John Tortorella Makes Several Lineup Changes For Tonight's Game; Mikko Lehtonen To Make Blue Jackets Debut

By Jacob Nitzberg on March 30, 2021 at 3:58 pm
Aug 13, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) blocks the shot of Columbus Blue Jackets center Liam Foudy (19) during the third period in game two of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena.
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The group of players that played for the Blue Jackets over the weekend did not perform well, at all.

With that in mind, John Tortorella is making some key changes to his lineup for tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, as the reeling Blue Jackets will attempt to right the ship after getting swept over the weekend by the Detroit Red Wings. Tampa Bay's not the ideal matchup to be going into right now, but you have to play with the cards you're dealt.

Most notably, Mikko Lehtonen is set to make his Blue Jackets debut tonight, and he'll be playing with Dean Kukan on the third pairing, who is also returning to the lineup after being a scratch for both games against the Red Wings.

Lehtonen, who the Blue Jackets acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for goaltender Veini Vehvilainen, has tallied 0-3-3 in nine NHL games this season. He and Kukan are two offensively-minded defensemen, and it'll be interesting what the two can do together.

Foudy and Dalpe In

Liam Foudy and Zac Dalpe will also draw in for the Blue Jackets tonight. Foudy's already played 12 games with Columbus this year, but it'll be Dalpe's season debut. Dalpe, an Ohio State product, has tallied 3-1-4 in five games with Cleveland this season, while Foudy has notched 1-3-4 in four games.

"I had a lot of practice [in Cleveland] and got a lot of time to work on my I'm feeling good coming back up here," said Foudy this morning. He noted that his speed is perhaps his best asset, and he plans to use it tonight to disrupt play and create opportunities for his teammates.

Dalpe will play with Foudy on his right wing and Eric Robinson on his left. That's a line with some serious speed. He only has 12-13-25 in 141 NHL games, so Tortorella won't be relying on him to find the game-winning goal, but that line can still provide value tonight by winning puck battles and wreaking havoc with their speed. He hopes to bring some energy to the Blue Jackets tonight.

"Whether it's the way I defend, the way I check, (my goal is) just to kind of bring some life into the lineup," said Dalpe. "That's easier said than done, and it's pretty hard to explain, but I think you find your niche right away from the puck drop, and kind of read off that, and build off the energy."

Korpi's Injury Still Nagging Him

Joonas Korpisalo was slated to back up Elvis Merzlikins today, but that won't be the case. The Blue Jackets recalled Cam Johnson on an emergency basis, and he'll serve as the backup tonight. Korpisalo's lower-body injury is still aggravating him, which means Merzlikins will see a heavy workload until the Finnish netminder can return.

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