After a few days of preparation, perhaps the most hectic period of Blue Jackets training camp has dawned.
With the opening of camp, golf tournament and Owners' Tournament in the past, the team will embark on its first-ever split-squad contests tonight against the Winnipeg Jets, both in Columbus and Winnipeg, the latter beginning 90 minutes after the former.
The team is still separated into two groups as the first round of cuts have yet to be made and both took the ice this morning. One player absent from the group sessions was center Jeff Carter, who is recovering from a bruised foot suffered in Sunday's tournament. Though he will not make his Blue Jackets debut tonight, head coach Scott Arniel sees no reason to worry about his progress.
Keeping an eye on injuries is one thing, but tonight, Arniel will attempt to monitor two hockey games at the same time. He and assistant coach Brad Berry, both with ties to the province of Manitoba, will be coaching the group at MTS Centre. The thought of tracking both brought a chuckle.
"I'm going to try," Arniel said with a smile. "I'll probably catch some of the (game in Columbus) on the internet once we're done, but Dan Singleton will have video for us to watch tomorrow. "This is certainly different. I've never done anything like this."
Mixing in the Vets
Arniel knows the "ramping up" process for veteran players during training camp and isn't going to force players to dress for every game. The NHL requires that at least eight (8) veterans dress for a preseason game and with a split-squad game, that process becomes more difficult.
With the exception of captain Rick Nash and goaltender Steve Mason, the majority of the Blue Jackets' veterans will play in either of the two games tonight. Both are expected to play tomorrow night at home versus Washington.
"It's hard," Arniel said. "For us it's going to be three games in two nights on the fourth and fifth days of training camp. The timing of it probably isn't the best, but in the same sense you're trying to get some experience for the young guys so you can see them play."
For some of the younger players that may return to their junior hockey clubs, it's an opportunity to get into NHL action.
"I've been in organizations where the young guys come in for a couple of days, then they turn around and get sent home," Arniel said. "This helps them make huge strides just to get into (game situations) and see if they're good enough to play. It sets a high watermark for them."
The Blue Jackets' lineup at Nationwide Arena tonight will feature newcomers Radek Martinek, James Wisniewski, Vinny Prospal and Mark Dekanich. Forward Boone Jenner, Columbus' first pick in the 2011Entry Draft, will also be in the lineup.
Assistant coaches Dan Hinote and Todd Richards (both Americans) will be behind the bench in Columbus tonight. Arniel and Berry will be in Winnipeg.