Fans were lined up outside the OhioHealth Ice Haus as the sun was coming up in downtown Columbus.
Blue Jackets goaltending coach Ian Clark started his first session of the day right on time at 8 a.m., and the practice rink was jam-packed shortly thereafter. OhioHealth, the presenting sponsor of Blue Jackets Training Camp, handed out 1,000 specially-made “March With US” t-shirts in the rink lobby and the excitement was once again palpable.
Yes, it’s only training camp, but there’s a real buzz going around and it got stronger on Saturday.
Todd Richards said the first on-ice day of camp was spent going over tweaks and alterations to their systematic play, and also a little review for the new and returning players. With the core group having played together for at least two seasons now, Richards said the familiarity factor is an advantage for the coaching staff as they prepare for each practice.
Everyone knows what’s expected and how the Blue Jackets want to play. Gregory Campbell, one of the newcomers (signed to a two-year deal in July), is pretty darn excited about his new team.
“The coaches have been really patient with me and some of the other new guys, in being thorough when they explain the drills and the different systems,” Campbell said. “I’m excited about the way this team plays. It’s a high energy, high-paced type of game that we play here. It suits my game, and I’m impressed with the preparation that they put in.
“Everybody’s been working extremely hard, and that’s a real positive.”
Other notes from today’s sessions:
- The lines and pairings remained the same as Friday: Saad-Johansen-Foligno, Jenner-Dubinsky-Bourque, Hartnell-Wennberg-Atkinson*, Calvert-Campbell-Clarkson. On the back end: Tyutin-Johnson, Murray-Savard, Connauton-Prout, Falk-Goloubef.
*more on Atkinson further down in the notes
- Every coach and every player talks about it, but pace has been a point of emphasis in the first couple of days. Part of it is, of course, getting the players back into a hockey mindset right away – particularly with a preseason game only four days into camp.
- You’re starting to see some of the new “puck pursuit” concepts the Blue Jackets are working in this year. Richards said before camp that the word he’s using this year is “pressure,” whereas he focused on “playing faster” a year ago. He wants the Blue Jackets to be on their toes and, when not in possession of the puck, be aggressive and hellbent on getting it back.
- In the second session, it was yesterday’s final group (the likes of Dubinsky, Jenner, Bourque, McElhinney). Richards has commented on a few occasions about Dubinsky being a “driver” in practice, a player that brings everyone’s level up a notch because of how hard he works. You can see it in this camp in each and every drill.
- Bourque’s been skating well these first two days. He’s got a big year ahead of him, being in the last year of his contract and at age 33, never being sure of how many opportunities are left in one’s career. He had a nice run with the Blue Jackets late last season before injury cut it short, but he’s fully healthy and is hoping to show enough to keep him in Columbus beyond 2015-16.
- Andrew Bodnarchuk is a guy who’s flown under the radar a bit, but he provides the organization with another option on the blue line. The 27-year-old from Halifax is entering his seventh year pro and won a Calder Cup (AHL) championship with the Manchester Monarchs last season, but didn’t see game action with the parent club, the LA Kings.
- Cam Atkinson was absent from the third and final session of the day. Richards said he was “a little sore” out of yesterday’s practice and was held out today. He’s expected to be back on the ice tomorrow.