Losing Patrik Laine hurts. There's no way around it.
The Finnish winger will miss 4-6 weeks due to an oblique strain suffered during the third period of Wednesday's game against the Avalanche. In nine games, Laine has tallied 3-7-10 and been an excellent source of offense in overtime for the Blue Jackets.
While Kevin Stenlund isn't Patrik Laine, he also provides a strong offensive skill set that can be of use to the Blue Jackets. Head coach Brad Larsen confirmed on Saturday morning that Stenlund would draw into the lineup for Laine. During the Blue Jackets' morning skate, Stenlund skated on a line with Gregory Hofmann and Jack Roslovic. Hofmann was on the left and Stenlund was on the right.
Last season, Stenlund tallied 5-5-10 in 32 games with the Blue Jackets. His ice time was low, at 12:32 per game, but he did see some time on the power play, notching one assist on the man advantage.
"He was most deserving," said Larsen of Stenlund. "And that's how we like to do it. When he got called up the other day...I talked to Chris Clark and the (Monsters) coaching staff. (I asked) who was the most deserving. They said it was him. He's up. I know Stens a little bit...he was playing well, and so I expect him to embrace the opportunity here."
While Stenlund will fill Laine's spot on the roster, rookie Yegor Chinakhov will fill Laine's spot on the line with Cole Sillinger and Jakub Voracek. Chinakhov, 20, is still searching for his first NHL point. He's tallied 12 shots on net through five games. Sillinger, 18, lit up the scoresheet against the Avalanche on Wednesday night with two goals and an assist. Voracek has nine assists in nine games. It's a big opportunity for Chinakhov, and Larsen feels the Russian winger is ready for it.
"Nothing really phases (Chinakhov," said Larsen. "He doesn't look past just going out and playing (his game). I think he's going to be just fine."
Elvis Merzlikins will make his return to the net after Joonas Korpisalo started the last two games. Merzlikins is 4-1-0 on the year with a 1.98 GAA and .939 save percentage. He's been excellent thus far and currently ranks fifth in the NHL with 0.9 goals saved above expected per 60 minutes.
Starting Goalie Goals Saved Above Expected per 60 Ranking - November 6 pic.twitter.com/6pz9z8an8u— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) November 6, 2021
Puck drop against the Avalanche is slated for 7:00 p.m. EST.