It speaks to the Blue Jackets' bright future and where their young players are headed when missing Matt Calvert
and Dalton Prout
left a significant hole in their lineup.
Calvert, who had not played in any of the Jackets' previous five exhibition games before Monday night's contest against the Minnesota Wild, returned to action after recovering from a sore groin that had been bothering him during training camp. For a team that thrives on forechecking and puck pursuit, the Blue Jackets really missed a guy that executes both to a "T" and unnerves the opposition every night.
WILD 2, BLUE JACKETS 1 (SO)
And on the back end, the Blue Jackets hadn't seen much of Prout during training camp after abdominal surgery caused to miss most of the first two weeks. His ahead-of-schedule recovery has been a pleasant surprise for the coaches and management, who maintained that Prout had to be 100 percent and free of restrictions if he was to jump back into things.
So far, so good: Prout played nearly 20 minutes paired with Tim Erixon and landed four hits, a couple of them of the thunderous variety as he's well-known for.
"It was great to have them back in the lineup and out on the ice, and at 100 percent," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "For their first game, I thought they both did a good job. There's going to be some rust, there's going to be some mistakes...it's tough to simulate in practice the game speed and physicality of it.
"I thought they both stepped and in they both did a good job."
Calvert was the one really raring to go tonight, having not played a game since suffering a broken finger in a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on April 18 -- over five months ago and it ended with a bad taste in his mouth. Then, just as exhibition approached, he was set back by the groin injury and missed another week of game action.
His return to the ice tonight? Let's call it an active one.
Calvert had a game-high nine hits (yes, nine) and zipped around the rink for 15:31, and was back to his pesky, forechecking self. As he said post-game, he was getting tired of watching everyone else play.
"It was exciting to get back out there with the boys, and you're always champing at the bit watching," Calvert said. "I felt good, I thought I was going to be a little more behind but we've been working out hard and I think it helped me.
"I don't think I've ever come close to (nine hits in a game). The opportunities were just right in front of me and when you're practicing or in summer hockey, you're not intense so I thought I'd get back into it tonight and I felt great."