With three preseason games remaining, it’s time for the Blue Jackets to get down to business, Todd Richards said today.
They have difficult decisions looming with 36 players on the roster and less than two weeks to get down to their final 23-man group prior to the opening game in Buffalo. That’s one of the primary reasons why the roster wasn’t reduced further on Sunday, Richards said, and the Blue Jackets are still going with two practice groups for the time being.
They’re bringing a veteran-heavy lineup to Nashville for tomorrow’s preseason road finale, in what will be the first of three dress rehearsals leading up to Game No. 1.
“We have to make some tough decisions,” Richards said. “There’s going to come a point here, and more than likely it’s after (the Nashville game)…we have two games left and we’ll probably have a couple extra in case any injuries happen. That’ll probably give us close to seven or eight practices with our group, and getting ready for the first game in Buffalo.
“We still need to see guys and there are some guys that are sticking around just (for us) to see. There’s some guys that have had some games that we still need to look at and we’re going to have to make decisions.”
Among those players are Jerry D’Amigo, Michael Chaput, Kerby Rychel, Simon Hjalmarsson and Alexander Wennberg — and all of them are in the lineup against the Predators. Curtis McElhinney is expected to get the start in goal and play the full game, with Oscar Dansk serving as the backup.
Other notes from the Sunday sessions:
- A good sign for the Blue Jackets was the return of Ryan Murray to practice, although in a non-contact capacity. Richards said Murray isn’t yet ready for contact but he has not ruled him out for the season opener.
- Richards on Murray: “It’s always good to have players back out on the ice and taking part in drills, so that’s a positive sign. Ryan was a big part of our team last year and he’s going to be a big part of our future, and the quicker we can get him back on the ice playing, the better it is for everyone.”
- Hartnell-Anisimov-Atkinson skated as a forward line today but Richards isn’t committed to using them as a trio tomorrow in Nashville. That line also played together on Tuesday vs. Pittsburgh, but as of today, Richards said the coaching staff is still going through combinations and what might work best in certain situations.
- Here’s the coach on line combos: “We’re still trying to find combinations. We’re trying to get everyone healthy and back, and once we get through tomorrow’s game, we’ll sit down. Because what we need to figure out, too, is roles. We’ve had discussions - it’s not like we haven’t had any - but we really need to get to work and give us a good two weeks as to what’s the best chemistry and best lines 5-on-5…some of that also sets you up for the power play. We need to figure that out, too.”