It has been 166 days since the Blue Jackets last took to the ice. All of that changes tonight when the club travels to Atlanta to take on the Thrashers. The long summer has come to an end and goaltender Mathieu Garon is ready for real game action.
"You practice a lot during the summer and before training camp, but it's never like an actual game," said Garon. "It's good to get a start early in the preseason and the more games you can get as a goalie, the better you will feel."
Tonight's roster is a mix of veteran players and youth. Players playing tonight who saw time with the Blue Jackets last season are: Mike Blunden, Mike Commodore, Derek Dorsett, Mathieu Garon, Derek MacKenzie Marc Methot, Andrew Murray and Tom Sestito.
Of that group, Commodore may be the most excited after a 2009-10 season that saw him miss 25 games due to injury and fatigue. After refocusing his off-season conditioning, he is ready to go out and prove last season was a fluke.
"I was kind of actually hoping that I'd be playing the first game," Commodore said. "I just want to get going.
"Last year when I came in (to Training Camp), I was in shape, just the wrong kind of shape, but thinking I was going to feel awesome since I put a lot of work in and I never did feel awesome. This year, I am looking to build back some confidence. I worked hard this summer and I feel good. I feel that when I am out there and I am skating, when I want to jump, I can go. I can get up the ice. It’s a good feeling."
Among the rookies who will see time tonight against the Thrashers are: Matt Calvert, Brent Regner, Kyle Neuber and 2010 draft pick Dalton Smith. Columbus' second pick, 34th overall, this past June, Smith is excited about hitting the NHL ice for the first time.
"I am super excited, it's like my dream come true," Smith said. "To put on an NHL sweater, even though it's a preseason game, it's still a big thing for me. I am going to have everyone back home listening."
Game time from Philips Arena is set for 7 p.m. ET. The game will broadcast live on the Wheeling Island Hotel & Casino Blue Jackets Radio Network, as well as on BlueJackets.com.
Speed It Up
Today's on-ice session for Training Camp featured both non-playing groups learning more of head coach Scott Arniel's systems. Through the first few days of Camp, players have noticed that the pace has been quicker than in previous years.
"It's been a big difference," Jared Boll said. "Practice has been fast and not a lot of rest. It's been good, up-tempo and I think it's going to be real good for us once we start playing games."
Center Antoine Vermette likes the way the practices have been run and how each day the team gets better.
"We have good pace," Vermette said. "We find ourselves moving a little more. Every day we have gotten better and that's a good sign."
Mason Locks Up Through 2012-13
On Monday afternoon, the Blue Jackets signed goaltender Steve Mason to a two-year contract extension that will keep him in a Blue Jackets sweater through the 2012-13 season. Signing the extension was something Mason wanted to get done sooner rather than later.
"It's nice to get it done and out of the way before the start of the season," said Mason. "Columbus is a spot where I want to be for a long time. This contract will definitely pave the way to make that happen and I am looking forward to the next three years here."
Mason, 22, has posted a 53-46-16 record, 2.65 goals-against average, .908 save percentage and 15 shutouts in 119 games during his first two NHL seasons with the Blue Jackets. In 2008-09, he won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year and was runner-up for the Vezina Trophy as the League's top netminder.
"Being a young goaltender in the league and to have the organization behind you 100 percent is a great feeling," Mason said. "Last year didn't go the way anybody had hoped, both on a personal basis and as a team, so to have (the organization) come to me in the summer time with talks about an extension was a great feeling and I definitely want to reward them with a good year."
Roster for Wednesday's Game Posted
The Blue Jackets and Capitals playing rosters for Wednesday’s home game against the Washington Capitals have been posted and can be viewed by clicking here.
One will quickly note that the Blue Jackets' last five first round picks will be in the lineup as well as six overall. Rick Nash (2002), Derick Brassard (2006), Jakub Voracek (2007), Nikita Filatov (2008), John Moore (2009) and Ryan Johansen (2010) are all in the lineup. On top of that, Arniel said he plans to play a forward line combination Filatov-Brassard-Voracek.
"I want to see their skill," Arniel said. "They can do great things with the puck. Every time they are out there, they are going to be dangerous. They put people back on their heels and use their creativity, but they'll shoot the puck when they have the opportunity. It's not all about passing pucks up and down the ice.
"They also have to be responsible when they don't have (the puck). They need to be doing what everybody else is doing system wise."
A pair of former Blue Jackets are on the Thrashers' roster, but only one is listed on the playing roster for tonight's game. Defenseman Ron Hainsey, who played for Columbus from 2005-08, is expected to play. Left wing Fredrik Modin, a Blue Jacket from 2006-10, is not expected to dress.
Tickets for Wednesday night's game can be purchased by clicking here.
Practice Times and Groups
Non-Playing Group 1 (8:45-10 a.m., Ice Haus) – Archibald, Clitsome, Francis, Gill, Huselius, Klesla, Kolarik, Kubalik, Madaisky, Moreau, Murovich, Neuber, Ratchuk, Smith, Stralman, Taylor, Vermette
Playing Group (10-11 a.m., Nationwide Arena) – Boll, Brassard, Clark, Filatov, Frischmon, Hejda, Holden, Johansen, Machesney, Madaisky, Mason, Mayorov, Moore, Nash, Pahlsson, Prout, Ruth, Savard, Straka, Tyutin, Umberger, Voracek
Non-Playing Group 2 (11:15 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Ice Haus) – Blunden, Calvert, Commodore, Dorsett, Fritsche, Gabriel, Garon, Goloubef, Guenin, Guite, Holden, LeNeveu, MacKenzie, Madaisky, Methot, Murray, Sestito, Sigalet, Wilson