We’ve hit the home stretch.
There are 10 days separating the Blue Jackets from their regular season opener against the New York Rangers (Oct. 9 at Nationwide Arena, in case you hadn’t heard), and it’s about that time when the focus becomes even more sharpened in practice.
They’ve trimmed the camp roster from 63 to 31 with at least one more round of cuts expected before the NHL’s roster deadline next Monday afternoon. The group has gone from six goalies to two, from 20 defensemen to 10 and 37 forwards down to 19 – making for one practice group that, at least for today, split its session between the OhioHealth Ice Haus and Nationwide Arena.
And, as one might expect when the number of players decreases, the amount of fine-tuning and detail-oriented work increases.
For much of the second half of today’s practice, Todd Richards and his coaching staff honed in on special teams – specifically the Blue Jackets’ new-look power play.
The four-forwards unit, employed for the first time on Saturday in Pittsburgh, scored a pair of goals on a major penalty and displayed some poetic puck movement at times. There's some instinctual things for the players to work through, Richards said, particularly for the high forward whose job is to cover the other point and be prepared for track back in the event of a turnover.
Here are the combinations used:
Unit 1: Brandon Saad (right point/right wall), Ryan Murray (left/center point), Ryan Johansen (left wall), Nick Foligno (net front/goal line) and Scott Hartnell (slot area/net front).
Unit 2: Jack Johnson (left/center point), Alexander Wennberg (right point/right wall), Brandon Dubinsky (left wall/center), Cam Atkinson (slot area/shooting hole) and David Clarkson (net front).
2015 BLUE JACKETS TRAINING CAMP CENTRAL
Some other notes from Monday:
- Rene Bourque did not practice this morning and is not in the lineup for tomorrow’s game in Nashville. Richards told reporters that Bourque is listed as day-to-day.
- In Bourque’s place, David Clarkson took reps with Dubinsky and Jenner.
- The Blue Jackets are taking another veteran-laden lineup to Nashville tomorrow night, headlined by three of their four projected opening night lines: Saad-Johansen-Foligno, Hartnell-Wennberg-Atkinson, Calvert-Campbell-Clarkson, Rychel-Chaput-Boll.
- On defense: Murray-Savard, Connauton-Prout, Falk-Goloubef. Dean Kukan is the seventh defenseman on the trip. Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney are the goalies (to no one’s surprise because they’re the only two goalies left in camp).
- William Karlsson is not in tomorrow night’s lineup for only the second time this preseason. It will be the fourth exhibition appearance for Jared Boll, who if you’ll recall made a terrific play to set up Jenner’s opening goal in Pittsburgh.
- Josh Anderson and Daniel Zaar (both injured) did not skate today, however, Markus Hannikainen saw his first true practice time in this camp. He'd been doing a lot of solo work until today, when he joined the full group.