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Jones ready to take expanded role with Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Day one for Seth Jones as the newest player for the Columbus Blue Jackets began with power-play work in the attached rink prior to a full-scale workout in Nationwide Arena on Thursday morning.

"I had no idea you guys had a practice rink connected," Jones said. "It's a great facility right there. It's very easy. I just followed some guys over."

The Blue Jackets expect it won't be long before the 21-year-old defenseman becomes a leader, not a follower, after he was acquired in a trade Wednesday that sent center Ryan Johansen to the Nashville Predators.

"He's going to be put in more spots here than he has in Nashville just because of the depth they have there," Columbus coach John Tortorella said. "In this League, a right-handed shot defenseman at 21 and what he can bring to this team is monstrous as far as you look to the future of this club.

"We give up a quality player. To bring in quality, you have to give up quality, but that position on the back end is such an important position if you want to sustain competitiveness in this League."

Jones, the fourth pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, had one goal, 10 assists and a minus-5 rating in 40 games for Nashville this season. His 19:38 of ice time was the second-lowest among Predators defensemen.

The Blue Jackets (15-23-3) have the fewest points in the NHL and the worst goals-against average (3.17).

"We can use all the help we can get, obviously, where we are in the standings," Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson said. "We have no doubts he's going to help our team."

Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said trading Johansen, the fourth pick in 2010, wasn't easy but a necessity.

"Our biggest need right now, and for the future, was adding a real good defenseman," Kekalainen said. "They're not easy to get. There are not many available. When a guy like Seth Jones became available, we decided to make this move.

"We believe he is a good two-way defenseman who can add some offense into our game and add a right-handed shot on our power play and also kill penalties and log a lot of ice time."

Much is expected of Jones and he sounded eager to assume the responsibility, mainly because he had good role models in Nashville such as defensemen Shea Weber and Roman Josi.

"I had all the tools to be successful," he said. "In Nashville, I had the opportunity to settle into things my first two years and learn about the game and the speed of the game and how it's played, and kind of watch how it's played from an outside point of view of a [No. 1 or 2] defenseman.

"I'm ready to start making that jump and making that leap of becoming a guy who can be counted upon and put in certain situations when the time comes.

"They've made it pretty clear (in Columbus) they're going to throw a little more at me than I've been used to getting. I'm excited and I'm ready to take on that challenge."

Jones, who will wear No. 3, plays his first game for the Blue Jackets at the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday and his home debut will be Saturday vs. the Hurricanes.

He will initially be paired with Ryan Murray, 22.

"This trade could be huge for a lot of years," Murray said. "It's great to have a guy like that that can do it all. He'll be on the power play. He can shoot, he can skate. He's the total package."

The other defensive pairs Thursday were Johnson with David Savard and Fedor Tyutin with Cody Goloubef. There are nine defensemen on the roster so a move or two will have to be made.

Replacing Johansen won't be easy. He was third on the Blue Jackets with 26 points (six goals, 20 assists). Last season, he was second in points (71) and third in goals (26) but had been at odds several times with Tortorella since the coach replaced Todd Richards on Oct. 21.

"When you're not winning there's going to be changes made," Johnson said of the trade. "That's the business side of it. We've kind of sensed something was coming for a long time."

Boone Jenner or Nick Foligno could move to center from their spots on the wing and center William Karlsson will have an expanded role.

Also, forward Josh Anderson, 21, was recalled from Lake Erie of the American Hockey League.

He represents another new face for Jones, who said he talked to Johansen at Port Columbus on Wednesday after he arrived from Nashville and Johansen was waiting to board the return flight.

"It's nice to turn the page and start a new chapter in my career and start here fresh," Jones said.

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