The Blue Jackets already know they have a spot in Tuesday's championship game, but that won't keep them from making the most of tonight's game against the St. Louis Blues.
Head coach John Madden said that he'll take advantage of the opportunity to look at some different line combinations within the team tonight. He'll also try to give more players time on special teams.
One thing is for sure, even with the number one seed in the Ted Lindsey division locked up, Madden isn't worried about his team being ready to play their best tonight.
"We talked a little bit this morning," head coach John Madden said. "I said this is another opportunity for you guys to show your stuff and we want to win. Our guys are all professional. I'm sure we'll have a good effort."
Madden can speak from a place of confidence knowing his players. Eight on this year's Traverse squad played here last season and 11 were with the Monsters organization for at least part of the 2016-17 campaign.
One of those players is center Sam Vigneault who joined the Monsters after three seasons at Clarkson University. The 22-year-old signed an entry level contract with the Jackets that begins this season, and the Quebec native played 16 games with the Monsters last year under a tryout agreement. He had one goal and two assists.
"He was one of our better forwards," head coach John Madden said. "He definitely fit in our top six. Sometimes you get a guy like that out of college and he's got his strength and he's more mature than other guys. He's going to be a good player for us. He's going to have a bright future."
After having chosen the ECAC over the QMJHL, Vigneault had a strong college career in which he improved his scoring performance each season. In 2014-15, he had six goals and seven assists (.42 points per game). The following season he jumped to .72 points per game (12-14-26) and in his last year his 36 points (12-24-36) lifted his performance to .92 points per game.
In his final two years, Vigneault was the Golden Knights' leading scorer.
"My game grew up a lot (at Clarkson)," Vigneault said. "I think I take good draws and defensively, it was really good for me. I'm a lot better at that part of the game now."
Now as he begins his first full season as a pro, Vigneault wants to continue to improve his 200-foot game. He also wants to strengthen his penalty kill prowess and add size to his 6-foot-5 frame. As part of his off-season preparation, he spent June and August training in Columbus with the Blue Jackets staff towards those goals.
Vigneault also has a mental head start on what awaits him in the big leagues. Last year's games with the Monsters helped him get used to the speed at the AHL level both mentally and physically.
And if Vigneault needs to seek advice during the coming season, he needn't go farther than the other Clarkson alumni within the Jackets organization. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen played for the Golden Knights from 1987 to 1989, and development coach Chris Clark played four seasons there as well.
"It's good that they went there, it's a good connection," Vigneault says with a smile. "In Friday's game (against Dallas), I lined up against a player from (St. Lawrence University), they are a big rival of ours (at Clarkson). (Clark) said to me, 'don't go easy on him.'"
- Madden has been pleased with both goaltenders. Tonight, Matiss Kivlenieks gets the start in net. He is 1-0 in Traverse. In Friday's 7-2 win over Dallas, Kivlenieks stopped 19 of 21 shots and had a .905 save percentage.
- Gabriel Carlsson did not skate this morning (rest). He and defensive partner Ryan Collins will not play tonight in advance of Tuesday's contest.
- Madden says he may play with the lines in tonight's game. Calvin Thurkauf could see time at center.
PROJECTED CBJ LINEUP:
Thurkauf - Dubois - Abramov
Bittner - Vigneault - Hodgson
MacIntyre - Maletta - Fox
Kirwan - Scott - Sherwood
Desrocher - Graves
Somerby - Savage
Mercier - Billitier