Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards finalized his roster heading into the squad’s season opener Saturday at Nashville. The club cut center Boone Jenner and defender Tim Erixon to set the roster at the NHL max of 23 players.
Jenner, a 19-year-old 2011 second-round pick, will return to Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League. Erixon will return to the American Hockey League’s Springfield Falcons. It is possible if not likely Erixon will return at some point this season for the Blue Jackets.
“Tough decisions,” Richards said. “They both deserved to be here and whether it is right or whether it is wrong, Boone showed he could play here but with these players you have to be smart in those decisions.”
Jenner has yet to make his NHL debut but has shown promise since the Jackets drafted him 18 months ago. He produces at over a point per game clip in the juniors and was a key member of the Canadian U20 squad that participated in this year’s World Junior Championships.
“Our intention is to get Boone playing where career wise, he is able to develop as quickly and get him to his maximum level as quickly as possible,” Richards said. “It is getting him back where he can play in any situation. Skill wise, develop. But there is more to it as far as leadership.”
The demotions mean defender David Savard and forward Matt Calvert will stay in Columbus for the time being. The duo has spent the better part of the last two seasons in Springfield and are hoping to make their lasting mark in Columbus.
“It was just a great opportunity (during camp),” Savard said. “I need to work hard to make my way on the lineup and push guys to get better too. I think by pushing to get in the lineup, it will make other guys better too.”
A day off
One day after Richards lamented his squad for not skating hard in practice, he gave the club a day off on Thursday in lieu of off ice workouts. The Jackets are scheduled to practice on Friday at 10:30 a.m. before flying to Nashville in preparation of opening night.
“As a coaching staff, we really felt we hit a wall yesterday,” Richards said. “It is going to be a bit tricky from a coaching standpoint figuring out what is best for the team and what does your team need at the moment.”
A condensed schedule does no favors for a squad that becomes exhausted after just four days of training camp. With 11 sets of games being played on back-to-back days, there will be points in the season the Jackets will not have an opportunity to recover from being exhausted.
Richards was asked if he was concerned about the squad being fatigued so early in the season.
“It has been talked about around coaches that you normally have a letdown three or four days into camp,” Richards said. “You look at camp now and we’re at that point. It just looked like after we scrimmaged (Wednesday) and watching the guys come off the ice, trying to get the things we wanted to accomplish in practice we weren’t able to do.”
The Blue Jackets were not the only squad to call a halt to practice Thursday. A number of other squads around the league were feeling similar effects from the shortened training camp.
“Every team is probably going through it right now,” Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger said. “In practice (Wednesday), it showed mentally and physically, it wasn’t our sharpest of the days. I think it is our job to retool and finish the week off strong.”
Atkinson banged up
Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson did not skate with the Blue Jackets on Wednesday as he was recovering from a lower-body injury. He skated alone on Thursday and Richards said he will be tested Friday morning before being cleared for practice.
Atkinson is expected to play a huge role for the Blue Jackets this season. Early in training camp, he was on a line with top wingers R.J. Umberger and Derick Brassard. Atkinson kept in shape by playing in the AHL during the lockout. He was among league leaders in points before his recall to Columbus scoring 17 goals and 21 assists in 33 games.
“It is fun playing with those guys,” Atkinson said about his line. “Every one of those guys can do something good. They can all pass, they can all score.”