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Blue Jackets plan simulated game to stay sharp during playoff break

First-round sweep means Columbus has at least one week between series

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets will play a full-team simulated game Monday in an effort to stay sharp while they wait to find out who they'll play in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Blue Jackets are on an extended break after sweeping the Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lighting in the Eastern Conference First Round with a 7-3 win in Game 4 on Tuesday.

"It's a big challenge for the coaching staff. I'm concerned as we move forward here," Columbus coach John Tortorella said Friday. "Some guys have not been involved in these situations before. It's a big part of our job as coaches to make sure we do this [the] right way to make sure we're prepared for our next opponent."

The Blue Jackets, who won a playoff series for the first time since joining the NHL in 2000-01, will play the winner of the best-of-7 series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, which was tied heading into Game 5 on Friday. Game 6 is Sunday, with a possible Game 7 scheduled for Tuesday.

Video: Foligno on Lightning, advancing to Second Round

No matter whom the Blue Jackets play, they will have had a long break between series. So after practicing Friday and Saturday, they will take Sunday off before the simulated game at Nationwide Arena, which will be open to the public.

"We need to make sure we stay sharp, try not to think about it as a week off," Columbus forward Brandon Dubinsky said. "This isn't a vacation. We need to continue to work."

Matt Duchene said the Blue Jackets can't fall into the trap of letting up on their intensity because of the time away from game action.

"We talked about it today," the center said. "This is kind of the toughest time waiting around. You want to guard against being too laid-back and relaxed because you do have quite a bit of time in between. That's human nature to take your foot off the gas just because you're practicing. You can't do that.

"The biggest thing is every day just think about how we played in that series and putting that in a mental place we can get too quickly in the next series."

Captain Nick Foligno said he is less worried about his teammates not maintaining their edge.

"It's because we know we're trying to build toward something. We haven't accomplished anything yet. One series doesn't do anything," the forward said. "We are expecting to accomplish more and have a quiet confidence in this room.

"We're focused on getting better every day. That's what we talked about at the beginning of the playoffs, every day we need to get better and today was a step in that direction. We know the next series is going to be harder, so we're preparing ourselves to get ready for that."

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