TRAVERSE CITY, MI - The Blue Jackets took to the ice Saturday morning for a brisk practice in advance of tonight's matchup against Minnesota at 7:30 p.m.
After a commanding 7-2 win over Dallas Friday, the Jackets will face the only other team in their division to win last night. Minnesota came back from a 5-1 deficit to score five goals in eight minutes and defeat the St. Louis Blues 6-5.
Tonight's winner could determine who sits atop the Ted Lindsey Division. That team could likely in the driver's seat for the championship game heading into the final set of round robin games, Monday.
Like the Jackets, Minnesota proved last night they can find their offensive abilities. So tonight's matchup looks to be a bigger test for the Jackets blue line. One of the players the team will be looking to is 20-year-old Gabriel Carlsson.
Carlsson notably came to North America after completing his third season in the Swedish Hockey League and, after playing three games with the Cleveland Monsters, found himself in the Blue Jackets lineup for the final two regular season games and five playoff games.
"Last season, I got a phone call asking which 'D' (should join the NHL club from Cleveland) and I said 'it's Carlsson,'" Monsters head coach John Madden said. "He played really well in his short time with us, and he did well in Columbus also. He's a great kid with a lot of confidence and very humble as well so he's fun to work with."
For Carlsson, the whirlwind of those weeks not only helped him become comfortable with the Blue Jackets organization, coaches and teammates, it also contributed to his confidence level as he prepares to make a push to be a permanent fixture in the NHL.
"It was important for me to come and know that I could play at that level," Carlsson said. "It was tough to go out in the first round, we lost against a good team, but it gives you an energy boost as well. You want to come back next year and work hard over the summer."
Carlsson, who spent a large part of his off-season training in Columbus, has been working on getting bigger and stronger. He's happy to be part of the Traverse City team and get a few games under his belt before heading into this year's Training Camp.
The 6-foot-4 defenseman has been paired with 6-foot-5 Ryan Collins as the Jackets' top pairing thus far in Traverse. In Friday's game, Carlsson was sound on the blue line and wasn't hesitant to join the rush. He ended the night at plus-3.
"He's just smart," Madden said. "He's stays one step ahead of the game. He makes it look easy. He just makes the simple plays and doesn't try to complicate the game. Defensively, he's as sound as any player I've had.
"I expect some big things out of him."
PROJECTED CBJ LINEUP:
Thurkauf - Dubois - Abramov
Bittner - Vigneault - Hodgson
MacIntyre - Maletta - Brazeau
Kirwan - Scott - Sherwood
Carlsson - Collins
Mercier - Graves
Somerby - Savage