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MacInnis latest Blue Jacket to turn in solid NHL debut

Forward stepped right in to help Columbus in win over Devils

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

If there was a measure of comfort for Ryan MacInnis when he made his NHL debut Saturday for the Blue Jackets, it's that he didn't have to do too many introductions. 

The forward may have stepped into the locker room in Columbus for the first time as an NHL player, but the room had a distinct Cleveland vibe to it. Fellow forwards Kevin Stenlund, Eric Robinson and Jakob Lilja, defenseman Gabriel Carlsson and goaltender Elvis Merzlikins all have spent time with the Monsters this season with MacInnis. 

"It's pretty easy," MacInnis said of the transition. "Everyone has been fun, and even with some of the Cleveland guys that are here it's just pretty comfortable." 

That comfort for MacInnis, then, translated over to the ice in the team's win Saturday night over New Jersey in Nationwide Arena.  

In the midst of the best season of his pro career, the 23-year-old had four shots on goal, won both faceoffs he took and drew a penalty in just under eight minutes of action in his first-ever NHL game. He had an excellent scoring chance early in the game only for Devils goalie Gilles Senn to barely get a piece of his shot with his pad as MacInnis tried to slip a rebound between his legs, plus a couple other good looks as well.  

It was a bit of a blur, but a good one for MacInnis, whom the Blue Jackets acquired two summers ago for a sixth-round pick from Arizona. 

"Honestly, I can't remember (my first shift)," he said postgame. "It was fun though. After the first shift, I was feeling pretty good. I think I had a couple of chances and didn't bury it, but at least I'm getting some chances." 

Before the game, head coach John Tortorella said the Friday recalls for MacInnis and Jakob Lilja were deserved ones, as the organization had been getting the best reports among the Monsters' remaining forwards for the two. Afterward, he praised the game the two played after being brought up amid the Jackets' seemingly unending rash of injuries. 

"The two guys that were brought up here for tonight's game, I thought they played very well," said Tortorella, who placed Lilja and MacInnis on a line with veteran forward Riley Nash. "It was a good forechecking line for us." 

MacInnis certainly has a good pedigree, as the son of NHL legend Al MacInnis. He was a second-round pick in 2014 by the then-Phoenix Coyotes after having spent time in the U.S. National Team Development Program as well as the OHL. He finished his junior career in 2015-16 with Kitchener, posting 81 points in 59 games, but has bounced around some in the pros. After two seasons with Tucson of the AHL, the Blue Jackets acquired him a season ago and he had a 4-20-24 line in 71 games with the Monsters. 

This year, his offensive production has upped, with MacInnis posting three goals and 12 assists for 15 points in 28 games, including a five-game point streak in late November.  

"Confidence is huge, especially when you're getting points and some puck luck," he said. "Confidence goes a long way. This year especially, it's been a good start." 

While MacInnis has a strong NHL bloodline considering his father was a 12-time All-Star, a Norris Trophy winner and a Hall of Famer, he doesn't quite draw comparisons to his father as a player. While Al was known for his booming shot from the blue line -- "He could shoot the puck," Ryan said about his thoughts of watching his dad's old highlights on YouTube - MacInnis has always been a center with a good sense of the game. 

Ryan admits he's a "completely different" player from his father, but the two had the same reaction when the younger MacInnis got the call from the Blue Jackets on Friday. 

"He was excited for me," Ryan said. "He knows how much I've worked for this. And so do I. It's exciting. I think he just gave me advice without even me asking. I think he knew how I felt, which is good because he's been in that situation before." 

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