The Columbus Blue Jackets are trotting out a lineup that should be similar to opening night. The final home pre-season game is usually considered the “dress rehersal” and final tune-up before the games begin to count.
The stars will be out at Nationwide tonight, with Johnny Gaudreau, Patrik Laine and Zach Werenski all suiting up for tonight’s matchup. The only bonafide starter not dressing tonight is goaltender Elvis Merzlikins. It makes sense as after his strong showing against Washington. He has nothing to prove heading into the season and why not get him all the days off possible before he enters the grind of the NHL season, where he is in for a heavy workload as the undisputed #1 goaltender.
Mathieu Olivier and Liam Foudy are getting another chance to state their case to make the opening night roster. Foudy is fresh off his injury, and is appearing in just his second game of the preseason. The speedster needs to make an impression if he wants to stick around considering he has been passed by many prospects in the system. Olivier will need to prove he can do more than just take ill-advised penalties and contribute to a fourth line that can provide some strong minutes and occasional scoring in addition to the heavy, physical game. So far, we haven’t seen much of that from Olivier. Emil Bemstrom gets a rare night off in the preseason, as these two fight to claim his tentative spot in the lineup.
Player to Watch
After recovering from a back injury this summer, the organization had opted to play it safe with Boone and ease him back into action. The Jackets are finally taking the bubble wrap off of their captain and getting him some game action prior to opening night.
Captain Boone Jenner was having a career year in his first season wearing the “C” and he will get the first crack at centering the top line with Johnny Hockey and Patty Laine. It’s safe to assume there may be some rust for Boone to shake off, but it will be worth watching to see how Jenner’s style of play meshes with a couple of VERY skilled wingers.
The team made some tough decisions yesterday with a few more roster cuts. Columbus native, Carson Meyer, was sent down to Cleveland to begin the year after a very strong camp. He was always a longshot to make the opening night roster but appears to be a victim of the numbers game more than anything else. His waiver exempt status surely played a role as well. Meyer made a statement this training camp, and he will most definitely be back up with the big club at some point this year.
The other surprise cut was Kirill Marchenko. After hearing so much about him and his skill for the last few years, I think many assumed he would be a shoe-in to make the opening night roster. While the size and skill is evident, there is most definitely a learning curve for a young guy playing his first hockey in North America. This seems to be a move to get Marchenko playing heavy minutes with the Monsters, and get used to the smaller ice and faster pace of play. I don’t think he is long for Cleveland assuming he can improve his two-way game and adjust to the speed of the game.
The Other Bench
St. Louis will be sending a strong forward group, consisting of Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, Jordan Kyrou and prospect Jake Neighbours. The defense, however, is another story. Most of the defenseman that will be playing in Columbus are on the bubble or will be AHL players, so hopefully fans at Nationwide will get a healthy dose of the cannon.
Johnny, Patty and Boone lead the #CBJ tomorrow vs. St. Louis 🙌
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) October 5, 2022
Forwards: Alexandrov, Bitten, Frk, Highmore, Kostin, Kyrou, Laferriere, Leivo, McGing, Neighbours, O’Reilly, Walker.
Defense: Bortuzzo, Kessel, Lyle, Rosen, Santini, Tucker.
Goalies: Greiss, Hofer.
— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) October 5, 2022