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Exhibition Preview: Blue Jackets make bubble debut in test run vs. Bruins

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Here’s what you need to know

Boston Bruins v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

Thursday, July 30, 2020 - 7:00 EST
Scotiabank Arena - Toronto, Ontario
TV: Fox Sports Ohio (may be on the alternate FSO channel depending on your cable/satellite system) & NHL Network; Radio: 97.1 FM
Opponent’s Blog: Stanley Cup of Chowder

Boston Bruins (44-14-12, 100 points, 1st Atlantic, 1st East)

vs.

Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15, 81 points, 6th Metro, 9th East)

Finally, after over four months, the Blue Jackets will be taking the ice against another team. It’s been so long that I had to work hard to remember all the steps to compiling a game preview like this.

It’s unusual to have an exhibition game before the playoffs, but these are unusual times. All 24 teams in the bubble gets to play one exhibition this week prior to the start of the postseason on Saturday. I must give the NHL credit for their match-ups in these games. Where possible, they paired up geographic rivals, or teams with some sort of recent history. In this case, it’s the Jackets up against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last season, the Boston Bruins. The Jackets got their revenge in January with two victories, and the third and final game between them was one of the March games which was canceled.

These rivalry match-ups have produced some chippy games so far, so that’s a good sign that this will be an entertaining game and not slow-paced like your usual September preseason games. The Jackets need to shake off rust prior to a short qualifying round series, and there are a few players looking to solidify their place in the lineup.

Player to Watch

The Goalies

It’s been the story all season, since Sergei Bobrovsky left for Florida: what’s going to happen in net? It was unknown whether Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins could carry the team the way Bob did. Each had difficulties in the early season, followed by triumphs: Korpisalo’s December earned him Metro division all star honors, while Merzlikins stepped up after Korpi’s injury and had five shutouts in a nine game span in January and February, during a 12-5-4 run featuring a .934 save percentage. One of those shutouts was against this Boston team.

If this is run like a pre-season game, I expect both goalies to play. We won’t know the Game 1 starter until this weekend, and while I don’t think this one game will determine who start, I think this could confirm whichever way the coaches are leaning. Boston’s top line is one of the few in the league that can rival Toronto’s top two lines.

Jackets Notes

Another major battle is for the sixth defenseman spot, next to Ryan Murray. Based on the practice lines, it appears Dean Kukan currently holds the edge over Markus Nutivaara ... Good presser from Torts yesterday, talking about Texier, BJORKSTRAND, and life inside the bubble:

The Other Bench

David Pastrnak is expected to play today, after missing all of training camp due to quarantine procedures. He joined phase 2 practices early, and thus was forced to re-quarantine after that. Teammate and countryman Ondrej Kase remains quarantined and has not yet rejoined the team in Toronto ... The team announced that the players would lock arms during the national anthems before the game, as “a sign of solidarity with the Black community.” ... The Bruins won the President’s Trophy for best regular season record, and have earned several other awards and nominations so far:

Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (win): David Pastrnak (tied with Alexander Ovechkin)
Willliam M. Jennings Trophy (win): Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak
Vezina Trophy (finalist): Tuukka Rask
Jack Adams Award (finalist): Bruce Cassidy
Frank J. Selke Trophy (finalist): Patrice Bergeron (this is his 9th straight time as a finalist, and he’s won it four times already)

Season Series

01/02/2020 CBJ 2 @ BOS 1 (OT)
01/14/2020 BOS 0 @ CBJ 3

Stats

Boston Columbus
3.24 (9) GPG 2.57 (28)
2.39 (1) GAPG 2.61 (4)
25.2% (2) PP% 16.4% (27)
84.3% (3) PK% 81.7% (12)
50.8% (12) 5v5 Shot Attempt % 49.2% (19)
50.9% (12) 5v5 Unblocked shot attempt % 50.9% (11)
8.3 (15) 5v5 Shot % 6.8 (28)
.933 (1) 5v5 Save % .928 (5)
David Pastrnak, 48 G Leader Oliver BJORKSTRAND, 21
Brad Marchand, 59 A Leader Pierre-Luc Dubois, 31
David Pastrnak, 95 P Leader Pierre-Luc Dubois, 49
Brad Marchand, 82 PIM Leader Nick Foligno, 62
22-10-3 Away record 13-10-11
7-3-0 Last 10 3-4-3

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
Alexandre Texier Pierre-Luc Dubois Oliver BJORKSTRAND
Nick Foligno Alexander Wennberg Cam Atkinson
Gustav Nyquist Boone Jenner Liam Foudy
Eric Robinson Riley Nash Emil Bemstrom
Zach Werenski Seth Jones
Vladislav Gavrikov David Savard
Ryan Murray Dean Kukan
Joonas Korpisalo
Elvis Merzlikins
Boston Bruins
Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk David Krejci Jack Studnicka
Sean Kuraly Charlie Coyle Anders Bjork
Joakim Nordstrom Par Lindholm Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk Jeremy Lauzon
Tuuka Rask
Jaroslav Halak