Blue Jackets News & Rumors: Bemstrom, Merzlikins, Chinakhov & More

Welcome back to Columbus Blue Jackets News & Rumors Monday. The team is off to a 2-0 start in the midst of nine of their first 13 games at home. Let’s get you caught up on the latest news surrounding the team starting with an early visit to injured reserve.

Emil Bemstrom Out 4-6 Weeks

If there was any Blue Jacket that needed to have a good season, it was Emil Bemstrom. After enjoying some success in the preseason, he made the roster and looked ready to contribute. But then some bad luck struck for him at an inopportune time.

On Thursday, the Blue Jackets placed Bemstrom on injured reserve due to a left oblique strain. He suffered the injury during practice on Tuesday. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

Emil Bemstrom Columbus Blue Jackets
Emil Bemstrom suffered an injury at practice and is out 4-6 weeks. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This especially comes at an inopportune time when the roster is already competitive at forward. Gregory Hofmann made his NHL debut and scored his first NHL point on Saturday night. If he continues to make an impact on that line with Eric Robinson and Sean Kuraly, they will continue to play.

The question now becomes when Bemstrom is ready, is there an immediate opening for him to play? This of course depends on health of other players as well as performance. But assuming everyone stays healthy enough to play, Bemstrom finds himself in a position where he has to wait his turn. The wait could be short. It might be several games. But it will be up to him to recover and then stay ready for when his time comes.

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In the ebbs and flows of a long season, you need everyone to be ready when it’s their time. Bemstrom will get his chance. But the timing of this injury certainly is less than ideal.

The 4-6 timeframe does put a possible Bemstrom return anywhere from Nov 11-25. The Blue Jackets play three games in four nights all at home starting on Nov 12. If he is able to recover closer to the four-week mark, he could find an opportunity to play in a condensed part of the schedule. Otherwise we may not see him again until Thanksgiving.

Elvis Merzlikins’ Hot Start

If the Blue Jackets were going to enjoy any level of success this season, it was because goalie Elvis Merzlikins played out of his mind. Two games into the new season, he is doing just that.

Merzlikins has won both his starts with a 1.47 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage. But even more impressive is some of his underlying numbers. The following is courtesy of Nat Stat Trick at five-on-five (small sample size alert.)

Merzlikins has stopped 48 of 50 shots for a .960 save percentage. His xG against in the two games is 4.17 and has allowed two goals. His GSAA (goals saved above average) is 1.72. He’s stopped all 16 high danger shots against with a GSAA on those shots of 2.60.

Elvis Merzlikins Columbus Blue Jackets
Elvis Merzlikins is off to as good a start as the Blue Jackets could hope for. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The key takeaway is that Merzlikins has been outstanding in the early going. It makes you wonder how coach Brad Larsen is going to handle the goalies in the near-term. Do you play the extremely hot hand or do you give Joonas Korpisalo a chance in one of these games?

The Blue Jackets do not have a back-to-back situation upcoming until Nov 12, almost a full month. Surely at some point Korpisalo will get his turn. But if Merzlikins keeps this up, how can you take him out when there is at least a day between games? We’ll see what the team has in mind coming up. It will be very interesting to watch.

Yegor Chinakhov Continues to Impress

It was no accident that Yegor Chinakhov made the Blue Jackets right out of training camp. He was impressive at all points. But despite making the roster, he found himself on the outside looking in come opening night.

Chinakhov was a healthy scratch on Thursday simply due to the number’s game. Larsen said that Chinakhov won’t sit for long as he needs to be playing games. Therefore the Blue Jackets sent him to Cleveland on Friday. While he didn’t play Friday, he did play Saturday. You can guess what happened next.

That’s right. Chinakhov scored in his AHL debut. Not only did he score, he did it in the same manner we’re accustomed to seeing. He scored from distance with his patented shot. What’s a goaltender to do here?

On Sunday, the Blue Jackets recalled Chinakhov to Columbus. With the Monsters spending the rest of October on the road, it only made sense to bring Chinakhov back. He will practice with the team. Then we’ll see if his NHL debut comes up in the near future.

Related: Don’t Write These Blue Jackets Off Just Yet

It’s only a matter of time before Chinakhov gets his opportunity. The only question is what game will it be because everything he’s doing right now seems to be turning to gold.

Side Dishes

  • On Thursday, the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation donated $80,000 to the Latvian Ice Hockey Federation for “Kivi’s Kids” program. The money will be used to fund clinics and provide equipment for young goaltenders in Latvia. Meanwhile the Matiss Kivlenieks Foundation has raised over $100,000 to date to support youth hockey initiatives in both Central Ohio and in Latvia.
  • In need of an extra forward, the Blue Jackets called up Justin Danforth in advance of Saturday’s game against the Seattle Kraken. He didn’t play but it’s noteworthy who got the call when the need arose. The team wants Liam Foudy to play. So in an extra forward situation, they called on Danforth. He had a decent preseason and could see some action this season when injury strikes. Don’t forget about him.
  • The Blue Jackets have never started a season 3-0-0 in their history. If they can defeat Detroit on Tuesday, they will get to 3-0-0. Not bad a for a team who many wrote off before the season began.

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