Columbus Blue Jackets Open Training Camp

By Tim Lucarelli (@tlucarelli)

On a warm and rainy day in Columbus, Ohio, NHL hockey finally returned. For an organization that finished in last place by nine points last season and then subsequently lost out on the draft lottery for the first overall selection, there were certainly some question marks surrounding the level of fan support in Columbus.

But all of that was put to rest when Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards took the ice to address the fans at OhioHealth’s Ice Haus, which had every seat packed and even more fans crammed wall-to-wall along the boards. Richards spoke about how things have been gloomy at times for the organization, but that is the past. He thanked the fans for their support multiple times, and left the ice saying that it’s time to get down to business.

And get down to business is exactly what they did. Richards led an up-tempo workout with a lot of skating, passing, and hard-working drills. Right out of the gate, the fans got a sneak peak at the 2012-13 lines, thanks to a couple breakout drills. Courtesy of Rob Mixer, Richards had this to say about the line combinations, “Well, we’re trying (to find combinations). It’s not that we just pulled names out of a hat today. We put them down and we want to see what they can do. Today’s the first step and tomorrow may be different, but it’s what we’ve got to do as a staff: sit down, talk about today’s practice…and it’s no different with (defense) pairings too.”

The lines featured were:

Forward:

Umberger – Brassard – Atkinson
Dubinsky – Anisimov – Dorsett
Prospal – Letestu – Foligno
MacKenzie – Jenner – Boll
Gillies – Johansen – Calvert

Defense:

Tyutin – Nikitin
Johnson – Wisniewski
Aucoin – Moore
Erixon – Savard

Goalies:

Mason
Bobrovsky

Based on how they skated today, it would appear Columbus’ top two lines are not budging. Atkinson moved around on the ice as if he had turbo boosters on all day, while Umberger looked sharp despite choosing not to skate overseas during the lockout. There is also a lot of buzz around the Dubinsky – Anisimov – Dorsett line, which features enough tenacity to seriously wear down opposing defenders. Per @RobMixer, “Dubinsky said he prefers to play LW though he started his career in the middle. Loves playing with Anisimov going back to time in NY. #CBJ”

The defense looked sharp, and one of the new faces – Adrian Aucoin – already began to make an impact. Aucoin, who will turn 40 in July, was seen a few times directing players around and leading some of the younger guys, which is exactly the kind of presence he was brought in for. After all, the next oldest player on the blue line is Fedor Tyutin, a full decade (and 16 days) younger than Aucoin.

In goal, Bobrovsky was quick as ever, clearly benefitting from his time in the KHL, where he posted an 18-3-2 record with a 2.43 GAA and .925 save percentage. Bob wore number 72 in his time in Russia, and keeping with that trend, he was sporting number 72 on his Columbus sweater today. Steve Mason didn’t skate anywhere during the lockout, but is clearly aware that he needs to elevate his game. He enters camp 15 lbs lighter, ready for the new season per Bob McKenzie.

The entire team wore either blue or white jerseys, except for three players – Gillies, Johansen, and Calvert. All three had impressive workouts, but despite previous NHL experience, it would appear they are bubble players (for now). Jenner wore a white jersey, but may have his work cut out for him trying to make this team’s opening day roster. Likely shaking some nerves, he had a few strong individual drills and will need to keep the momentum building over the next five days to make this team.

*********************************************************************************************************************************

New club president John Davidson addressed the media after practice and talked about how important it will be this season to use all four lines and keep the puck out of their own net. He added what type of quality he wants his players to have saying, “We want the fans to come watch a team that’s going to work our tails off.”

After the skate, the fans – who were still applauding and standing on their feet – received a pleasant surprise as each player threw autographed hats into the stands.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>