Game Preview: Blue Jackets Face Familiar Faces In Face-Off With Florida

By Ed Francis on January 25, 2021 at 7:57 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones controls the puck against Florida's Frank Vatrano.
Russell LaBounty-USA Today Sports
Florida Panthers
2–0–0 (4 points)

7:00 P.M. – TUESDAY, JAN. 26


The Columbus Blue Jackets have been on a wild ride the last few days: the benching and subsequent trade of Pierre-Luc Dubois, the acquisition of Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic, and oh yeah, picking up three out of four points against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

After looking impressive (and loose) in Saturday's 5-2 victory over the Lightning, the Blue Jackets now get to reunite with many of their old teammates as the Florida Panthers make their first trip of the season to Nationwide Arena.

Former Blue Jackets Sergei Bobrovsky, Alex Wennberg, Anthony Duclair, and Anton Stralman are all scheduled to be in the lineup Tuesday evening in the place they each used to call home. Another former Jacket, defenseman Markus Nutivaara, is traveling with the team but is questionable as he continues to work his way back after clearing COVID-19 protocols.

Also clearing protocols, though ready to make his debut, is Columbus center Mikko Koivu. The 37-year-old has been practicing in recent days, and head coach John Tortorella confirmed that the former Minnesota Wild captain will slot in Tuesday for the first time. He was practicing Monday, winged by Mikhail Grigorenko and Kevin Stenlund. With the addition of Koivu into the lineup, expect Nathan Gerbe to return to the taxi squad. 

Columbus has been dominant against the Panthers in recent seasons. They've won 10 of the last 11 meetings overall, and seven straight from the friendly confines. 

In fact, Columbus has picked up points in 13 straight games (12-0-1) against the Panthers when at Nationwide Arena. Their last regulation loss at home to Florida came in November 2007. Curtis Glencross and Rick Nash scored that evening for Columbus in a 5-2 loss, with Sergei Fedorov (who is now 51 years old), Nikolai Zherdev, and Rusty Klesla picking up points in the loss for the Jackets. So yeah, it's been a while. 

Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines

19 Liam Foudy 42 Alexandre Texier 28 Oliver Bjorkstrand
71 Nick Foligno 16 Max Domi 13 Cam Atkinson
38 Boone Jenner 20 Riley Nash 50 Eric Robinson
25 Mikhail Grigorenko 9 Mikko Koivu 11 Kevin Stenlund
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


  • JUST DO WHAT YOU DID SATURDAY: Stress and drama don't show up in the box score, but it's no secret that both were sky high for the Jackets in the first half dozen games. If Saturday's game was any indication, the Blue Jackets didn't just ship Dubois and a third round pick out of town; they also parted ways with those negatives. Columbus played ultimate team hockey for an entire 60 minutes, and the end result was Columbus' best game of the season by a country mile. More of that, please.
  • LET'S LOCKDOWN ON DEFENSE: Despite picking up points in four consecutive games, the Blue Jackets have allowed at least two goals in each of their six games to start the season. For a team that prides themselves on defense, the Blue Jackets are letting opponents see the net. They have allowed an average of 33 shots per game, and less than 30 only once, when they allowed 27 in the overtime loss at Detroit. The Blue Jackets are going to need to win a lot of low-scoring games, even with the acquisition of Laine. An average of three goals per game, which is where they're at so far, isn't going to get it done. 
  • ONE DEBUT DOWN, TWO TO GO: Koivu will be the first of three Jackets to make their debut this week. Roslovic has already joined his new teammates, but Tortorella wants to give him a little more time to get acquainted. Look for him to debut Thursday in the rematch with Florida, or Friday in Chicago against the Blackhawks. Laine could join the lineup as soon as Friday, but a Sunday debut (also against the Blackhawks) is more likely. 

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