After so many days of drills, 20 Blue Jackets players will have a chance to finally line up across from guys that they aren't having lunch with day in and day out. Five preseason games in the next six days await starting with a 7 p.m. puck drop tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Two of the newest Jackets, Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte draw in against their former team; and three veteran defensemen, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and David Savard will be in the lineup. So will 20-year-old Gabriel Carlsson who saw a flurry of NHL action late last season after finishing his year in the Swedish Hockey League.
Pierre-Luc Dubois will be centering the top line, flanked by Panarin and Foligno. Dubois played with the Jackets' captain last preseason, and while the prime-time names on each wing are exciting, Dubois plans to use this first game to showcase how his play has grown since last year.
"Last year I came into the games wanting to play safe and prove I could play defensively," Dubois said. "This year, I want to prove that I can play with (guys in the NHL). I want to take charge and play good hockey both offensively and defensively."
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There are plenty of familiar names in this game's lineup, but there are also new faces. 23-year-old Miles Koules is playing in his first career NHL preseason game.
Koules, has played with Team USA, where he got to know Jones, and with two teams in the WHL, including the Portland Winterhawks where he played on a roster with Oliver Bjorkstrand.
From there, the Los Angeles native was with a few ECHL teams and had worked his way into the AHL with the Ontario Reign before joining the Jackets organization. He played seven games with the Cleveland Monsters last season, scoring a goal and earning six penalty minutes. In July, he signed a one-year AHL contract with the club.
"It's been tough especially when you start in the ECHL," Koules said. "I've always been trying to attempt to move up. I was really happy that I got that opportunity in Cleveland last year. It felt like things finally clicked and it was the right place for me to play."
Koules seized the opportunity he got. He spent the last five weeks of the off-season working out in Columbus with Monsters teammates he'd come to know and gel with, and had the opportunity to meet with some of the NHL players and coaches and staff within the Jackets organization.
His mantra coming into camp was just to work hard and see if he could gain a bit of attention for his play. It was a mentality for him, "whether it was a workout, scrimmage or practice, just give everything you can."
The forward didn't expect to draw into a preseason game, especially the very first one. But head coach John Tortorella shared that this game's roster might contain a couple surprises, players who impressed him. And when Koules checked the roster when it was posted in the Jackets locker room Monday, he almost didn't believe it. Then the exhilaration hit.
"I just wanted to be able to do well enough on the fitness testing and in our scrimmages and practices to hopefully get the opportunity to play in a game," Koules said. "I'm excited it came this quick and I'm ready to go."
- Expect Joonas Korpisalo to start in net for the Blue Jackets, he will be backed up by Matiss Kivlenieks.
- Alexander Wennberg joined the team Tuesday. He was part of one of the two practice groups that participated in an hour of on-ice training and an hour of off-ice training today.
- Rocky River native, Carter Camper draws into tonight's lineup. He'll be centering a line with Alex Broadhurst and Vitaly Abramov.
Panarin - Dubois - Foligno
Broadhurst - Camper - Abramov
Motte - Vigneault - Moutrey
Hännikäinen - Sedlak - Koules
Carlsson - Jones
Werenski - Siebenaler
Kukan - Savard