Coming off consecutive wins this week, the Columbus Blue Jackets look to make it three straight wins after an 0-3-0 start when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night at Nationwide Arena. The game is the first of four meetings between the Metropolitan rivals this season.
Explore everything hockey with THW’s Hockeypedia pages.
We have plenty to get you caught up on. Is Patrik Laine nearing a return? What does Gus Nyquist bring to their top line? Will we see Liam Foudy anytime soon? We will answer these questions and more.
Laine Trending in Right Direction
On Saturday morning 30 minutes before the Blue Jackets’ morning skate, Laine was seen working with coaches Jared Boll and Kenny McCudden working on both passing and shooting drills. He was able to shoot both wrist shots and slap shots. He didn’t appear to be in any noticeable discomfort. He also worked out towards the end of their morning skate.
It seems Laine is trending in the right direction towards a possible return. Although head coach Brad Larsen did not have an exact update as to a return date, he did admit Laine is heading the right way.
“I think it just shows he’s progressing, right?” Larsen said. “Every day is a new day and we just see how he’s feeling and we keep progressing. He’s trending the right way. I’m going to talk to my medical staff and go with progress.”
Whether or not Laine will be ready for the Global Series games in Tampere, Finland remains to be seen. However it is a good first step to see him progressing as he has. The original timeline was 3-4 weeks from Oct 13th. Saturday marks 10 days since that update and he’s shooting pucks. If there’s one thing that cannot be questioned, it’s his desire and motivation to be available by the Global Series. Let’s call it cautious optimism at this point.
Nyquist Filling Top-Line Duty
When Laine went down to injury, the immediate question was who would try to replace him on the top line to play with Johnny Gaudreau and Boone Jenner. After trying Justin Danforth there to start, it’s Gus Nyquist that has stepped up and played that important role.
Larsen loves everything Nyquist brings to the table. He spoke about that decision after their morning skate on Saturday.
You Might Also Like
- Emptying the 2023 Blue Jackets Trade Deadline Notebook
- NHL Rumors: Canucks, Penguins, Flyers, Red Wings, Maple Leafs
- Blue Jackets Use Trade Deadline to Setup Big Offseason
- NHL Rumors: Kings, Oilers, Maple Leafs, Coyotes, Red Wings…
- Blue Jackets Gameday News & Notes: Korpisalo, Boqvist & More
“You don’t replace (Laine.) There’s certain guys (that are) just really hard to replace,” Larsen said. “But with a veteran like Gus, he’s very well rounded. He’s a guy who’s very versatile. I can put him in a lot of situations. I can put him up or down my lineup.”
“I feel like he’s a catalyst-type player. His energy is infectious. His details are good. He defends well. He’s added the penalty kill to his repertoire here in the last couple of years. He’s like a Swiss army knife (similar) to what guys like (Justin) Danforth are for me now. I can put him up there. He’s got the skill set to play with those guys. It’s a nice luxury to have.”
The Blue Jackets have enjoyed two straight wins with Nyquist on the top line. They will continue to roll with that line so long as they continue to have success.
Foudy Still Waiting His Turn
The Blue Jackets are playing in their sixth game of the season on Saturday night against the Penguins. That will mark the sixth-straight healthy scratch for 2018 first-round pick Liam Foudy. Larsen was seen having a chat with Foudy towards the end of the morning skate.
According to the coach, it’s just a matter of waiting his turn and then taking advantage of the opportunity when it does arise.
“We’ll see,” Larsen said of Foudy playing eventually. “It’s all because of the players, right? We had a young man (Nick Blankenburg) on defense who didn’t play in the first three games and an opportunity came up. He’s done quite well since he’s come in.”
The same can be said for Adam Boqvist. Boqvist took part in the morning skate but will be a healthy scratch for the third straight game. Heading into Saturday, the current 18 players have enjoyed some success and they are riding that until something needs to change or injury arises. The challenge for both Foudy and Boqvist is to stay ready because they might be needed soon. The main takeaway here is if a player makes an impact, they are playing. That’s why Blankenburg continues to draw into the lineup.
- Penguins’ star forward Jake Guentzel will miss Saturday’s game against the Blue Jackets after he took a hit from Brendan Lemieux on Thursday. Guentzel did make the trip and was at Nationwide Arena on Saturday morning. However he did not skate in their optional morning skate. Head coach Mike Sullivan had no timeframe for Guentzel to return. They play in Western Canada and then Seattle in the coming week.
- As a result of Guentzel’s injury and the salary cap situation, the Penguins will play 11 forwards and seven defensemen against the Blue Jackets. Chad Ruhwedel draws into the lineup and makes his season debut.
- Larsen was asked about Jake Bean and Erik Gudbranson after the morning skate. He said Bean has been better to start the season. “You see it in his one-on-one battles, an added element of strength,” Larsen said of Bean. On Gudbranson, Larsen said both sides are still getting to know each other and that they want him to make the simple plays. “I’ll understand him better over time and he’ll understand us better and we’ll go from there.”
Related: Blue Jackets’ Defensive Woes Plaguing Team Early in Season
- The Blue Jackets have a quick turnaround and will play the New York Rangers Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. Puck drop is set for 5 P.M.