Game Preview: Blue Jackets Return To Nationwide Arena For Home Opener Against The Tampa Bay Lightning

By Ed Francis on January 21, 2021 at 7:05 am
Aug 15, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) skates with the puck as Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones (3) gives chase during the first period of game three of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena.
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

It's not the home opener the Columbus Blue Jackets envisioned for their 20th season.

2–0–0 (4 points)

7:00 P.M. – THURSDAY, JAN. 21



And through four games, it's not the start to the season they envisioned, either.

The Blue Jackets home opener - and their first time playing a regular season home game at Nationwide Arena in 326 days - is set for 7:00 p.m. Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Fans will not be in attendance, and capacity will be limited to 300 people, including team personnel and players.

The empty stands come at a time that Columbus could use some home love from the fans. They've stumbled to a 1-2-1 start, scoring just eight goals in the first four games of the season.

Nearly half of Columbus' points have come from just three players. Alexandre Texier, Michael Del Zotto, and Boone Jenner have combined for ten of the 21 points tallied. Texier has been particularly hot to kick off the season, scoring goals in each of his last three games. 

"We just have to get ready to play our next game," said head coach John Tortorella, following the Blue Jackets 3-2 overtime loss Tuesday in Detroit.

"Try to find our way." 

Going into two straight games against the defending Stanley Cup champions, in a span of less than 48 hours to boot, the Blue Jackets will need to find their way in short order to avoid their worst start since the 2015-16 season. That team started with eight straight losses, and led to the dismissal of then-head coach Todd Richards, who was replaced by Tortorella.

Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines

19 Liam Foudy 42 Alexandre Texier 28 Oliver Bjorkstrand
71 Nick Foligno 18 Pierre-Luc Dubois 13 Cam Atkinson
38 Boone Jenner 16 Max Domi 52 Emil Bemstrong
25 Mikhail Grigorenko 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


  • "FIND OUR WAY": Tortorella wants the team to "find their way." What's the key word in that statement? Does he mean they know their way and need to find it, or that they need to find what their way is? Eight goals in four games is not great, but it's especially concerning that two players (Texier and Jenner) have five of those eight. Max Domi is still looking for his first goal as a Blue Jacket, Pierre-Luc Dubois is looking for his first assist of the season, and Cam Atkinson is still seeking his first point of the year. He's not alone, either. Seth Jones and Zach Werenski both remain without a point, and are a combined -9 in the plus/minus category. Not exactly what one would want to see from their top defensive pairing.
  • CATCH EM' NAPPIN': Tampa Bay has played just two games so far this season, compliments of two postponed games against the Dallas Stars. When the puck drops Thursday evening, it will be their first game since last Friday. The Blue Jackets will have the chance to catch Tampa out of sync, and they'll need to pounce on that opportunity. Work to get the first goal on the board early, and keep the Lightning out of their rhythm offensively to minimize scoring chances. 
  • KORPISALO: One of the few bright spots in the early part of the season has been the play of Joonas Korpisalo. He's stopped 67 of 71 shots in his two starts, and his .944 save percentage puts him 6th in save percentage. Yes, it's a very small sample size, and Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy checks in above him at #4, but Korpisalo has played well enough to give the Blue Jackets a chance in both of his starts so far. He'll need another quality start for Columbus to have a punchers chance at a home opening victory.

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