keep him sidelined for a couple of weeks.
- The Blue Jackets have been getting consistent offensive production from their top line and a boost from their defense, but Todd Richards would like to see more depth in his scoring.
“There’s lot of guys I would like to see (break out) because I’ve seen it in the past," Richards said. "(Atkinson) is one, Matt Calvert is another that has the ability to step in and do some things. Letestu scored a big goal in Dallas and (Brandon Dubinsky) scored a couple in Colorado, but you’re looking for that consistency throughout the lineup.”
- Richards said he will be in front of the TV tonight when the Ohio State Buckeyes take on the Oregon Ducks in the College Football Playoff National Championship game. Richards believes it will be a one-possession game, and he said he hopes the Buckeyes have the last possession.