The Johnny Hockey 2.0 era was supposed to be celebrated Friday night at Columbus, Ohio, but the Blue Jackets’ home opener will be more about which star is not in the lineup rather than which one is.
Newcomer Johnny Gaudreau and the rest of the Blue Jackets will play host to the defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning, but they will do so without sharpshooting goal-scorer Patrik Laine.
The Finnish top-line right wing was injured Wednesday as the Carolina Hurricanes beat visiting Columbus 4-1 in the season-opening game.
After netting the first goal 11 seconds into the second period, Laine appeared to hurt his right arm after contact along the boards with Carolina’s Brett Pesce. Laine went to the dressing room and was ruled out after playing 12 shifts and 7:49.
The organization announced that its star forward would be placed on injured reserve and miss 3-4 weeks with an elbow injury. It recalled forward Kent Johnson from AHL Cleveland.
“You’re on a new team and building chemistry with your linemates,” Gaudreau said afterward. “You think you’ve had a good camp and then you’re not playing together in the middle of the second period.”
On July 13, Columbus signed the 29-year-old Gaudreau to a seven-year, $68.25 million contract. The nine-year Calgary Flames veteran slots in at left wing on the No. 1 line featuring center Boone Jenner. Jakub Voracek will likely take the spot vacated by Laine.
A six-time All-Star in Calgary, Gaudreau posted 115 points last season — the second most all-time total by an American-born player (Pat LaFontaine, 148 in 1992-93 with Buffalo). His plus-64 led the NHL.
In other Blue Jackets personnel news, goalie Elvis Merzlikins (illness) has improved and could play Friday.
As far as debuts on Broadway go, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s season opener at Manhattan didn’t deserve a curtain call.
Coming off Tuesday’s 3-1 road loss to the New York Rangers in the NHL’s first game of the season on the East Coast, the three-time defending Eastern Conference champs will look to rebound after losing for the third time in the Jon Cooper era in a season opener (2014, 2021).
Tampa Bay has won seven of the past 11 regular-season matchups between the clubs, but Cooper said his group will have to carry out its game plan more efficiently going forward.
“We just didn’t execute at all,” Cooper said. “When you’re not going to do that, it doesn’t matter how hard you try.”
Steven Stamkos said his club’s play on special teams was unacceptable. The Lightning yielded a short-handed goal and power-play goal to Mika Zibanejad, while also going 1-for-6 on the man advantage.
“We’ve got to bear down and get better,” said the Lightning captain, who notched a power-play goal. “That’s on us.”
At the conclusion of the 2018-19 regular season, the Blue Jackets — the East’s No. 8 seed — produced a stunner by sweeping four games from the President’s Trophy-winning Lightning in the first round of the playoffs after Cooper’s team amassed 128 points.
That playoff round was anchored by Columbus winger Artemi Panarin and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, but when the two sides met over a year later in the COVID-delayed 2020 season, those two standouts had moved on. Tampa Bay got its first-round revenge with a 4-1 win in the best-of-seven series.
–Field Level Media