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Young Players Want to Push Playoff Veterans

by Chuck Massarolo / Columbus Blue Jackets

Each year children playing hockey on ponds or out in the streets with their friends pretend that they are playing for a Stanley Cup Championship. The kids pretend to play as their favorite NHL players and look to score a game-winning goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We are really excited," said Russell. "This is what you grow up dreaming about and thinking about when you are playing in your backyard and now we have a chance."

Russell, along with numerous other players on the Blue Jackets' roster will be making their Stanley Cup Playoff debuts on Thursday when the Jackets face Detroit in the first round.

Each of the players realizes that they are fortunate to have made the playoffs in their first couple of years in the NHL, but while they plan to enjoy it, the work has just begun.

"(Making the playoffs) is special," said Boll. "Some guys play a long time and don't ever make the playoffs. For me to make it in my second year is pretty good. We have a good group of guys in here and we don't want this to end.

"We are really looking forward to making a push in the playoffs."

The Blue Jackets young players know that the playoffs will be different than the regular season, but they believe it is important not to change their preparation.

"You have to go into every game and be your best and play your best," said Russell. "It doesn't matter if it's an exhibition, regular season or playoff game. You have to step up and be at your best every shift and every game. As young guys, we have to contribute. We have to be the backbone and make sure that we are going just as hard and we have to push guys."

Boll and Russell each have two NHL regular seasons under their belt with the Blue Jackets and for them this season was a different season compared to last year.

"I think this year we believed a lot more," said Russell. "We had a lot of new guys brought in, guys with experience and great leaders like (Mike) Commodore and (R.J.) Umberger. They have the playoff experience and they came in and they really wanted to push for us to get there.

"I think those guys coming in and guys like (Rick) Nash, (Manny) Malhotra, and (Jason) Chimera, who have been around for awhile really wanted to see the playoffs come to Columbus. I think those guys really stepped up and showed us young guys the way."

It is the Rick Nash's, Rostislav Klesla's, Manny Malhotra's and Jason Chimera's that this young core of players are playing for, but at the same time they will be looking to them for guidance and help as they enter a new chapter in their young NHL careers.

"Klesla and Nash have played almost 500 games and are just now making the playoffs, said Voracek. "I think it's been a big sacrifice for them (the past couple of seasons) and they are pretty pumped right now. They are our leaders and they are going to help us a lot in the playoffs."

Like everyone else in the organization and all of the fans, this group of players is anxious to take to the ice.

"This is really exciting,” said Russell. “You see how intense it is and the passion of the players. You're always excited to play in your first playoffs. We have a big test in Detroit and that makes it all the more special."

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