Jackets, Bruins aim to start strong
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Thursday evening is opening night for the Columbus Blue Jackets as they play host to the Boston Bruins, two teams not expected to place within the top-3 of the Metropolitan Division this season.
The Blue Jackets begin the 2016-17 season as a team that didn't make any spectacular moves, save for selecting forward Pierre Luc-Dubois ahead of the pundit's choice of forward Jesse Puljujarvi with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 draft.
Although it was announced Tuesday that the team had sent forward Alex Wennberg through waivers in order to be assigned to the team's AHL-affiliate Cleveland Monsters while Luc-Dubois had apparently “made” the team, the Blue Jackets announced late Wednesday that Pierre Luc-Dubois, 18, had been assigned to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL), and had recalled Wennberg from Cleveland. This was done ostensibly to give them more room under the salary cap with forward David Clarkson on long-term Injured Reserve.
Wennberg, 22, posted NHL career highs in 2015-16, recording eight goals and 32 assists in 69 games with the team.
The Blue Jackets signed Sam Gagner, 27, this summer to be a possible integral component of the power play, while also being a potential No. 2 center for the team. Gagner was selected with the No. 6 overall pick by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2007 draft. He had eight goals and eight assists in 53 games for the Philadelphia Flyers last season, and has recorded 124-228-352 in 615 NHL games.
The Blue Jackets also have high hope for 19-year old defenseman Zach Werenski, selected No. 8 in the 2015 draft.
“I see another gear, a high gear, that a lot of people don't have,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said of Werenski, via BlueJackets.com. “I look at his skill … I mean, my god, he's just a kid.
“I look at him as a very intelligent player. I look at him as a guy that can help our power play — we're gonna give him a whack at it right off the bat here — because it's been one of our weaknesses.”
The Boston Bruins will be without the services of star-forward Patrice Bergeron to start the 2016-17 season, out with a lower-body injury and currently being evaluated on a day-to-day basis.
“You're missing one of your better players, so it's not an easy way to start, but it's reality, and I really feel that it's an opportunity, too,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told his team's website.
“We've been talking about having depth — let's use that depth right now, and if everybody does their job and plays the way we should, we can get through this.”
Julien specified that it was a “minor” injury, and not something major, stating “We're confident it's going to be real short term.”
With Bergeron not starting the trip, forward David Backes took over his spot centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak during Wednesday's practice.
Bruins' general manager Don Sweeney announced that defenseman Adam McQuaid is currently being evaluated on a day-to-day basis with an upper-body injury, while defenseman Kevan Miller, who underwent successful surgery to repair a fracture in his left hand on Tuesday, is expected to be out of the lineup for six weeks.
With McQuaid and Miller absent, defensemen Brandon Carlo and Rob O'Gara will likely get the opportunity to make their NHL debuts.
Forward Tim Schaller was recalled from the Providence Bruins by the team in Bergeron's absence.