Getting ready for Jackets season

BY foxsports • September 24, 2013

Second full week of NHL training camp means the regular-season openers are close, and the intensity is rising.
Was it that sometimes cartoon-ish looking brawl between the Sabres and Maple Leafs Sunday night?
The likely panic in Pittsburgh over the goaltending situation, after Tomas Vokoun was diagnosed with a blood clot?
Or maybe the raft of articles about which GM’s are already on the hot seat?
Whatever it is, it’s as obvious as the smell of popcorn in the air at Nationwide Arena’s press box level on game night that the start of the season is close.  It’s the second full week of NHL training camp; rosters are rapidly taking shape, and the intensity of games is on the rise.
Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said as much in his press scrum before Monday’s pre-season tilt against the Wild Monday.  When he was asked about the Sabres-Maple Leafs brawl, he deferred comment on that but said it was obvious to him that games are beginning to resemble the regular-season in terms of their intensity.
And why not?  There are precious few cuts still to be made, throughout the NHL.  That means the battle for jobs, among those still fighting to stick in the NHL, is almost over, with just a few games to go in the pre-season.  That means very little time for those on the bubble to prove they belong.  People who write blogs like this one are fond of saying regular-season games are the ones that really matter.  But for those guys who are THIS close to achieving their NHL dreams – and the salary that goes with fulfillment of that dream – these final few pre-season games are profoundly important.  They matter.
That was never more evident than when Boone Jenner put  a thunderous body check on Minnesota’s Erik Haula in the second period of Monday’s game, then had to answer the bell when the Wild’s Jon Landry challenged him.  Jenner wasn’t lighting up the scoreboard the way he did in Pittsburgh Saturday, but he was proving he brings other elements to the NHL table. In the process, he was continuing to add to his increasingly-impressive case for making the CBJ roster.
Having spent my first 12 years in the NHL with the former Atlanta Thrashers, I saw an awful lot of the Florida Panthers, Nathan Horton’s first NHL team.  There were instances during those seasons when Atlanta and Florida would face each other seven times.  So I really got to see the emergence of Nathan Horton, the prototypic NHL power forward.  Equally impressive was seeing him bring energy and positivity to his locker room.  He seemed always to have a smile on his face and was always accessible.
But if you really want to see Nathan Horton light up, ask him about his Italian Mastiff.  He spent a few minutes in the press room after completing his rehab work Monday and we all got to chatting about his new Ohio home, which features some running room for his three dogs, the biggest of which is the mastiff.  What was really funny was hearing him talk about having the dog – briefly – in Boston and getting some strange looks from Bostonians wondering what a dog that size was doing hanging around the Hub’s concrete jungle.  So that living arrangement didn’t last very long; Horton shipped the dog off to a friend.  But now mastiff and master are enjoying the new digs in Columbus.  
Note to self:  Remember the cannon!  Yeah, I’m obviously still rounding into regular-season form.  Monday’s game was my first since moving back to Columbus from Atlanta for the season, and every time it blasted, I jumped.  Good thing it’s still training camp.

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