James Malatesta Leads Game With Eight Hits, Has Fight In NHL Debut Tuesday Night

By Will Chase on March 27, 2024 at 10:15 am
Columbus Blue Jackets' James Malatesta checks Washington Capitals' Dylan McIlrath in the second period at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
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Another debut is in the books.

James Malatesta made his NHL Debut in the Columbus Blue Jackets' 6-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night in Tempe. Malatesta was brought up via emergency recall on Saturday and participated in the pre-game skate ahead of the matchup with the Golden Knights but did not play.

On Tuesday night, he debuted on the fourth line alongside familiar teammates Tyler Angle and Carson Meyer during Tuesday's contest.

Malatesta, a 20-year-old from Montreal, made his Cleveland Monsters debut this year, posting 21 points (12 goals, nine assists) in 53 games. He racked up 79 penalty minutes.

"It definitely makes me feel more comfortable, knowing a lot of guys in the room," Malatesta said before Tuesday's game.

Against the Coyotes, he played 11:43, had one shot on goal, and one blocked shot, led the game with eight hits, and had his first fight against Michael Carcone.

"It was really fun," Malatesta said after the game. "I just tried to go out there and make the best of the opportunity and soak it all in, so I'm happy with that one."

Was it like another game or Cloud Nine the whole time?

"Leading up to the warmup, I was pretty nervous," Malatesta said. "After the warmup, getting on the ice skating around, I felt pretty good." 

Leading the game with eight hits and getting into a fight was the way Malatesta wanted to make an impact.

"I tried to bring energy for the guys," Malatesta said. "All the minutes I play out there, just work my hardest. Sad we couldn't get the win tonight but personally, first game, I'm pretty happy with that one."

What led to the fight?

"I don't know, I was toward the end of my shift, like my brain wasn't really functioning and I just saw him there, and he said, 'You wanna go?' I said, 'Sure, I'm not the guy to back down.'"

Was finishing checks a focus of what you wanted to do?

"We wanted to get in on the forecheck," Malatesta said. "I think that's a pretty big identity of this team is having a hard forecheck and first guy, you want to finish a guy and separate him from the puck so that was definitely something I was looking to do tonight."

With 10 games remaining in the season, Malatesta and the Blue Jackets conclude their season-high five-game road trip at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.

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