The Blue Jackets are down to one practice group and there is but one preseason game remaining. The season is fast approaching, and the tone of practice is reflective of that.
They went through an up-tempo, hour-long practice today at Nationwide Arena, their final tune-up (aside from Saturday’s morning skate) before the exhibition finale against the Nashville Predators. It’s an important juncture of the schedule for many reasons, but at the forefront is the competition for those precious final roster spots.
With 29 players remaining on the camp roster (and a few injuries included in that number), Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said there a few cuts left before they get down to their final number. The last in-game opportunity for players to state their case comes tomorrow night, but Richards indicated today that those final roster decisions may not be made for a few days.
Here are some of the line combinations used in practice today…
Extras: Corey Tropp and Jerry D’Amigo took turns rotating in on the Wennberg and Chaput lines during practice.
Other notes from today’s skate…
- Brian Gibbons did not practice again today and Richards said he’s “a little banged up.” He’s considered day-to-day right now, but it’s possible he could skate tomorrow morning.
- Ryan Murray skated today with the full group but did not take part in any contact drills. He has not yet been cleared for contact and Richards didn’t know when that date would come.
- Richards one of the reasons for keeping a larger number of players this late in to camp is because it allows him to do more at practice; he can use multiple forward combinations and use four pairs of defensemen so players don’t get worn down.
- Is Richards tentative to use multiple rookies in his opening night lineup? “Not at all,” he said today. “I think it’s their energy; those young guys drive the team and I also think it’s that inner competition that helps drive the team. These young guys being around, seeing that they’re developing and they’re close…that’s what helps drive the guys ahead of them.”
-As for opening night roster makeup, Richards said he and the management still needs to sit down and figure out the best combination.
-Biggest difference between Kerby Rychel a year and Kerby Rychel now? Richards: “I think his work ethic, his attitude…all going the right way, positive. (Against Nashville on Monday) he worked his butt off. Much, much better, much improved and that’s allowed him to have success here and that’s why he’s still here.”