Max is back.
As the Blue Jackets travel to the Big Apple to take on the New York Rangers tonight, they've received a big boost: Max Domi will return to the lineup. Domi, who was slated to miss 2-4 weeks with a rib injury, is back in just 13 days.
The loss of Domi was a big one for the Blue Jackets, who went 2-2-0 in his absence. Domi's tallied 1-3-4 in two games this season, and he's playing great hockey. He's slated to play on a line with Gustav Nyquist and Cole Sillinger tonight.
"I think (the quick healing process) is a combination of a lot of things," said Domi on Friday afternoon. "(It's) a lot of hard work, a lot of hours for sure. Just a commitment to a 24/7 approach. Doing the right things. A lot of extra stuff that you might not want to do or might not think will help, but you stick to those things and you'll be shocked by how much it goes a long way."
Since Domi is entering the lineup, that means that someone has to exit. Tonight, it'll be rookie Yegor Chinakhov, who hasn't played poorly but hasn't been incredible, either. Through four NHL contests, Chinakhov is still looking for his first NHL goal while averaging 11:06 of ice time per game.
“(Chinakhov)’s not out due to poor play,” said head coach Brad Larsen. “There are a couple of things I’m going to show him, just on the coaching side of it, but I think he’s building and trending in the right direction. Max wants to play and I’ve got to make room for him, so someone has to come out, and (Chinakhov)’s the guy this time. But there’s a good situation to come out and he’s in that. It’s not because he hasn’t performed well.”
On the blue line, the Blue Jackets' depth is truly being tested. Dean Kukan broke his wrist in Monday's game against the Dallas Stars and will miss eight weeks as a result, while Adam Boqvist is day-to-day with an unspecified injury. Gabriel Carlsson will play with Scott Harrington on the third pair, and Andrew Peeke has been elevated to the second pairing with Vladislav Gavrikov.
Elvis Merzlikins will get his second-straight start in net, and he's been nothing short of fantastic this season. The Latvian netminder is 4-0-0 with a .952 save percentage and 1.47 GAA. As he continues towards his goal of the Vezina Trophy, he's built a solid foundation from which he can continue to improve.
Puck drop from Madison Square Garden is slated for 7:00 p.m. EST.