Blue Jackets, Bobrovsky face Hurricanes in home opener
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella chose not to start No. 1 goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky in the season opener, but he’ll be back in his familiar position between the pipes for the home opener against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night at Nationwide Arena.
Tortorella’s decision to start backup Joonas Korpisalo against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night raised some eyebrows, not necessarily that Bobrovsky was out of the lineup but because he’s in the final year of his contract and questions have swirled about his future with the team, even though Tortorella is already tired of hearing them.
“Korpi deserves an opportunity,” Tortorella said before the opener. “He had a pretty good camp.”
That carried over into the first game. Korpisalo made 18 saves and Artemi Panarin’s goal in overtime gave the Blue Jackets a 3-2 victory, their seventh straight win over the Red Wings.
Bobrovsky wasn’t all that sharp in exhibition games, but the regular season is what counts and the veteran know what it takes to prepare for the long haul of an 82-game marathon.
So do his teammates. Back-to-back games might not be the ideal situation to start a season, but Blue Jackets players didn’t seem to mind, especially after winning on the road.
“There’s no point in being tired because it’s the first games of the season so you’re still in your best shape,” center Alexander Wennberg said. “You’ve got to make the best of it.”
Winger Cam Atkinson scored a first-period goal and Josh Anderson added one in the second period for the aggressive Blue Jackets, who outshot the Red Wings 39-20.
Atkinson became the 11th player in NHL history with a goal in at least five straight season openers. He welcomes the quick turnaround.
“I like the fact we get on the road before the home opener,” Atkinson said, according to the team’s website. “I like playing in back-to-back games. Your adrenaline is still there. It’s kind of relaxed. The building is going to be buzzing here.”
The Blue Jackets face a team that’s also on the back end of two games in two nights, but the difference for the Hurricanes is they’re playing the second game on the road after a loss. Carolina stumbled out of the gate, falling 2-1 in overtime to the New York Islanders.
Carolina rallied to tie with 1:35 left in the third period on a goal by Jordan Staal, but New York’s Josh Bailey responded 43 seconds into overtime to give Barry Trotz a win in his Islanders coaching debut.
“We’re planning on playing a lot more than 82 games this year,” Hurricanes captain Justin Williams said. “This was just one. One that didn’t go our way.”
The Hurricanes and Blue Jackets are dealing with the loss of several key players at the start of the season.
Carolina placed goaltender Scott Darling (lower body) on injured reserve this week and signed former Columbus goalie Curtis McElhinney to back up Petr Mrazek, who was signed July 1 and made his Carolina debut with 18 saves after six seasons with the Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers.
“It’s a setback, no doubt, but that’s why we got Petr in here,” said Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour, making his Carolina debut along with 2018 No. 2 overall draft pick Andrei Svechnikov (three shots on goal against the Islanders).
Carolina also is without center Victor Rask for at least four weeks after he underwent surgery on the fourth and fifth fingers of his right hand. He was placed on the injured non-roster list.
The Blue Jackets are missing all-star defenseman Seth Jones for at least the first month of the season and fellow blue-liner Scott Harrington. Jones suffered a knee injury in an exhibition game that forced Tortorella to shuffle his back-end pairings.
But he was pleased that defenseman Ryan Murray recovered from a preseason injury to contribute to the opening victory.
“Really good news that he’s back,” Tortorella said. “We weren’t expecting it. We’ll see where it goes.”