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At the Rink: Lightning at Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo will make his NHL debut against the injury-plagued Tampa Bay Lightning at Nationwide Arena on Monday (7 p.m. ET; SUN, FS-O).

The 21-year-old from Finland was recalled from Lake Erie of the American Hockey League on Dec. 9 after Sergei Bobrovsky sustained a groin injury that put him on injured reserve. Backup Curtis McElhinney started the past two games, a 6-4 loss at the Winnipeg Jets and a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Islanders.

With the Blue Jackets (11-17-3) playing Tuesday at the Dallas Stars, coach John Tortorella said he did not want to use McElhinney on successive nights. McElhinney is 0-5-2, with a 3.11 goals-against average and an .891 save percentage.

Korpisalo, in his first full professional season in North America, was 5-4-2 with a 2.12 GAA and .928 save percentage for Lake Erie with two shutouts.

"There's no advice I need to give him," McElhinney said. "He's a pretty good goalie. He's having a good year so far in the American League. From the preseason when I saw him, he looked pretty sharp.

"It's all been building towards this opportunity. He has a cool, calm demeanor from everything I've seen."

Korpisalo won't be facing the Lightning (14-13-3) at its best.

Forwards Jonathan Drouin and Ondrej Palat were injured Saturday and will be out of the lineup along with injured forwards Cedric Paquette, Tyler Johnson and Erik Condra.

Johnson, Palat and Nikita Kucherov were part of the productive "Triplets Line" that helped the Lightning reach the Stanley Cup Final last season.

During a 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Saturday, Kucherov joined Steven Stamkos and Vladislav Namestnikov on a line.

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said finding the right combinations is difficult because of the injuries but he liked how they played.

"It's hard to get chemistry with guys with the constant line changing," he said. "There's a little bit of chemistry there. Hopefully this carries on. Their confidence is building."

The Lightning's fourth line might be comprised of players who started the season with Syracuse of the AHL. Former Blue Jackets forward Mike Blunden was recently recalled and Joel Vermin and Yanni Gourde were called up Monday.

Gourde could make his NHL debut. He made his professional debut with Worcester of the AHL in 2011-12 and has also played in the ECHL.

"He's probably played in every pro league on the way up," Cooper said. "For him to be here in the National Hockey League is a pretty cool story actually."

Vermin has one assist in five games with the Lightning. He made his NHL debut on Nov. 19 against the New York Rangers.

"We all played on different lines at Syracuse so this is the first time we're playing together," Blunden said. "We all know each other playing on the same team most of the year. It will be a good experience."

Here are the projected lineups:


Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven StamkosNikita Kucherov

Alex KillornBrian Boyle - Jonathan Marchessault

J.T. Brown - Valtteri FilppulaRyan Callahan

Joel VerminYanni Gourde - Brian BoyleMike Blunden

Anton Stralman - Victor Hedman

Jason Garrison - Matthew Carle

Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Injured: Erik Condra (lower body), Cedric Paquette (upper body), Tyler Johnson (undisclosed), Jonathan Drouin (lower body), Ondrej Palat (undisclosed)

Scratched: Nikita Nesterov


Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Brandon Saad

Scott HartnellAlexander WennbergCam Atkinson

Matt CalvertBrandon DubinskyNick Foligno

Gregory Campbell - William KarlssonDavid Clarkson

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Ryan Murray - Andrew Bodnarchuk

Fedor TyutinKevin Connauton

Joonas Korpisalo

Curtis McElhinney

Injured: Sergei Bobrovsky (groin), Rene Bourque (upper body), Cody Goloubef (jaw), Markus Hannikainen (shoulder)

Scratched: Dalton Prout, Jared Boll

Status report: Vasilevskiy was recalled Sunday from Syracuse of the AHL when goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis was sent down.

Who's hot: The Lightning have killed eight straight shorthanded situations the past three games. … Atkinson has three goals in two games. Hartnell has three goals and three assists in a four-game point streak. … Kucherov has three goals in two games. Brown has a goal and three assists in the past four games.

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