Looking to find a spark that was missing Saturday, head coach Brad Larsen has modified lines for the Columbus Blue Jackets battle with the Dallas Stars.
The line changes are not entirely wholesale, as the top line of Patrik Laine, Boone Jenner, and Jakub Voracek remain intact.
Changes begin on the second line, where winger Gregory Hofmann has been elevated to the second line and will play with Jack Roslovic and Oliver Bjorkstrand.
The change is somewhat perplexing, given that the duo of Roslovic and Bjorkstrand — when paired with Gustav Nyquist — formed the third most productive line for the Blue Jackets by expected goals percentage, behind only the combination of Nyquist and Bjorkstrand with rookie Cole Sillinger, and the short-lived combination of Laine and Voracek with Alexandre Texier in the middle.
One train of thought could be that Hofmann has not yet had the chance to produce the way he did in the Swiss leagues, where he put up 18 goals and added 23 assists in 36 games last season for EV Zug. In Columbus, Hofmann has just three shots on goal in 59 minutes of ice time, and just 39% of faceoffs have been in the offensive zone when he's on the ice.
Projected lines for the #CBJ look different tonight following the morning skate:— CBJ Stats (@BlueJacketStats) October 25, 2021
Laine // Jenner // Voracek
Hofmann // Roslovic // Bjorkstrand
Nyquist // Sillinger // Chinakhov
Robinson // Kuraly // Texier
Werenski // Bean
Gavrikov // Kukan
Carlsson // Peeke
The changes on the second line create a chain reaction, as Nyquist shifts from there from the second line to join the two true rookies, Sillinger and Yegor Chinakhov. The two have shared ice time for mere seconds thus far, and while the prospect of them together — as they were in the Prospects Tournament last month — is an intriguing one, there is also a fair reason for concern when Dallas has possession.
Eric Robinson and Sean Kuraly remain on the fourth line, joined for the first time by Texier, who was the subject of an on-ice conversation after practice with Larsen, per Aaron Portzline of The Athletic. With the exception of a goal less than one minute into the season, Texier has struggled mightily through five games. He has just one shot on goal aside from the opening night tally and is still seeking his first assist on the year.
Defensive changes are present too, though at least partially due to what Larsen hinted at what could be an injury to defenseman Adam Boqvist.
Boqvist left practice early, with Larsen telling reporters afterward that the 21-year-old "has some issues going on." He has been ruled out for the game.
Also out against Dallas is Scott Harrington, who has proven to be a liability on defense so far. Harrington's 5.1 goals against per 60 minutes is worst amongst the Columbus defensemen, with Boqvist the closest to him at 3.9.
Gabriel Carlsson will make his season debut and Dean Kukan will be in the lineup for the first time since opening night.
After sitting Saturday, Elvis Merzlikins is back between the pipes. Merzlikins is 3-0-0 in his starts, with a 1.63 goals against average and a .947 save percentage. He will be opposed by Dallas' Braden Holtby, who has made four starts and has equally impressive numbers; a 1.78 goals against with a .950 save percentage.