One of the drawbacks to a shortened training camp is limited time to develop chemistry among line mates -- and especially so on a team with several new faces.
The Blue Jackets are one of those teams and Nick Foligno is one of those newcomers, but like his teammates, he's trying to make the most of a hectic schedule this week in preparation for the season opener on Saturday night in Nashville. When Blue Jackets Training Camp presented by OhioHealth opened yesterday, Foligno was slotted on one of three "scoring lines" iced by head coach Todd Richards.
Mark Letestu, who came over last season in a trade with Pittsburgh, centered the line and veteran Vinny Prospal played the right side. With Letestu's face-off skills, the trio started with the puck a lot and was able to get some chances going off the rush in drills, but like many players admitted afterward, the likelihood of all the lines staying intact was slim.
And sure enough, there were changes this morning.
Foligno remained with Prospal in today's practice but Ryan Johansen moved up to center the line, and Richards got a good look at a young player trying to make an impact in just his second NHL season.
The two veterans on the line have never played together in previous NHL stops, but Foligno said he would welcome the chance to play with Prospal if that's how the season began.
"Vinny’s a really good player and he’s played in this league at a high level for a long time," Foligno told BlueJackets.com after practice today. "He’s proven himself year in and year out. He works so hard and he’s a blast to play with. You can see how much fun he has when he plays, and it's contagious.
During his five-year stint with Ottawa Senators, Foligno played all three forward positions including extended time at both left and right wing. He has played exclusively on the left wing the past two days, but if change is warranted, he is willing and comfortable with playing either side.
Foligno put up 47 points (15 goals, 32 assists) with the Senators a year ago while getting ice time on both wings and at center, so change isn't something he's too concerned with.
"I’m more than happy to play whatever position they need me to play," Foligno said. "My job is to go out there, play well and try to produce offensively, and be smart in the defensive zone, too. It’s about playing a solid all-around game, and I plan on doing that."
One aspect that Foligno and the Blue Jackets have keyed on the past two days is puck possession and managing the game. Richards said defense and checking have been focal points, and also making sure they are dictating the pace.
Winning face-offs is a big part of controlling the game, Foligno said, and he's certain it will be an item on the agenda throughout the season for several teams around the NHL.
"Puck possession is so big in this game now," he said. "It’s all about how quickly you can get from defense to offense and get your transition game going. The best teams do it quickly and it seems like they have the puck the whole games sometimes.
"I’m excited with how we’re going to play. I think it’s an exciting way to play the game and it’ll bode well for us this season."
We're back at it for Day 2 of Blue Jackets training camp presented by OhioHealth, and I'm anticipating a host of new story lines today after an exciting first session on Sunday. I'll have live updates here throughout the morning as the players go through drills, and I hope to provide some analysis along the way.
While we wait for the players to hit the ice (practice starts at 10:30 a.m. in the OhioHealth Ice Haus, and it's free and open to the public), you can check out Todd Richards' media scrum yesterday in the video above.
I also have some story links from yesterday's coverage if you need to catch up (inside the blog post). Follow this post all day long for all the information about practice before, during, and after the session wraps up.
What a day.
Back in the OhioHealth Ice Haus, a full house, tons of energy and excitement...it was pretty much everything one could ask for as Training Camp presented by OhioHealth kicked off this afternoon. Think the Blue Jackets players were fired up? You couldn't help but notice the ear-to-ear smiles on their faces as they stepped on the ice.
They're happy to be back, and to a man, ready to make the most of the six-day training camp and embark on a wild ride we call the NHL season. Todd Richards kicked things off with a nice speech to the crowd and promptly put his players through a detail-oriented practice aimed at getting everyone on the same page.
I covered this in an earlier blog post, but as I "empty the notebook" after today's practice, I'll go through the forward lines and defense pairings once more...
FORWARDS: Umberger-Brassard-Atkinson, Dubinsky-Anisimov-Dorsett, Prospal-Letestu-Foligno, MacKenzie-Jenner-Boll, Gillies-Johansen-Calvert
DEFENSE: Tyutin-Nikitin, Johnson-Wisniewski, Moore-Aucoin, Erixon-Savard
GOALIES: Bobrovsky, Mason
Let's dive right into it -- here are my observations from an entertaining first day of camp...
He walked into his new locker room for the first time with the full group of his new teammates, put his equipment on piece-by-piece and marched down the hallway into the OhioHealth Ice Haus where he heard over 1,200 fans chanting "let's go Jackets" before the players even stepped foot on the ice.
Coming from the New York Rangers -- where practices are typically closed to the public -- hearing the ovation from hundreds of feet away was a surreal experience.
"It was awesome to see all the fans and get a first taste of the support we get here in Columbus," Dubinsky said. "It was pretty special and all the boys were excited about it.
I was sort of walking out (on the ice) and I heard them chanting and I was like, what’s going on out there? And then I walk out there and it was packed."
The familiarity started by lining up for his first official Blue Jackets drill on the left wing of Artem Anisimov, who came over with Dubinsky from the Rangers in the Rick Nash trade back in July. On the right side of their line was Derek Dorsett, one of the club's emerging young leaders and an honest player that empties the cupboard every night.
Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards knows better than to think the lineup he arranged in today's practice will remain intact throughout the season.
After all, the team is slated to play its 48-game regular season in a span of 99 days, but the Blue Jackets won't be the only NHL team going through such a scenario. The grind is on for everyone, and teams are forced to cram three weeks of teaching and preparation into a six-day window before the schedule gets under way on Jan. 19.
Looking at the calendar and seeing Jan. 13 isn't a cause for alarm, Richards said today, but he wanted the first practice of Training Camp presented by OhioHealth to be a clear indication of how things will proceed from this point forward.
Drills are going to be intense, hydration will be required, but above all else, depth throughout the organization is going to be a key component to steering the U.S.S. Blue Jackets in the right direction. Are all lines going to remain the same? Are all players going to remain healthy and fit to play throughout the season? Absolutely not, and teams must prepare for the "curveballs," as John Davidson calls them.
"This year more than any other, you’re going to need everybody," Richards said. "Whether it’s recalls or guys here…guys are going to be tired, especially the guys who play big minutes and specialty teams. You’re going to have to lean on your role players and it’s critically important.
"We need everyone this year; we need all 12 forwards, all six defensemen and both goaltenders."
John Davidson addressed the Blue Jackets today in the dressing room with a simple message: "we're going north."
Gathered on the ice for the first time since early April, and with several new faces sprinkled among the group, the Blue Jackets opened Training Camp presented by OhioHealth today before a standing-room only crowd at the OhioHealth Ice Haus. With 25 players on the ice and the entire coaching staff on hand to begin the rapid-fire learning process, the northbound journey began with a standing ovation from the fans in the building.
Davidson armed the players with the expectation that beginning immediately, the Blue Jackets' goal is to be the hardest-working team in the NHL and a club that brings a high level of intensity to the rink every single day.
And according to head coach Todd Richards, his players did exactly that. After Richards addressed the crowd, he put the Blue Jackets through an up-tempo practice that clocked in at a shade under 90 minutes, focusing on their transition game and creating traffic at the front of the net -- a hallmark of Richards' philosophy. He wants his teams to be overwhelming in the scoring areas, giving them as many opportunities as possible to score goals.
Davidson said he has no reservations if this year's Blue Jackets have to "score by committee."Read the blog for today's training camp line combinations.
After a spectacular end to his rookie season with the Blue Jackets (in which he was recalled from Springfield as the AHL's top goal scorer), Atkinson began the 2012-13 season with the Falcons when the NHL lockout began. He was on the top line of a Springfield club under the direction of first year head coach Brad Larsen, and also a club that got off to a sterling start and currently leads the Northeast Division by eight points.
Ryan Johansen, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Atkinson started the season as the No. 1 unit but quickly dispersed on to separate lines to balance out scoring, and it only made Springfield stronger. The Falcons have one of the AHL's top offenses and with its young guys clicking right off the bat, made life easier for the defense and goaltending.
But now Atkinson is part of the Blue Jackets, and has another legitimate chance to crack the NHL roster as Training Camp presented by OhioHealth begins today at the OhioHealth Ice Haus. With 33 games already under his belt, Atkinson thinks the players recalled from Springfield have the early advantage in a compacted schedule.
Nice to read that, isn't it? Excitement and anticipation are in the air, and they've never smelled better.
Head coach Todd Richards and his staff -- including new assistants Keith Acton and Craig Hartsburg -- will take the ice for the first time Sunday for a six-day camp leading up to a 48-game regular season slate. The Blue Jackets are scheduled for 48 games in 99 days, so this week is pivotal to get everyone organized, on the same page, and ready to go when the season begins on Jan. 19.
Blue Jackets players have spent the past week or so skating on their own in the OhioHealth Ice Haus, holding "informal" practices for about an hour each day to get the legs going for training camp. It's like a bonus week for training camp for some guys, and several of the players said the additional ice time is crucial because camp is usually two to three weeks long and features roughly eight preseason games.
With exhibition games and normal ice time not an option this time around, there's going to be a quick learning curve for the team over the next week.
Alright hockey fans, the time has finally come: we're rolling out the 2012-13 Blue Jackets regular season schedule.
The National Hockey League officially released the regular season schedule for all 30 member clubs tonight after the Players' Association ratified the new collective bargaining agreement and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed off on by both parties. For the Blue Jackets, this means a 48-game schedule that spans a total of 99 days and as many have said throughout, it will be an absolute sprint from start to finish.
But that's fun, right?
Here's what Brandon Dubinsky said about the schedule this week: "And hey, 48 games is a short season and it’s like jumping right into a playoff race almost. If you get behind the eight-ball early, it might be a tough hole to climb out of. You have to try to get some wins early…we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that’s us.”
If you thought the Western Conference playoff race was intense last year (and remember, the eighth-seeded team eventually won the Stanley Cup), I think we're going to see a whole different level in 2013. It's like packing 82 games of valuable points into 48, which leads me to believe we're going to see an extremely high quality brand of hockey every night.
Read the story for schedule highlights!