The Columbus Blue Jackets take their first steps toward the 2021 season as the team hits the ice on Monday for the start of training camp.
Training camp will look different this year, however. It's only 10 days long, compared to the typical three weeks, and they'll play no exhibition games.
Plus there's the timing. The Blue Jackets and the rest of the NHL are ussually entrenched in the regular season by now.
"Here it is, we're talking about it in early January, where normally the season is three months old by now," says Aaron Portzline, who writes about the Jackets for the Athletic.
Portzline says the strange training camp is a precursor to a strange season.
"They're gonna play 56 games instead of 82. I should say, they're hoping to play 56 games," Portzline says. "They're gonna play only games within their division, and even the divisions have been changed."
For the this season, the NHL has temporarily realigned its divisions, including one division consisting of only Candian teams due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. The Blue Jackets will be in the Central Division along with the Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Last season, the Blue Jackets lost in the first round of the playoffs to eventual Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay.
The Jackets play their first game on the road against the Nashville Predators next Thursday, January 13.