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At the Rink: Maple Leafs at Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- David Clarkson will line up against some familiar faces when he makes his season debut for the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday at Nationwide Arena against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Clarkson played parts of two seasons with his hometown Maple Leafs. He was traded to the Blue Jackets on Feb. 26 for forward Nathan Horton.

Groin and back problems limited Clarkson to one preseason game. It was his second injury since joining the Blue Jackets. After the trade he played three games before a torn oblique muscle cost him the rest of the 2014-15 season.

The injury last season occurred early in his first Blue Jackets game but he tried to play through it, so he sees Friday as being a fresh start.

"You always have that emotion playing your old team. But for me it's getting back into the lineup, playing my first real game for the Blue Jackets," he said. "I'm more excited about my future and contributing and being a part of the puzzle and making it better. I'm more excited about that than I am who I play."

Clarkson had 15 goals and 11 assists in 118 games for the Maple Leafs but never lived up to the hype that came with signing a seven-year, $36.7 million contract with the Maple Leafs in the summer of 2013.

His Maple Leafs regular-season debut was delayed due to a 10-game suspension for leaving the bench during fight during a preseason game. Ironically, his first game for Toronto was in Columbus.

Now he's come full circle

"He's a little disappointed in the way things have started here for him," Columbus left wing Scott Hartnell said. "He gives us a boost, obviously, with that physicality, especially going to the hard areas in front of the net. He'll be a little bit rusty but he'll bring that intensity and work ethic like he does every night."

Clarkson will try to provide a boost for the Blue Jackets (0-4-0), who are off to their worst-ever start.

"It's hard watching," he said. "You sit there. You want to get out there and do something or grab somebody."

The Maple Leafs (0-2-1) also are struggling, having scored five goals while allowing 11.

"If we can stick with our game plan of better structure and better defense the goals will be there when we need them," Toronto goaltender James Reimer said.

Coach Mike Babcock, in his first season with the Maple Leafs, said he expects a sense of urgency.

"They're hungry," he said of Columbus. "You've got two teams that haven't won a game. They're a team that's expected to do well. Our job is to come out here and go like we're going to win. Start that way and play that way."

Here are the projected lineups:


James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Leo Komarov

Shawn Matthias - Nazem Kadri - Brad Boyes

Michael Grabner - Peter Holland - PA Parenteau

Daniel Winnik - Nick Spaling - Joffrey Lupul

Jake Gardiner - Dion Phaneuf

Morgan Rielly - Matt Hunwick

Roman Polak - Scott Harrington

James Reimer

Jonathan Bernier

Injured: Stephane Robidas (knee)

Scratched: Frank Corrado, Mark Arcobello, Martin Marincin


Brandon Saad - Ryan Johansen - Nick Foligno

Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Scott Hartnell - William Karlsson - Rene Bourque

Matt Calvert - Gregory Campbell - David Clarkson

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Ryan Murray - Cody Goloubef

Fedor Tyutin - Dalton Prout

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Injured: Alexander Wennberg (concussion)

Scratched: Jared Boll, Kevin Connauton

Status report: The Blue Jackets briefly called up forward Kerby Rychel from Lake Erie of the American Hockey League and placed Wennberg on injured reserve retroactive to Oct. 9. Rychel was sent back to the AHL after the Blue Jackets' morning skate. … Bernier will start at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.

Who's hot: Saad's three power-play goals tie his career best set in 2013-14 with the Chicago Blackhawks. ... Johansen has one goal and four assists, and has at least one point in all four games. … Phaneuf has three assists. The rest of the Maple Leafs have four.

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