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Blue Jackets 'not ready right now' for Cup Qualifiers, coach says

Tortorella concerned with play of 'pretty important people' before series against Maple Leafs

by Craig Merz / Independent Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- John Tortorella said he thinks several important players on the Columbus Blue Jackets aren't prepared for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

"My concern is some of the people that we are going to need to make a difference for us to win a series, I don't think they're ready right now," the coach said after practice Thursday. "I don't think they're doing the things they need to do right now to get ready for that series. Not a bunch. A few. A couple."

Columbus (33-22-15, .579 points percentage) enters the Qualifiers as the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference and will play the No. 8 seed, the Toronto Maple Leafs (36-25-9, .579). The best-of-5 series will begin at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city, on Aug 2.

The winner will advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the loser will have a chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery, to be held Aug. 10. 

"For the most part, I've liked what I've seen here," Tortorella said. "It's just the two or three guys that are pretty important people. It's a concern of mine. … I'm not so sure we get total concentration out of some key people. That's what we're working to try to get."

Video: Hockey is Back: Columbus vs. Toronto Begins Aug. 1

Tortorella was unhappy with practice Monday and did not talk to the media after a scrimmage Tuesday. The Blue Jackets were off Wednesday and within the first 30 seconds of the opening drill Thursday, the coach stopped practice and yelled at the team before skating resumed.

Forward Nick Foligno, who was not on the ice Monday or Tuesday because of what he called soreness, said the Blue Jackets will be ready once the postseason starts. Columbus has an exhibition game against the Boston Bruins on July 30 (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, TVAS, FS-O, NESN, NHL.TV).

"Guys know as we get closer and they start to see that we're heading Sunday to Toronto that the compete level will increase big time," Foligno, the Columbus captain, said. "I've liked what I've seen from our group. I think conditioningwise we're in great shape, the puck touches, and those things will come. We're progressing in the right way and I'm not too concerned.

"The guys know now we're not a team that can just flip a switch. You can start to see the guys are starting to zone in on, 'OK, we're getting ready to go here,' and I'm sure every team feels that way."

Tortorella said the players need to have a different mentality than they would during a normal training camp when they would have more time before the games count.

"I thought we practiced better today," Tortorella said. "I think we have to be really careful not to fall into the trap of thinking we can wade ourselves into this. Each day is an important day. 

"This isn't getting ready for the regular season and then trying to find your game in 15 games during the regular season. This is a sprint. And I think some guys have been dead-on right from the start. Other guys, not so much. I think we're in single digits right now as far as getting ready to play [Toronto]. I don't want us to fall into this trap of wading in. We need to be ready to go."

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