Each weekday this season, BlueJackets.com will post CBJ Today, a look at news, notes, analysis and fun stuff from around the Blue Jackets world. It's everything you need to know if you're a fan going into the day.
The Daily Buzz
The Blue Jackets are off today after Thursday night's loss in Dallas to the Stars. The team will skate tomorrow in the morning and then take on Dallas in the rematch and series finale for the year on Saturday night. Last night's loss moved Columbus just one point clear of Detroit for the cellar in the Central Division, but if you're rooting for draft position, it is a notable outcome.
Dunne Does Good
The stretch run for the Blue Jackets will be about seeing some new faces, and they don't get much newer than that of Josh Dunne.
The 22-year-old forward was playing at Clarkson University just over a month ago, and since then, he saw his college season end, a contract offer come from the Blue Jackets, then the start of his pro career and finally his NHL debut last night in Dallas.
With the Dunne family, including three of his sisters, in tow, the 6-4 center played 12:04. He didn't have a shot on goal and won just one of nine faceoffs, but the advanced stats show an expected goals percentage of 89.27 for the Jackets at 5-on-5 when he was on the ice, plus an edge of 7-3 in shots on goal.
In other words, it was a pretty solid debut for the two-way centerman, who impressed head coach John Tortorella with his knowledge of the game in his first kick of the can.
"I thought he did some good things," Tortorella said. "You can see that he is an intelligent player because he asks the right questions. He asked questions that I don't think some guys that have played in this league five, six, seven years would ask. That's what is frustrating for me with some of the guys with us right now.
"(But) that's encouraging for a big man, a young guy, first game. All through the day when we were showing him just bits and pieces of our concept, not trying to overload him, he asked the right questions, so that's encouraging."
Del Zotto Sticks Around
While there are some young faces like Dunne's that will get a look down the stretch, an older veteran also will get a chance to prove himself down the stretch as well in union blue.
Michael Del Zotto spent his trade deadline Monday like a lot of CBJ fans probably did, scrolling through Twitter. But while fans were just doing so to see what moves would be made, the defenseman was doing so to see if he'd have to hop on a plane, as his bags were already packed so he could be ready to pick up his life and move at a moment's notice.
"I was sitting in bed, had my phone on," he said. "I just kept refreshing Twitter waiting to see what was happening."
And when 3 p.m. passed and he was still a Blue Jacket -- despite the fact the team did receive some interest in Del Zotto from around the league -- Del Zotto was a happy camper.
"I'm really happy I'm still here," he said. "It was a nerve-wracking day."
So why is Del Zotto so happy to stay? A few reasons, it seems. First off, his long-term relationship with Tortorella gives him comfort. The personable veteran has fit into the locker room seemingly seamlessly. And then there's the hope he can find a home for multiple years, as he spent 2019-20 with Anaheim, the year before with three teams, and his previous nine NHL seasons with four squads.
"It's really tough if I'm being honest with you, especially for a guy like myself," he said. "I'm a pretty vocal guy. I like to keep things light, but every year, sometimes twice a year, trying to get to know 23 different players, coaches, management, staff, adjusting that way is not easy. Being able to set some roots down and be somewhere for a few years is what I'm looking for."
Del Zotto is a free agent-to-be, so time will tell if Columbus will be a long-term home. He's doing what he can to make it happen, including three points and a plus-5 rating in the last four games while playing with Seth Jones the last three contests, and his perspective is seen as valuable in the locker room as the Blue Jackets try to finish the season without such names as Foligno, Savard, Nash and Jenner.
"He just likes it here," Tortorella said. "Michael is fighting for a contract not just for this team but throughout the league. … For me, he's overachieved in what I expected out of him as we started this season. He wants to keep going. He doesn't want a change of scenery. He wants to play; I think he wants to show Jarmo he can play.
"I'm glad he's here. He's good in the room. He's very good in the room, and that goes unnoticed."
Chinakhov Finals Bound
A hearty congratulations to 2020 first-round pick Yegor Chinakhov, whose Avangard Omsk team is headed to the KHL's Gagarin Cup final to take on CSKA Moscow with a title on the line.
Avangard clinched its berth in the final and its Eastern Conference crown Thursday with a 4-3 overtime win over Ak Bars Kazan in Game 7 of the conference final. So far in the playoffs, the 20-year-old Chinakhov has four goals and six points in 16 games, though he was kept off the scoreboard in the series against Ak Bars after having all four of his playoff goals in the conference semifinal vs. Metallurg.
Meanwhile, that means the end of the season for Ak Bars forward Dmitri Voronkov, who was taken by the Jackets in the fourth round of the 2019 draft. Since then, the big power forward has proved to be the Russian equivalent of Boone Jenner, and Voronkov had a huge series vs. Avangard, notching four goals and six points, including a goal and an assist in Game 7.
Both CBJ youngsters have impressed thus far in the playoffs, but it's just Chinakhov who will have a chance to win a title.