The Blue Jackets took a break from the ice for the fifth day of Training Camp presented by OhioHealth, a move that head coach Todd Richards said was necessary in order to manage the physical and emotional toll of the past week.
“They were long days, long hard days, and I think the emotion, the energy of it too, the excitement of the first day – I think it’s typical of a normal training camp,” Richards said after the team’s team meetings and off-ice workout this morning.
One thing had been clear after yesterday’s 20-minute scrimmage: the intensity of the first couple of days of camp had evaporated. According to Richards, this was typical of training camps not just in Columbus but around the NHL.
“It’s been talked among coaches before that you normally have a letdown after 3-4 days of camp,” Richards said.
This year, the exhaustion was heightened by the shortened camp and acceleration towards the start of the season. For Richards, deciding to give the players a break from on-ice drills was necessary for the coaching staff to make in order to prepare for the emotional escalation heading into the season opener against the Nashville Predators on Saturday.
“It’s going to be revved up, emotions are going to be high," Richards said. "It’s going to be cranked up, the arena’s going to be loud. Our players are going to be excited, their players are going to be excited, and we have to have our emotions under control.”
John Davidson described yesterday’s fast-paced practice as “NHL-quick,” and the second day of the Blue Jackets training camp saw a continuation of that intensity. As training camp moves forward, players competing for a roster spot don’t have a lot of time to prove that they deserve to play in the NHL.
“I love every second out there," Erixon told BlueJackets.com. "It’s good to be back here and competing for a spot in the NHL. That’s what everybody wants, and that’s all I’m focused on right now."
The 21-year-old defenseman came to the Blue Jackets from the New York Rangers as part of the package deal last summer that also included forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov.
He played 18 games with the Rangers last season, and hopes that his time playing with the Falcons has accelerated his development into a steady NHL defenseman.
As more players joined the informal skates at the OhioHealth Ice Haus over the past week, drills became more intense and practice assumed a sense of “normalcy,” or more accurately – organized chaos.
One player who has stood out for helping to keep an organized pace on the ice is Derek Dorsett.
The 26-year-old right winger broke onto the National Hockey League scene in 2008-09 with the Blue Jackets and has developed into a leader for the team on the ice and off.
“I just try to do what I always do – play hard,” Dorsett told BlueJackets.com. “Being here over the last few years and learning from the veterans that have been here before – obviously, you become more responsible, and I feel more comfortable around the guys.”
The hard work has paid off for Dorsett, who will be a part of the Blue Jackets franchise for the forseeable future after signing a three-year contract extension with the club last May. Last season, Dorsett scored a career-high 12 goals and eight assists, and saw his ice time increase under head coach Todd Richards.
While many people were peacefully sleeping on the east coast when the news of a new CBA between the NHL and NHLPA was announced, Vinny Prospal was on a bus in the Czech Republic en route to play a hockey game in the Czech town of Zlin.
He had spent the past three months playing for his hometown team, Ceske Budejovice of the Czech Elite League, but upon hearing the news, he immediately set out to return to Columbus and to the people who matter most to him – his family.
“I’m glad to be playing, but I’m more excited when the news first came out, I was excited that I get to be with my family,” said Prospal after joining some of his teammates at the OhioHealth Ice Haus for a morning skate.
Players have been skating for roughly an hour and 15 minutes for the past four mornings, and more players have joined the skates as they trickle back to Columbus to get ready for the start of the new season. Brandon Dubinsky and Mark Letestu also suited up for today’s skate in addition to Prospal, who traveled for 22 hours straight in order to get back to Columbus.
The decision to sign with Ceske Budejovice wasn’t easy for Prospal and his family, who stayed behind in Columbus. Prospal praised his wife for being supportive of his decision to continue playing in Europe, but admitted it was hard to be away from his kids for such a long time.
The sound of skates digging into the ice and pucks clanging off the boards filled the OhioHealth Ice Haus once again today as a few players participated in a morning skate.
Steve Mason has been among nine players to skate the past two days, and for him, the start of the season brings a lot to look forward to, including a battle with Sergei Bobrovsky for the starting goaltender position.
The Blue Jackets acquired Bobrovsky during the offseason in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers for a 2012 draft pick and two fourth-round picks in the 2013 draft. The move by GM Scott Howson has set the stage this season for a battle for the No. 1 spot in goal.
Yet, after a summer of hardcore training, Mason is confident he can be the go-to guy in net for the Blue Jackets.
“I’m ready for it. It’s obviously a position I put myself in, but it’s also exciting for me because it’s something to work towards and get back,” Mason said after the skate today.
“I had a really good summer of training to get into really good shape,” said Mason, who played with 20 or so NHL players in the Toronto area to stay in shape during the CBA negotiations.
Mason said that in addition to losing some weight and maintaining a really good training regimen, he has also developed his mental game.
“It was like Christmas morning walking into the locker room and seeing each other again,” said Nick Foligno, who signed with the team last July as a restricted free agent following a trade from Ottawa.
Joining Foligno today were Blue Jackets veterans James Wisniewski, RJ Umberger, Derick Brassard, Jared Boll, Steve Mason, Derek Mackenzie, Derek Dorsett, along with newcomer Adrian Aucoin. “Coach” Umberger ran the practice, keeping things organized and running drills for the skate that lasted roughly an hour and fifteen minutes. The players joked that Umberger had some coaching expertise from his time spent as a volunteer assistant coach with Ohio State in the past few months.
“He was pretty tough on us today,” Foligno joked about Umberger’s coaching techniques.
Practice wrapped up today with a fun shootout drill, and players came off the ice smiling. No sense of hesitation hung in the air as they welcomed questions from the media afterwards.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- While most people are recovering from their Thanksgiving feast or out shopping for the holiday season, hundreds of high school hockey players will invade the Columbus area for the 14th annual Chiller Thanksgiving Classic this weekend.
Since its beginning, the tournament has grown into one of the largest high school hockey competitions in the country with 48 high school varsity and junior varsity (JV) teams participating in the event.
Hosted by The OhioHealth Chiller rinks in Columbus, the tournament spans three days across three different Chiller locations around around central Ohio.
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