Game On! Blue Jackets Open 2013-2014 Season
Updated: Friday, October 4 2013, 05:16 PM EDT
COLUMBUS (Alex May) -- For all the talk of moving to the Eastern Conference, the Blue Jackets begin their season against an old foe in the Calgary Flames Friday at 7:08 p.m. at Nationwide Arena.
The Blue Jackets opening night roster leaves plenty for fans to be excited about. Returning is Vezina winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to backstop the team. A healthy Marian Gaborik should put up big numbers in a contract year. Much of the cast that had CBJ fans brimming with optimism as they fell a tiebreaker short of their 2nd franchise playoff appearance is back for another year.
Here's a quick rundown on what to watch for on Opening Night against the Flames:
Boone Jenner makes his NHL debut playing on a line with Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky. The young forward had a dynamic training camp and proved he’s ready for the NHL. Head Coach Todd Richards and his coaching staff rewarded the promising winger with a spot on the top line.
Sticking with the young blood, Ryan Murray also makes the team after an impressive training camp. The second overall pick in the 2012 draft looked at ease in preseason play, earning the praise of his new defensive partner, James Wisniewski. Facing the Minnesota Wild during a preseason game at Nationwide Arena, Murray showed poise handling the puck while dancing along the blue line on a power play.
Fans should also look out for CBJ Depth. Columbus has a much deeper offensive team than many realize. Gaborik and Dubinsky are familiar with each other from their days together with the Rangers. The second line is expected to have Mark Letestu, Artem Anisimov, and Blake Comeau. Letestu has turned into a reliable cog in the Jackets’ plans, and well worth the fourth-round draft pick they shipped to Pittsburgh two years ago. This depth trickles through the lineup. The third line has Ryan Johansen between Cam Atkinson and Matt Calvert. This line will give other teams some fits. It has grit, speed and talent. The fourth line has mainstay Derek Mackenzie, R.J. Umberger and Nick Foligno. Jared Boll remains out with an injury.
On defense, Jack Johnson and Dalton Prout will make up the first pairing. Dalton is filling this spot as Fedor Tyutin deals with an injury that will keep him in Columbus as the team travels to New York after the home opener. The Wisniewski and Murray combo will log top four minutes. The third D pairing will consist of Nikita Nikitin and David Savard.
Last year's top goalie Sergei Bobrovsky tends the crease on opening night.
Calgary is a team in transition. Gone is mainstay captain Jarome Iginla. Iginla and his loveable smile were dealt to Pittsburgh last season, and "Iggy" signed a one-year deal with the Boston Bruins this offseason. The Flames named defenseman Mark Giordano their new captain late in training camp. After years of spending to the salary cap, and having relatively little to show for it, the Flames are playing with a team well short of the salary cap. They do have some players worth following on opening night. Sean Monahan and Sven Baertschi are rookies worth watching. Monahan was drafted this past June. Another young forward to watch is Joe Colborne. He was traded late in preseason from Toronto. Brian Burke, the new President of Hockey Operations in Calgary was high on Colborne in Toronto, but the young forward never found much playing time there.
Calgary squandered a three-goal lead last night, ultimately losing in a shootout against the Washington Capitals. A tough loss, combined with late night travel means the Blue Jackets will want to jump on the Flames early tonight to wear them down. Backup goalie Joey MacDonald gets the start tonight.
Headed to the game? Let's see you in your CBJ gear today. Who will score the first CBJ goal this season? Tweet me at @AlexMay985. Look for Tweets during tonight's action.
Forget the Pumpkin Spiced Latte, the best part about this time of year is NHL Hockey returning.