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Game Preview #1 - Close Your Eyes And Jump

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The regular season is finally upon us, even if many question marks still abound for the Blue Jackets.

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

Columbus Blue Jackets at Buffalo Sabres

October 9, 2014 - 7:00 pm EDT
First Niagara Center - Buffalo, New York
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: Die By The Blade

We've done all of the gnashing of teeth that we can do about the injuries, the missed camp of Ryan Johansen, and all of the other factors. All that's left to do is to close our eyes and jump. For good or ill, the season starts tonight, whether the team is ready and in top form or not. You wanna fly? Close your eyes and jump!

The Jackets have their question marks, as we know, but the schedule makers gave them a bit of a favor in sending them to Buffalo for their first game. This Sabres team should be better than last year's raging tire fire, but by how much? They managed to re-sign Matt Moulson, they added Brian Gionta for the dressing room, and also brought in guys like Andrej Meszaros and Andre Benoit to try to shore up their defense.

That said, defensively, they lost Christian Ehrhoff and of course Ryan Miller. You don't replace those guys right away.

When you look at the top six for the Sabres, it's not terrible... on paper. That said, there's no getting around that this team was a terrible, terrible offensive team, with many of those same guys in the lineup. #2 overall pick Sam Reinhart will get his first taste of the NHL, and will play alongside new Captain Gionta.

Here's the thing: this Sabres team--or, at least a reasonable comparison of it--beat Columbus last season (IN COLUMBUS) when the Jackets were playing arguably their best hockey of the season: the Sabres ended the Jackets' eight-game winning streak back in January.

For the Jackets, the lineup below is a representation of how they looked in practice on Wednesday, and as we know with Todd Richards all things are subject to change at any time without notice. We'll update after the morning skate, which is around 11:30 today.

I know Columbus doesn't roll their four line traditionally (anything in the top-nine can go out in any situation), but it's interesting to note that Marko Dano slots in on the "top" line. Remember that Boone Jenner did the same last year, and despite playing well in the pre-season Jenner struggled out of the gate last season. We may need to expect the same from Dano as well as Alexander Wennberg.

All of this having been said, it's the first game of the season. I'll be eating my customary Chipotle burrito for lunch, and I'll see you all in the Game Thread (though I may be late because I'll be putting my son to bed). Can't wait!!

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(Last Season: 43-32-7, 93 Points; 4th division, 7th conference)

Scott Hartnell Artem Anisimov Marko Dano
Nick Foligno Ryan Johansen Cam Atkinson
Matt Calvert Mark Letestu Alexander Wennberg
Jack Skille Michael Chaput Corey Tropp / Jared Boll
Jack Johnson David Savard
Tim Erixon James Wisniewski
Fedor Tyutin Dalton Prout
Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

Buffalo Sabres
(Last Season: 21-51-10, 52 Points; 8th Division, 16th Conference)

Matt Moulson Tyler Ennis Drew Stafford
Cody Hodgson Sam Reinhart Brian Gionta
Marcus Foligno Zemgus Girgensons Chris Stewart
Nicolas Deslauriers Cody McCormick Brian Flynn
Josh Gorges Tyler Myers
Andre Benoit Andrej Meszaros
Rasmus Ristolainen Mike Weber
Jhonas Enroth
Michal Neuvirth

Season Series

10/09/14 - Columbus at Buffalo
02/24/15 - Buffalo at Columbus
04/10/15 - Buffalo at Columbus

'13-'14 Head to Head Stats

Buffalo Columbus
1.83 (30) GPG 2.76 (12)
2.96 (25) GAPG 2.61 (13)
14.1% (29) PP% 19.3% (11)
81.4% (20) PK% 82.1% (14)
Tyler Ennis, 21 G leader Ryan Johansen, 33
Christian Ehrhoff, 27 A leader James Wisniewski, 44
Cody Hodgson, 44 Pts leader Ryan Johansen, 63
John Scott, 125 PIM leader Brandon Dubinsky, 98
13-21-7 Home/Road 21-17-3