We're nine days into Blue Jackets Training Camp presented by OhioHealth, which means we've covered a lot of ground, but there are still several unknowns as we had closer to opening night.
TRAINING CAMP CENTRAL
In kind-of-important news, the Blue Jackets are 3-1-0 through four of eight preseason games. Those games have featured some very good things, but also some things that Todd Richards and his coaching staff will focus intently on over the next two weeks. The "good news" category got a boost last night in Raleigh, when Columbus' top players really shined in a 5-4 win over the Hurricanes.
Marian Gaborik scored twice. Brandon Dubinsky was a monster, picking up three assists, a game-high 10 shots on goal and logging nearly 23 minutes of ice time. Boone Jenner was a workhorse and fit in nicely alongside Gaborik and Dubinsky, and had a multi-point effort (goal and assist) himself.
The power play had its moments, the penalty kill was solid at times and Mike McKenna played well between the pipes to pick up the win. Today is a deserved off-day from camp activities, and the Blue Jackets will get back at it tomorrow morning.
Roster moves are expected later this afternoon, so stay tuned for that.
Some notes/observations from the last two days:
- One under-the-radar type guy who's stood out lately is Sean Collins. He fit in well during his brief call-up to the NHL last season and filled a needed role for the Blue Jackets, and had a strong season for Springfield. Collins notched the game-winning goal on Wednesday night in Raleigh and has been a steady player in camp.
- Nick Foligno looks poised for a good year and he's played a solid, consistent game in his preseason appearances. Richards has the luxury of placing Foligno on either wing (he's also played center in his NHL career) and he can play on any line. That's pretty valuable on a team that has a lot of guys pushing for ice time.
- Richards mentioned earlier this week that he's been impressed with Mark Letestu during camp. Letestu led the club in goal-scoring a year ago, earned a two-year extension, and has proven that he can produce no matter where he's slotted in the lineup.
- Heard a lot of Derek MacKenzie's name on the broadcast last night and he was active in Tuesday's game against Buffalo. Playing with tons of energy.
- Jack Skille's in the mix for one of those final roster spots and he's done a nice job of making his case. Whenever he's on the ice, the collective energy level seems to rise another level and he's a real physical player. Always finishes his checks and makes sure the opponent knows he's on the ice.
- Check out last night's highlights for a nice pass from Nikita Nikitin to set up Gaborik's first goal against Carolina. Across the box, threaded the needle in traffic...right on Gaborik's tape.
- Matt Calvert is on the road to recovering from a sore groin that kept him out of Sunday's preseason opener against the Penguins. He skated yesterday (for about an hour) and could return to game action as early as this weekend.
- Even if McKenna and Smith end up in Springfield to begin the season (which is the most likely scenario), they're both going to push hard for playing time in Columbus. Smith was terrific in Minnesota on Tuesday and McKenna was 12-for-12 in relief of Curtis McElhinney in Raleigh. The goaltending's in a good spot right now, especially when you consider that Bobrovsky guy.