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Blue Jackets’ Boone Jenner adjusts to NHL speed after debut

Sean Leahy
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UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- If you're talking about Calder Trophy predictions for the 2013-14 season, a dark horse in the race -- as chosen by yours truly -- is Boone Jenner of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Placed on the top line next to Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik coming out of training camp, it would seem like the points were going to come.

But, of course, Jenner is a rookie, so getting acclimated to the speed and skill of the NHL will take some time. Friday's opening game for the Blue Jackets was a perfect example. He may have started the game on the first line, it didn't take long for head coach Todd Richards to shake things up and move him down.

"We talked about the game, the speed of it being a bit overwhelming early and I think it was for Boone, which I think is to be expected, somewhat," said Richards after Saturday's morning skate ahead of their game against the New York Islanders. "I thought as the game went on he got more comfortable, more familiar with the speed of it and he seemed to settle in fine."

Jenner echoed Richards' assessment.

"It was a pretty special night," said Jenner. "I felt better as the game went on. The start, I had a lot of nerves, but I thought I did pretty well."

For a 20-year old making his NHL debut with about 25 friends and family who made the six-hour drive from Dorchester, Ontario to Columbus, you can understand why nerves could be attributed to a slow start.

Jenner finished with 12 shifts and 10:27 of ice time. One game isn't a concern and in developing today's hockey player, the key is communication.

"I think communication with all your players [is important]," said Richards. "You can look at any sport. You watch football and see Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh seems to have a pretty good rapport with his players; [Joe] Maddon in Tampa Bay with the Rays. I think that's just coaching nowadays. It's that open line of communication, being able to communication with your players; maybe in what they're doing well, maybe what they aren't doing well. It doesn't matter if you're old or young.

"As a coach, you make sure you pick your spots, the right spots. Whether it's me or another coach. Some of it is just casual conversation where you can have meetings like that."

Going from junior hockey to the AHL late last season is one adjustment to make, but moving up to The Show is a completely different experience, something that Jenner is still getting used to.

"[I've] been here for about a month with camp and exhibition games, the real season's a new level," Jenner said. "Everyone steps it up that much more when the points are on the line. I just want to get better every game through preseason and work my way into the regular season here."

"The game's slowing down a little bit."

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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