Game Preview: Blue Jackets Open Pandemic-Shortened 2020-21 Season in Nashville

By Ed Francis on January 14, 2021 at 7:05 am
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson scores against Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros during a game at Bridgestone Arena.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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The Columbus Blue Jackets are one of just three teams to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the last four seasons. Their quest to make it five in a row begins tonight with the first of two in Nashville against the Predators. 

0–0–0 (0 points)

8 P.M. – THURSDAY, JAN. 14


An empty Bridgestone Arena plays host to the games, a building that historically has not been kind to the Blue Jackets. The Predators, an original division rival when the Blue Jackets played in the Western Conference, tallied up 17 straight wins against the Blue Jackets between November of 2006 and April of 2011. Columbus has been slightly better in recent years, though still with a losing 5-7-1 record in Nashville over the last 13 games. Perhaps no fans in attendance will be what cures Columbus in the Music City. 

A quick start for the Blue Jackets could be exactly what the doctor ordered to help set the tone of the season, calm the atmosphere that is abuzz with the Pierre-Luc Dubois rumors, and get ahead of a team that Columbus is likely to be battling against for a playoff spot.  

For that fast start, they'll need production up and down the lineup. Each of the top lines will have a new face to start the season, with Mikhail Grigorenko expected to join Dubois and Oliver Bjorkstrand on the top line. Max Domi, acquired via trade during the offseason with the Montreal Canadiens, joins long-time Jackets Nick Foligno and Cam Atkinson on the second line. 

Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines

25 Mikhail Grigorenko 18 Pierre-Luc Dubois 28 Oliver Bjorkstrand
71 Nick Foligno 16 Max Domi 13 Cam Atkinson
38 Boone Jenner 42 Alexandre Texier 52 Emil Bemstrom
19 Liam Foudy 20 Riley Nash 50 Eric Robinson
8 Zach Werenski 3 Seth Jones
44 Vladislav Gavrikov 58 David Savard
15 Michael Del Zotto 14 Dean Kukan
Goalie Backup
70 Joonas Korpisalo 90 Elvis Merzlikins


  • PLD DRAMA? There's no doubt that the drama surrounding Dubois will have at least some impact in the locker room. No one is exactly sure why Dubois requested a trade during the offseason, not even head coach John Tortorella. But can the Blue Jackets keep the drama off the ice? All eyes will be on Dubois to start the season. 
  • NEW LOOK UP THE MIDDLE: Veteran center Mikko Koivu, who signed a one-year contract with Columbus in October, will miss the beginning of the season in guidance with the league's COVID-19 protocols. But the Blue Jackets' other addition at center, Domi, will bring a combination of speed and scoring that the team sorely missed in the 2019-20 campaign. His second-line pairing with Atkinson should give the Blue Jackets a highly entertaining (and frustrating) duo to watch.
  • A TRUE #1? In a 56-game sprint, having two above-average goaltenders is critical. But beyond this season, the Blue Jackets are going to need to make a decision about who they feel is best suited as a long term solution. It's a mystery that should slowly reveal its answer as the season progresses. How will Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins split time, and which one will fall more into favor with Tortorella?
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