Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards had some special guests at Thursday's practice.
Russell LaBounty/Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sport
COLUMBUS, Ohio — As the boys took to the ice for practice ahead of Friday night’s tilt against the visiting Calgary Flames, a small group of coaches trickled into the arena. They watched as Blue Jackets head coach put the team through its paces, with drills and special teams work.
"It’s a little bit of rugby and a little bit of NFL football," said Richards of Aussie Rules Football. "But, they thought it was more like our sport (NHL). It’s more like our sport than any of the others."
The group of men, representing the Australian League Football Coaches Association based in Melbourne, Australia, stayed for the entire practice. After, they were able to have a long talk with Richards, before he walked down the hall and introduced them to Brian Burke, President of Hockey Operations for the Calgary Flames.
Richards was asked what the assembled coaches and he talked about: "It was everything. They had general questions, systems and how you play. On game days, how do help your players prepare, what are the routines… it was everything in general in our sport.
"Whenever you sit and talk with people like that, it always draws your interest."
Forward Marko Dano did not participate in practice Thursday. Richards said, "We’ll know more tomorrow on him." Beyond saying it was a maintenance day, this would seem to indicate some form of injury for the rookie.
Dano was seen walking through the locker room without difficulty after practice. Richards was asked if he was sick or if it was an injury. "He’s banged up", said Richards. It’s unclear if Dano will be playing Friday. One of Corey Tropp or Adam Cracknell would replace him, if the need arises.
Todd Richards wants the guys to get back to playing "Blue Jackets hockey" when they host the Calgary Flames Friday evening. This entails them getting back to a hard fore-check, fast play and being smart with and without the puck.
"We can play a lot better (than the 4-2 loss to Dallas)," said Richards, "and I think all the guys know that. Hopefully, it will give us a better focus for Friday.
"You aren’t going to get nights off from opponents," he said. "They (Dallas) were ready to play."
He reiterated the fact that the team needs to learn how to win, meaning they need to be up for every game and respect the win.
"It’s figuring out how to play when you win," he said, "and figuring out how to play when you’ve lost.
"Obviously with losing, there is a clear motivation. A part of winning is learning how to win. You have to learn how to prepare yourself the same way every night. There are going to be some nights where you are a lot better than others, but your style can’t change."
He expects a physical game from the visiting Calgary Flames on Friday.
"They’re going to compete for everything with second and third efforts. I think it’s going to be physical, too. We have to be ready for it."
This and that
Defenseman Ryan Murray will see the doctor Friday in the hope of being cleared to resume playing. Richards indicated Wednesday that Murray might draw into the lineup, pending his clearance, at some point during the upcoming road trip.
Richards would not tip his hand on whether goaltender Curtis McElhinney would start Friday against Calgary or Saturday in Ottawa. He did indicate that McElhinney would most likely get his first start of the season this weekend.
"We’re leaning that way," said Richards, "but it’s not for sure yet."