Well, folks, here goes nothing.
|TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS|
1–0–0 (2 points)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
7 P.M. – FRIDAY, OCT. 4
FOX SPORTS OHIO
FOX SPORTS GO
The Blue Jackets begin their 82-game regular season slate tonight at Nationwide Arena against their first of two formidable opponents this weekend. For the opener, they'll face the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that was (again) bounced from the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and found itself in the offseason headlines for a multitude of reasons.
Leafs GM Kyle Dubas was able to complete his No. 1 priority, which was re-signing superstar forward Mitch Marner to a new six-year deal (as teams like the Blue Jackets were sniffing around a potential offer sheet). Toronto has a giant chunk of its salary cap committed to its top four players, but that group is among the best in the world.
Toronto won its season opener by rallying to beat the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena, with Auston Matthews (two goals) leading the way.
For the Blue Jackets, they're sick of the talk.
This game is only the start of their journey, but opening on a good note is important to build some early momentum – particularly in front of their two young goaltenders. Joonas Korpisalo will start this game for Columbus, while it's expected that Elvis Merzlikins makes his NHL debut Saturday night in Pittsburgh.
John Tortorella has waited all summer for this. This Blue Jackets team is tailor-made for him. Being able to motivate a group that's been written off by most experts and rally them around a common goal is what makes Tortorella one of the game's best coaches, and he will be tasked with doing just that if the Blue Jackets want to make the playoffs for a fourth straight year.
Here's a look at tonight's projected lines for the Blue Jackets:
Extras: Kukan, Gavrikov, Milano
- Start on time. The Blue Jackets stubbed their collective toes in last year's home-opener loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, and the big takeaway there was how long it took them to get going. Columbus is facing a Toronto team tonight that has already played a game, having opened Wednesday against Ottawa.
- Stick to the script. Tortorella has, a few times, alluded to some of the systematic changes the Blue Jackets have made to their style of play. While they won't be the "safe is death" team of previous seasons, there's quality depth up and down the lineup and they followed this game plan to perfection against Tampa Bay in the opening round.
- Watch the kids. The Blue Jackets' infusion of youth this summer is something GM Jarmo Kekalainen was ready for and confident in. He believes in Emil Bemstrom, in Alexandre Texier, and he signed Jakob Lilja with the intention of him competing for a job in training camp. These three guys are part of the opening night lineup and they're looked on to not only contribute, but to help the Blue Jackets win.
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