COLUMBUS – The wait is almost over for Blue Jackets fans who want to see the NHL debuts of forward Boone Jenner and defenseman Ryan Murray.
Each will be in the lineup Friday night when Columbus opens the season against the Calgary Flames. Expectations are high for the two rookies as well as the team, which last April lost out on the final Western Conference playoff spot to the Minnesota Wild on a tiebreaker.
A second-round pick (No. 37) in the 2011 NHL Draft, the 20-year-old Jenner was a fan favorite at his first two training camps thanks to his robust play. But he was sent back to Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League each time.
"I worked really hard in this past offseason," he said. "I thought I could make the jump."
Not only did he make the team but he is on the top line with Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik.
Murray, the second pick in 2012, had to endure season-ending surgery after a shoulder injury in November while playing in the Western Hockey League.
Tonight, he will be paired with veteran James Wisniewski.
"It's been such a long wait for this opportunity, with the injury last year," Murray said. "It's something you dream about as a little kid. I've got to treat it as any other hockey game. But looking back as a kid, you'd give an arm and a leg to play an NHL game."
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards isn't worried about the rookies being too nervous or hyped.
"Part of being a young player is getting yourself ready," he said. "I know they'll be ready. These are the games that are somewhat easy to play. By that I mean just your focus. The energy will be there."
Calgary already had a teenager make his debut as Sean Monahan, who turns 19 on Oct. 12, centered Sven Baertschi and David Jones on Thursday. He quickly earned his first career NHL point, assisting on Jones' goal just 5:18 into the season-opening 5-4 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals.
"It was crazy, the atmosphere was wild," Monahan said. "It was a great first NHL game but unfortunately we didn't get the win."
Flames captain Mark Giordano liked the way Monahan, the sixth player in the 2013 NHL Draft, handled himself.
"He's going to be a great player in this League for a long, long time because he's very smart and thinks the game well," Giordano said.
Here are the rest of the expected lineups for the Flames and Blue Jackets on Friday night at Nationwide Arena:
Curtis Glencross – Matt Stajan – Lee Stempniak
TJ Galiardi – Mikael Backlund – Jiri Hudler
Sven Baertschi – Sean Monahan – David Jones
Lance Bouma - Ben Street - Brian McGrattan
Mark Giordano – TJ Brodie
Kris Russell – Dennis Wideman
Chris Butler – Shane O'Brien
Injured: Chris Breen (shoulder), Mike Cammalleri (hand)
Scratched: Joe Colborne, Tim Jackman, Derek Smith
NOTES: MacDonald gets the start after Ramo was in goal for Thursday's 5-4 shootout loss. Coach Bob Hartley said after the morning skate that several players received some bumps and bruises in the game and further lineup changes could be made.
Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Marian Gaborik
Matt Calvert - Ryan Johansen - Cam Atkinson
R.J. Umberger - Derek MacKenzie - Nick Foligno
Mark Letestu - Artem Anisimov - Blake Comeau
Jack Johnson - Dalton Prout
Ryan Murray - James Wisniewski
Nikita Nikitin - David Savard
Injured: Jared Boll (upper body), Nathan Horton (shoulder), Fedor Tyutin (lower body).
Scratched: Tim Erixon.
NOTES: The battle to replace Tyutin in the lineup tonight was between Erixon and Savard. "We all felt as a coaching staff David had a better camp than Tim did," coach Todd Richards said.