directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Jackets hit the ice

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Jackets hit the ice

Day two of training camp gets underway today at 8:30 a.m. when the Blue Team hits the video room for 15 min and then the ice at 9:00 a.m.

The White team hits the gym at 9:50 a.m. for some off ice activities, video at 10:20 and then the ice at 11:00.

The Dispatch has some great articles today about the Jackets and camp. Of course the story of the week involved the training camp trial of one Nikolai Zherdev at center -- here are some snippets of what Michael Arace had to say as well as some within the organization:

He's going to play center ice," Hitchcock said. "We're going to experiment with a line that no one has seen before, for the first week, 10 days of camp. … We're going try him on a line with (Rick) Nash and (David) Vyborny."

Whoa. They're going to take Zherdev -- who has had his character assassinated by previous management, who has drawn the wrath of every coach he has ever had, who has been criticized by fans, media and, in whispers, by teammates -- and they're going to take him out of position and put him between the two best wingers on the team?

Actually, there is some serious thinking that went into this.

First, Hitchcock said, Zherdev is a better defensive forward than one might think.
"The thing that Nick did that I find unique for a skilled player is, from the red line back, he was tremendous," Hitchcock said. "He gets back, he reads the play, he gets the puck and he can lug it through the middle. Where he wasn't good enough for me is from the red line in."

Zherdev, initially flummoxed by the notion, came to embrace the challenge, Howson said. Allegedly, Zherdev is in terrific shape and excited about playing, and never before has he been accused of such things.

Keep this straight: Nash-Zherdev-Vyborny is just an experiment. If it works, it's genius. If it doesn't, well, at least Zherdev had something to get his motor started in training camp.

Read more on what else Arace had to say about Z here:

The Dispatch also had another article regrading the fitness of the team and also looks into 5 questions surrounding camp. They cover the current situation at center with Peca and Fedorov being the only locks but their place in the lineup has yet to be determined. They also look at goaltending and if this team can be a consistently tough team to play against. My favorite was the one I'll quote below:

5. Can special teams be special?

Once they get through the first four exhibition games, the Blue Jackets will spend significant time on the power play and penalty kill. Some decisions have already been made. Fedorov, for instance, will play the point on the top power-play unit, but he's off the penalty kill in favor of Peca. The goal is for the Blue Jackets to have one of the top penalty-killing units in the NHL, but they also hope to be dangerous with a man advantage.

Another great example of the impact coaching can have on this team. We learned earlier this summer that Foote would no longer be on the powerplay and would play where he is most effective which is at even strength and penalty kill while having his minutes monitored. Next we hear about the Z experiment at center in the preseason and now we know Fedorov will no longer be used on the PK - presumably to limit his minutes as well and change his focus to offense.....and now with Peca we have one of the best defensive forwards in the game who can easily slide into that role.

Its all about properly identifying and managing the resources you have and playing and challenging guys with roles you know they are capable of performing - even if sometime uncomfortable (read: Z at center). Fedorov, for instance, may not like losing the minutes on the PK but now Hitch will use him where we need him most which is in a more offensive role and focus while also easing up the wear and tear on his 38 year old body. We have plenty of forwards who have shown they can kill penalties in Vyborny, Chimera, Malhotra, Modin, Fritsche, Peca.....heck even Nash looked good out there on the kill. What we need is more offense.

Read more of today's dispatch coverage of the CBJ here.

I'll be down at the 11:00 a.m. session today and will have a report later this afternoon for ya.


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