After a deserved day off from training camp on Tuesday, the Blue Jackets were back on the ice at Nationwide Arena this morning. But this time around, the group was a little thinner.
Club general manager Scott Howson announced another round of cuts on the off day, paring the roster down to 33 players, including those injured or have been placed on injured reserve. With two preseason games remaining – tomorrow at home vs. Minnesota, and Friday at Carolina – coach Scott Arniel is looking for a number of things to take shape.
First – the competition on defense. With defenseman James Wisniewski under suspension for the remainder of the preseason schedule and eight regular season games, there is a spot open on the blue line for one of the team’s young players. Throughout training camp, one of the most intense competitions has been between the kids on defense.
David Savard, Nick Holden, John Moore and veteran Aaron Johnson are vying for an NHL job this year with just nine days left until opening night.
"We're looking at four guys right now, and that’s what it’s down to for the remaining two spots,” Arniel told BlueJackets.com this morning. “They will all get a chance to play (in the last two preseason games), and we’ll continue to monitor them in practice as well.
“All four of them have played very well, and have done a good job of making our decision a little more difficult.”
Arniel said he plans to examine each player’s game in different situations in the final exhibition contests, including how they react in each situation. He expects that three of the four players in the hunt will play at home against the Wild.
Loading Up On Skill
A popular mainstream topic during training camp is the assembling of lines, and how certain players will line up with others on the ice. It’s no secret that Arniel is intent on keeping Rick Nash and Jeff Carter together, but the other wing on the top line has been rotated during camp and will likely be tomorrow night. Tomas Kubalik, who suffered a concussion earlier in the preseason, skated on the Nash/Carter line during this morning’s practice.
“Those are three big guys (on the top line),” Arniel said. “Kuby likes to get to the net, he scores a lot of goals around the front of the net.
“We’ve got to let them play it out tomorrow, and hopefully have a good practice like we had today.”
Finding the right combinations is more about tandems than trios as camp winds down, Arniel said. The Blue Jackets plan to use three scoring lines against Minnesota, something that Arniel and his staff have been thinking about all camp.
“Tomorrow we’re going to go with what I’ve talked about, with three offensive lines and one checking line,” Arniel said. “We have the ability to roll some good offense at Minnesota, so we’re going to give that shot and see what it looks like.”