Dalton Prout had this date circled as he recovered from abdominal surgery over a month ago. It just so happened that everything fell in his favor.
He's practically been ahead of schedule for a few weeks now, but Prout said last week he was back to 100 percent and was cleared for contact practice not long after. After a handful of practices to get himself up to speed, he's now poised to return to the lineup tonight against the Minnesota Wild.
It was originally thought that Prout wouldn't be ready until the regular season opener (Oct. 4 against Calgary), but at this point, he is likely to play two of the Blue Jackets' final three preseason games.
"I'm excited to get back in the lineup," Prout said after today's morning skate. "I've seen these guys do it for long enough...I just can't wait to get out there. I feel like I'm to the point right now where I can go out on the ice and not even think about my injury. A couple of weeks ago at the opening of training camp, I'd go out on the ice and wouldn't feel lose until the first five or 10 minutes."
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards let out a chuckle when told he was vocal out on the ice today.
"Maybe I was? I'll have to go back and ask my assistant coaches," he joked. "I liked our practice. We got out of it what we wanted to do as coaches, as far as planning our day and what we need to get better at."
It was a productive day for the Blue Jackets, who flew home from Pittsburgh after a 5-3 win on Saturday at CONSOL Energy Center and took the ice for a Sunday skate at Nationwide Arena. They practiced for a little more than an hour and covered several items of note for Richards and his staff, all in preparation for Monday night's game against the Minnesota Wild.
Columbus will dress a veteran-heavy lineup vs. Minnesota, including its top line from Saturday and No. 1 goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The Wild are expected to start Josh Harding in net, while Zach Parise, Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu are not slated to play against the Blue Jackets.
For the second time in three years, NHL goaltenders are dealing with a change and/or reduction in the size of their gear - in particular, the leg pads.
It has been a topic of conversation around the sport since the new rules for 2013-14 were implemented over the summer. Goalies are seeing the average maximum height of their leg pads decrease by an average of two inches, a number that may vary depending on the player's height. Some goalies are losing nearly three inches and others are losing an inch (give or take), but the song and dance is nothing new for them.
Blue Jackets goaltender Mike McKenna stands at 6-foot-3, making him the tallest goalie in the organization and the player who has seen the most significant change in his equipment. He only recently received his new equipment back from the NHL, and used it for the first time during the team's morning skate on Tuesday prior to facing Buffalo at Nationwide Arena.
They know the drill: it's "adapt or die," as McKenna likes to say. The rules are out of his control but it's his job to adjust and make the most of what he's allotted.
We're down to one group of players at Blue Jackets Training Camp after this week's cuts, and that group took the ice for a late-morning skate today at the OhioHeath Ice Haus.
The emphasis? Building off the first week of camp, which included a lot of fundamentals and a refresher course to the systematics of what the Blue Jackets want to do on the ice. As has been mentioned multiple times in this space, Todd Richards keeps hammering home the need to play with pace and do things fast.
They played a fast game (at least in the final two periods) against the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this week, and Richards liked a lot of what he saw in the third period, when the Blue Jackets overwhelmed the Hurricanes and struck for three straight goals.
It's a start, Richards said, but there's still a ways to go before they're ready for opening night - which is now exactly two weeks (!) away.
Without further ado, let's get into today's notebook...
We're nine days into Blue Jackets Training Camp presented by OhioHealth, which means we've covered a lot of ground, but there are still several unknowns as we had closer to opening night.
In kind-of-important news, the Blue Jackets are 3-1-0 through four of eight preseason games. Those games have featured some very good things, but also some things that Todd Richards and his coaching staff will focus intently on over the next two weeks. The "good news" category got a boost last night in Raleigh, when Columbus' top players really shined in a 5-4 win over the Hurricanes.
Marian Gaborik scored twice. Brandon Dubinsky was a monster, picking up three assists, a game-high 10 shots on goal and logging nearly 23 minutes of ice time. Boone Jenner was a workhorse and fit in nicely alongside Gaborik and Dubinsky, and had a multi-point effort (goal and assist) himself.
The power play had its moments, the penalty kill was solid at times and Mike McKenna played well between the pipes to pick up the win. Today is a deserved off-day from camp activities, and the Blue Jackets will get back at it tomorrow morning.
Wisniewski got a birds-eye view of it as Murray's partner on defense, too. There was a 19-year-old kid in his first NHL game and in his second week of competition following six months of shoulder surgery rehabilitation, and his first assignment was to defend the likes of Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Beau Bennett for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After a frantic start that saw the Penguins score in the opening minute, the Blue Jackets settled in and Murray felt his game improved as the game grew older.
The smart read-and-react play by Murray late in overtime after Malkin turned the puck over at the offensive blue line was impressive, Wisniewski said, but the overall body of work was even more encouraging.
The Blue Jackets made a late lineup change for tonight's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena: Matt Calvert is out with a "sore groin," coach Todd Richards announced after today's practice sessions.
Calvert was originally slated to play the team's first exhibition game, but Richards made the change today after it was deemed Calvert would be better suited to rest the groin rather than push it early in camp. In his place, Broc Little will dress for his first NHL game and skate alongside Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik.
Talk about getting thrown into the fire, right? But Richards isn't too concerned - Little has been a consistent offensive producer and had success in Europe, and he's looking forward to seeing what the kid can do playing with "two pretty good players."
"If this is Game 72, he's in the lineup," Richards said. "But this is an exhibition."