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Now, it counts: teeing up a big week

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Great news: from here on out, the games count.

It’s bad news for your blood pressure and vocal cords, but that’s the beauty of the thing.

Nearly three weeks of practices and eight preseason games are in the books, and the Blue Jackets will begin their 2015-16 season on Friday night against the New York Rangers. On Saturday night, they’ll be the guests on opening night at Madison Square Garden, part of a six games in nine days journey to kick off the campaign.

If we’re going to jump back into hockey, we may as well cannonball into the deep end.

This is one of the special times of the year, when hope is fleeting and everyone is undefeated. Two months from now, while things are likely to be much different, everyone will have gone through a winning streak and also endured a painful losing streak.

Here’s coach Todd Richards on what the Blue Jackets gained from training camp, which was punctuated by a 7-1 win in the exhibition finale on Saturday night:

“We’ve gotten better and that was what we wanted to do from day one. (We’ve taken) good steps. We have a couple days here to take a breath, and we need some good practices leading up to Game 1.”

As you may expect, the next few days will be busy leading up to opening night.

MONDAY: The Blue Jackets players, coaches, management and staff will take part in the team’s annual golf outing benefiting the Blue Jackets Foundation, one of the many fantastic events the foundation puts on each year. Beautiful Double Eagle Club in Galena plays host to the outing, which features a “player auction” before the shotgun start. Want one of the best Blue Jackets golfers in your foursome? It’ll cost you, but it’s all good – proceeds go right to the Foundation.

After a fun day of golf, there will be buses waiting at the golf course to take the Blue Jackets to Cleveland.

TUESDAY: The Blue Jackets will practice at the OBM Arena in Strongsville on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. OBM Arena is the official practice facility of the Lake Erie Monsters, the team’s new AHL affiliate. Important note: each session is slated to begin around 9:45 a.m. and will last until 11. The practices are free and open to the public.

Following practice on Tuesday, the team heads out for a day of team-building activities. Wish we could disclose details, but for now, the team is keeping those under the hat. #classified

WEDNESDAY: While the Blue Jackets are scheduled for practice until 11 a.m. both days in Strongsville, fans may want to stick around because the Monsters hit the ice for their own practice shortly after each session. Lake Erie begins its season on Friday night (Oct. 9) in Rochester, and welcomes the Iowa Wild to Quicken Loans Arena for its home opener one week later.

Following Wednesday’s skate at OBM, the Blue Jackets head back to Columbus for one more day of preparation before the opener.

“(Saturday) was our best night, we played a full 60 minutes,” said Brandon Saad. “We’re happy as a group headed into the next week.”

“We played some good hockey and we’re happy with that,” said Ryan Johansen. “But going through this week, there are no points on the board. We’re just going to prepare for New York when the time comes, go up to Cleveland and have some fun, and then get to work.”

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