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Maple Leafs at Blue Jackets preview

Atkinson can equal NHL mark with goal in sixth straight opener for Columbus; Spezza debuts for Toronto

by Craig Merz / Independent Correspondent

MAPLE LEAFS (1-0-0) at BLUE JACKETS (0-0-0)

7 p.m. ET; FS-O, TSN-4, NHL.TV


The Game

Cam Atkinson can tie an NHL record with a goal in his sixth straight season-opening game when the Columbus Blue Jackets host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Nationwide Arena on Friday.

The forward has scored a goal in five consecutive season openers, the longest active streak in the NHL and one game short of the League record shared by Mud Bruneteau of the Detroit Red Wings (1940-45) and Yvan Cournoyer of the Montreal Canadiens (1973-78).

Gustav Nyquist will play his first game for the Blue Jackets after the forward signed a four-year contract on July 1.

Jason Spezza will make his Maple Leafs debut; the forward, who signed a one-year contract on July 1, was a healthy scratch in Toronto's season-opening 5-3 win against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.


Players to watch

Maple Leafs captain John Tavares has 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 26 NHL career games against Columbus, including four points (three goals, one assist) in three games last season.

Blue Jackets rookies Emil Bemstrom and Jakob Lilja will make their NHL debuts. Bemstrom, a 20-year-old forward, was a fourth-round pick (No. 117) in the 2017 NHL Draft; Lilja, a 25-year-old forward, signed a free agent contract on June 15. The two were teammates last season with Djurgardens of the Swedish Hockey League.


They said it

"They always play hard. I don't like to hear the cannon go off, to be honest with you. They start fast in here. We've got to do a good job. The bottom line is we're Game 2 of the season and we're still trying to find out who we are and create what we're going to be." -- Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock

"I think I will be nervous, of course. First game, like a dream come true. It will be special." -- Blue Jackets forward Jakob Lilja


Maple Leafs projected lineup

Kasperi Kapanen -- John Tavares -- Mitchell Marner

Andreas Johnsson -- Auston Matthews -- William Nylander

Ilya Mikheyev -- Alexander Kerfoot -- Trevor Moore

Nic Petan -- Frederik Gauthier -- Jason Spezza

Morgan Rielly -- Cody Ceci

Jake Muzzin -- Tyson Barrie

Rasmus Sandin -- Justin Holl

Frederik Andersen

Michael Hutchinson

Scratched: Martin Marincin, Nicholas Shore, Dmytro Timashov

Injured: Zach Hyman (ACL), Travis Dermott (shoulder)


Blue Jackets projected lines

Alexandre Texier -- Pierre-Luc Dubois -- Cam Atkinson

Nick Foligno -- Boone Jenner -- Josh Anderson

Gustav Nyquist -- Alexander Wennberg -- Oliver Bjorkstrand

Jakob Lilja -- Riley Nash -- Emil Bemstrom

Ryan Murray -- Seth Jones

Zach Werenski -- David Savard

Scott Harrington -- Markus Nutivaara

Joonas Korpisalo

Elvis Merzlikins

Scratched: Dean Kukan, Vladislav Gavrikov, Sonny Milano

Injured: Brandon Dubinsky (wrist)


Status report

Petan replaces Timashov and Holl plays for Marincin. … Texier will play in his first NHL season opener after appearing in the final two games of last season and eight Stanley Cup Playoff games.


Stat pack

Matthews scored twice in the win against the Senators. … Jenner is one point shy of 200 in his NHL career. … With five rookies, the Blue Jackets have the youngest opening game roster (25.7) in the League for the third time in four seasons.

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