TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — The Blue Jackets want the NHL Prospects Tournament to be a learning experience for their young players, but make no mistake about it: they’re not interested in fifth-place finishes every year, either.
A year ago, the Blue Jackets’ rookies went through an up-and-down tournament and ended on a sour note with a lopsided loss to the Dallas Stars, their opponent in tonight’s championship game at Centre Ice Arena (7 p.m.).
Both teams have impressed in the first three games of the tournament, both offensively (the Blue Jackets have scored a whopping 17 goals thus far) and defensively.
It’ll be a great test for the Blue Jackets, who have shaken off slow starts in all three games so far and pulled away when they found their rhythm.
“It’s going to be one heck of a game tonight,” Kerby Rychel said, putting it succinctly. You’ll find a lot of people around here who share his opinion.
They’ll have to be ready to go right away tonight against a Dallas team that’s overwhelmed opponents at times and scored seven goals against Buffalo last night - without the services of top prospect Brett Ritchie due to injury.
Oscar Dansk will get the start tonight for Columbus, his second of the tournament. It was expected prior to the week that Dansk and Forsberg would split the four games, but the Blue Jackets are also excited because both goalies have played very well.
Forsberg held them together against St. Louis in a frantic first period, and Dansk was very good against Detroit and especially so early on when the Red Wings were coming in waves.
UPDATE (5:40 PM): Here's tonight's Blue Jackets lineup...
Scratches: Milano, DiPaolo, Ryan, McIvor, Walters
Here are some pre-game notes as we get set for the final:
- Mike DiPaolo did not practice today and isn’t in the lineup tonight. He was banged up after a lengthy scrap with the Blues’ Jacob Doty on Monday.
- It'll be interesting to see what the future holds for DiPaolo and the other invites; the Blue Jackets are never opposed to adding players who bolster their organizational depth (and you could say that for like, every team) and some have made a pretty strong case for themselves. It's something to keep an eye on in the near future.
- Alexander Wennberg has a cold and he stayed away from the rink this morning. All signs point toward him playing tonight.
- Kevin Ryan comes out of the lineup on defense and Issac MacLeod will go in. Ryan played pretty well against St. Louis yesterday, now MacLeod has one final chance to make an impression before the tournament concludes.