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Duchene encouraged by Blue Jackets debut after trade from Senators

Excited to make playoff push, enjoys playing on line with Panarin, Atkinson

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

OTTAWA -- Matt Duchene loves the way he looks in Columbus Blue Jackets red, white and blue.

He really likes his new linemates, Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson.

And he's really jacked up about the opportunity to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time in his 10-year NHL career.

 

[RELATED: Duchene traded to Blue Jackets by Senators for picks, prospectsDuchene trade shows Blue Jackets 'serious about winning']

 

But the veteran center said there is one thing that he has trepidation about regarding his trade to Columbus from the Ottawa Senators on Friday.

It's the ear-shattering cannon that goes off each time the Blue Jackets score at Nationwide Arena, their home rink.

"It scares the [stuffing] out of me every time," Duchene said with a laugh after the Blue Jackets defeated the Senators 3-0 at Canadian Tire Centre in his Columbus debut.

Opponents might have the same fearful reaction once the Duchene-Panarin-Atkinson line begins to find some chemistry. When that happens, the cannon likely will be getting a good workout.

Video: Will Matt Duchene help Columbus keep Panarin?

Panarin leads the Blue Jackets with 67 points (24 goals, 43 assists); Duchene has 58, all with Ottawa (27 goals, 31 assists); and Atkinson has 56 (33 goals, 23 assists). They combined for five shots Friday (three by Duchene) and produced some dangerous moments as the game went on.

"It was fun playing with [Panarin]," Duchene said. "He made me laugh a bit. I love his accent.

"He's a creative guy. Right off the bat I think I noticed that we see the game similarly in terms of give-and-gos. He's a great playmaker so you just trust him to get open."

Duchene said the line will be much better at finishing once the three members get familiar with each other.

"I thought the fact that we didn't get [a goal] 5-on-5 was crazy tonight," he said. "I thought we did a lot of good things. Obviously [we hit] a goal post early, a crossbar on the power play, but I thought we did some good things.

"And then you've got Atkinson too, who's a hell of a player on the other side. I think the three of us can do something special here and I think we can keep getting better and better every game."

Video: Matt Duchene's fit on the Columbus Blue Jackets

Atkinson and his teammates started to hear rumors about the possible acquisition of Duchene on Thursday but were wary about getting too excited. Not until the deal was announced on social media was the Blue Jackets forward finally convinced that it was happening.

"Yep, that's how I found out," Atkinson said. "There were rumblings yesterday and today, but you never know what's going to happen. Obviously it's final. A lot of speculation, but happy to have him."

The Blue Jackets acquired Duchene and American Hockey League defenseman Julius Bergman from the Senators for forward prospects Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson, and a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a conditional first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft

Duchene can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. If he signs with Columbus, Ottawa receives the first-round pick in 2020.

Needing only to walk down the hallway from the home dressing room to the visitors one prior to the game, Duchene broke the ice with his new teammates by quipping that he felt weirdly familiar playing at Canadian Tire Centre, his home arena for 15 months since being traded from the Colorado Avalanche.

"He laughed about it," Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. "He was great. We know how good he is. We've played against him. Management has shown by this move that they want to win. Now it's up to us to go out and do it."

Video: CBJ@OTT: Duchene takes the ice hours after trade

Once it was time to hit the ice, Duchene exchanged good-natured quips with some of his former teammates. His emotions became more serious and heartfelt midway through the first period when the Senators played a video thanking him for his time in Ottawa.

As the crowd cheered, Senators general manager Pierre Dorion, the architect of the trade, was clapping up in the Ottawa management box. The two sides parted amicably. Duchene desperately wants to play in the postseason; Dorion found a way to give him a shot at it.

"That was great," Duchene said of the video. "Grateful to the [Senators] for that. That was first class. Closing another chapter of my career. They have a bright future."

Duchene hopes he does too. The Blue Jackets (34-23-3) are in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 71 points, one point ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes.

"[The playoffs] are what I'm looking for," he said. "That's what gets me up every morning now for sure … I've been fortunate to have been on some international teams and some big tournaments. But obviously tonight's win puts us in (a playoff spot) and we want to keep it going."

Duchene had time to meet up with his family after the game. There was an embrace with wife Ashley, a kiss for six-week-old son Beau and hugs for mom Chris and dad Vince. Then he scurried off to catch the team bus and a flight to Columbus, where the Blue Jackets play the San Jose Sharks on Saturday (5 p.m. ET; FS-O, NBCSCA, NHL.TV) and the cannon awaits.

"I guess I'll get used to it," he said with a grin.

Blue Jackets fans are counting on it.

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