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Thumbs-up for Atkinson after first exhibition game

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

When Cam Atkinson is at full speed and his game is on form, there's no mistaking the electricity he brings to a game.

He is tenacious on the puck, fearless despite his 5-foot-7 frame and possesses a wicked wrist shot that has made more than a few NHL goaltenders shake their heads in disbelief. A high ankle sprain took a lot of the spark from his game last season, and at times, he played through excruciating pain remedied only slightly by the fact that the Blue Jackets were in the thick of the playoff race. 

A full summer of rest and recuperation was welcomed and much-needed, and its benefits were on display Sunday night as Atkinson zipped around the rink during the Blue Jackets' 5-4 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena.

So far, so good, Atkinson said of the ankle. He's feeling no ill effects and is operating at 100 percent through six days of camp.

"I felt pretty good," Atkinson said of Sunday's game. "The body's a little sore but it's nice to get the first one out of the way, for sure. At this point it will never get to where it was...there's some occasions where after a game it's a little sore (but nothing more)."

Atkinson was back on the ice this morning for Group B's practice at Training Camp presented by OhioHealth, and now, the focus is ramping up for Tuesday's split squad games against the Minnesota Wild (in St. Paul) and the Buffalo Sabres at Nationwide Arena.

Though there's still an open audition for the left wing spot on the Blue Jackets' top line with Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik, Atkinson saw time there on Sunday despite never having played his off-wing in competition.

Atkinson welcomes the idea of seeing more ice time on that line and the transition to the left side was a simple one - at least for one game - as he and Gaborik are good friends away from the rink, as well.

"Today, we were lined up together (in practice)," Atkinson said. "I'm hanging out with him every day, and he says he likes playing with me. It's one of those things where we did some okay things, but he and Arty have something special, so I'm just trying to get familiar playing with both of those guys. It takes time."

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