Game Preview: Columbus Welcomes The Arizona Coyotes To Nationwide Arena As The Blue Jackets' Regular Season Begins

By Ed Francis on October 14, 2021 at 7:05 am
Columbus meets Arizona as the Blue Jackets begin regular season play.
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
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Let's go.

Seven forwards and three defensemen who weren't in the opening night lineup when the abbreviated 2020-21 season kicked off in January will be on the ice tonight as the Columbus Blue Jackets begin their 21st season of play with a meeting against the Arizona Coyotes. 

Patrik Laine, Jack Roslovic, Sean Kuraly, Gregory Hofmann, Adam Boqvist, and Jake Bean will begin their first full seasons with the club. At just 18, rookie Cole Sillinger will become the 4th youngest Blue Jacket to take the ice, while forward Gustav Nyquist is back after missing last season recovering from shoulder surgery, and top-line winger Jake Voracek is back with the team that got him started in the NHL after a decade with the Philadelphia Flyers. Defenseman Andrew Peeke, who had a stellar preseason, is in the opening night lineup for the first time in his career.

Arizona comes to town projected by most as one of the few teams that will finish with less points than the Blue Jackets. There are questions at nearly every position on the ice, and with both Phil Kessel and Alex Galchenyuk injured, the veteran presence — not to mention scoring threat — could be lacking. The Coyotes top line Thursday projects to be centered by Nick Schmaltz, joined by wingers Lawson Crouse and Clayton Keller. The trio combined for 28 goals and 80 points in 157 games last season. 

Between the pipes for the Coyotes will be Carter Hutton, who had spent the last three seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. After a stellar 2017-18 season with the St. Louis Blues, Hutton's goals against average in the three campaigns with Buffalo was in the 3's. 

Two former Blue Jackets are projected to be in the lineup for the Coyotes: Ryan Dzingel, who briefly joined Columbus for the end of the 2018-19 season and was a part of the roster that swept the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Anton Stralman, who played 124 games for the team between 2009 and 2011. 

In what is sure to be an emotional moment, the Blue Jackets will honor Matiss Kivlenieks, their late teammate who passed in July, in a pre-game ceremony. Kivlenieks' family will take part in a ceremonial puck drop before the game and a banner featuring the number 80, his jersey number, will be hung in the rafters. 

Here's a look at tonight's projected (subject to change) lines for Columbus:

Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines*

29 Patrike Laine 42 Alexandre Texier 93 Jakub Voracek
14 Gustav Nyquist 96 Jack Roslovic 28 Oliver Bjorkstrand
38 Boone Jenner 34 Cole Sillinger 16 Max Domi
50 Eric Robinson 7 Sean Kuraly 15 Gregory Hofmann
8 Zach Werenski 27 Adam Boqvist
44 Vladislav Gavrikov 22 Jake Bean
46 Dean Kukan 2 Andrew Peeke

 *subject to change

Starting Goalie Backup
90 Elvis Merzlikins 70 Joonas Korpisalo


  • 29 + 93 = ?: The Blue Jackets traded a fan favorite in Cam Atkinson in order to acquire Voracek from the Philadelphia Flyers, and they did so to give Laine the playmaker he (and Columbus) so desperately needed. They had dazzling chemistry during the preseason, as the Blue Jackets were hoping for, but can they bring that to the regular season?
  • FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: Yegor Chinakhov is a healthy scratch, but the 18-year-old Sillinger is projected to play on the third line with captain Boone Jenner and Max Domi on each side. That's a healthy veteran presence to surround the kid, with Domi right there to bully anyone who tries to give Sillinger a rough welcome to the NHL. What will the son of former Blue Jacket forward Mike Sillinger do in his debut?
  • CAP'N BOONE: Tuesday, the Blue Jackets named Jenner their 7th team captain in franchise history. After more than a half decade wearing the "A", Thursday's game will give us our first taste of what Jenner's captaincy brings to Columbus. With Zach Werenski, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Nyquist in the alternate captain roles, will the new regime of Columbus' on-ice leadership provide a winning voice?

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