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."
You don't need to remind Ryan Murray -- he knows what's at stake.
This is his first NHL training camp and he just played his first competitive hockey games in nine months, but that's not deterring him trying to crack the Blue Jackets' opening night roster. Having to miss last year's World Junior tournament was punishment enough, and Murray isn't going to let a chance at the NHL go by without a fight.
He's in the mix for one of the Blue Jackets' last two spots on the blueline, a competition that includes Cody Goloubef, David Savard, Ilari Melart and Tim Erixon. All five guys are able to be sent to the Springfield Falcons, and though Murray's dying for a taste of pro hockey however it comes, he's not shy in stating that his goal is to play in Columbus.
Rehabilitation was a long, arduous process after his shoulder surgery in January but it motivated him to have a strong summer in workouts and be in the best condition possible once camp began.
Well, there is certainly a lot to digest and sort through after two formal days of Blue Jackets Training Camp presented by OhioHealth. Oh, and there's an exhibition game less than 48 hours away. No problem, right?
After two days and four practice sessions split between the OhioHealth Ice Haus and Nationwide Arena, we've had the chance to see a lot of players running a lot of different drills and following along with some cool storylines, as well. Every day, we'll check back here on the CBJ Today blog with our thoughts, anecdotes and observations after the dust settles.
There's a chance that these notebooks may occasionally run very long. Actually, there's a really good chance, but I'll try and keep the Friday edition nice and tidy since we've had some good discussion on the live chats, too.
Let's have a look at some of today's notes...