The two most recent preseason games have had a completely different feel than the four that preceded them.
More intensity, more competition, and a stronger sense of validation when considering both performances and results – and it’s quite likely not a coincidence. The first few days of training camp posed several challenges: a lot of players, multiple groups, jumbled rosters…which all added up to more difficult evaluation period for Todd Richards, the coaching staff, and management.
All those excuses are out the window now. It’s officially crunch time with the regular season looming next week.
“I think it’s human nature a little bit in how these guys are programmed,” Richards said. “There were some good things these last two games, but there were also some things we have to improve on. It’s fighting through that mentality of the exhibition (season). I think they’re hungry to start.
“We have eight or nine days left until the opener, and it’s going to be our focus leading up to that point.”
For the veterans, many of whom have now played at least three preseason games, the focus has sharpened and they’re accelerating to opening night. Richards admitted that, for the players who have been in the league for a while and played enough preseason games to their liking, it takes a little longer.
“There are certain guys that have been through this (preseason) a number of times, and they’re really getting geared up for next Friday against the Rangers,” Richards said. “But you don’t want to let your guard down – we still have two games left to play, and we have to go into those games with the intensity and focus of getting better.
“I’m excited about our group. Right now, we’re reasonably healthy, but our team game has to improve. We have to continue to amp it up.”
Here are some other notes from Wednesday’s practice:
- Brandon Dubinsky arrived at the rink feeling ill this morning and was sent home. Richards said he expects Dubinsky to be fine for the weekend, whether he plays in one or both of the remaining preseason games.
- There’s a possibility that the Blue Jackets recall players from Lake Erie (AHL) for Friday’s game in Buffalo. Richards hinted it at earlier in the week and said the hockey operations group will come to a final decision sooner than later.
- David Clarkson and Jared Boll were both “nicked up” from Tuesday’s game in Nashville and held off the ice today. They should be good to go this weekend.
- Expect Sergei Bobrovsky to play one of the remaining two preseason games.
- The NHL’s roster deadline is early next week, and the Blue Jackets have some cuts to make. They’re at 31 players and need to be at 23 by the deadline, but Richards wasn’t committed to making more cuts before or after Friday’s game. That should play out in the next 24-48 hours.
- There are 10 defensemen remaining in camp, which means two or three cuts remain on the back end. Richards said he hasn’t decided whether the Blue Jackets will carry seven or eight defensemen to begin the season.
- Remember that sick Brandon Saad goal we told you about yesterday? Check out @BlueJacketsNHL to get an exclusive look.