TONIGHT, 7 P.M.
The Blue Jackets begin their 2013-14 season at relatively full strength, missing one of their regular forwards and potentially one of the top-four defensemen. Jared Boll, who suffered an upper body injury during training camp and only rejoined practice on Thursday, is not expected to play tonight for Columbus. Fedor Tyutin, injured during Wednesday's practice at Nationwide Arena, could play tonight but coach Todd Richards said more will be known after the morning skate.
Blue Jackets vs. Flames
No surprise here, but Sergei Bobrovsky gets the start between the pipes for the Blue Jackets but his goaltending opponent is unknown. Karri Ramo started last night's 5-4 shootout loss for Calgary in Washington, so it's possible that veteran backup Joey MacDonald gets the call for the Flames.
Here are the Blue Jackets projected lines: Jenner-Dubinsky-Gaborik, Letestu-Anisimov-Comeau, Calvert-Johansen-Atkinson, Umberger-MacKenzie-Foligno. The defense pairs: Johnson-Prout, Murray-Wisniewski, Nikitin-Erixon/Savard.
Opening night brings a lot of excitement, but in the same breath, there's also plenty of uncertainty. Everyone is anticipating the atmosphere, the energy inside the building, but the players are worried about getting through the warm-up and then the first shift.
In this particular instance, it's kind of a mystery as to which team has the upper hand. Calgary played last night in Washington - played well in fact - got its feet wet and had some time together to help get settled in. The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, have been practicing against themselves for a week and are sick and tired of it. Does the home team, raucous crowd and all, have an advantage? Or is it the visiting team, already in the swing of things, that can hit the ground running?
No matter how you look at it, the Blue Jackets have to back up what they've been talking about for weeks: last year is now in the past and they cannot worry about their 19-5-5 run in the spring. It wasn't good enough, the players will tell you, and the page has been turned to 2013-14. They know well that they cannot simply lace up the skates on opening night and walk away with a victory; they'll need everyone doing their part and playing the team game that made them so successful last season.
Controlling the emotions is key on opening night, and not straying outside of yourself to make something happen is something players have to be aware of, according to Mark Letestu. It's about short shifts in the early going, finishing checks and getting the crowd involved. If the Blue Jackets can do that and commit to it, they won't have a problem settling into their game.
at NEW YORK ISLANDERS
SATURDAY, 7 P.M.