Red Wings-Blue Jackets set-up: Korpisalo in goal for CBJ as teams with banged-up bluelines meet

The Detroit Red Wings will open their 2018-19 season by battling the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight (7:30 PM on FSD/FS Ohio/97.1 FM).

Both teams are a little banged-up heading into tonight’s game, with the Red Wings having to recall Filip Hronek, Joe Hicketts and Luke Witkowski on Wednesday night to replace Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall (who were placed on the IR);

The Blue Jackets are without Seth Jones and Scott Harrington on defense, and they’re starting Joonas Korpisalo instead of Sergei Bobrovsky tonight. The logic behind that move was made plain during a radio appearance by coach John Tortorella–a rare move, as noted by the Columbus Dispatch’s Adam Jardy:

It turns out Blue Jackets fans will get to see Korpisalo sooner than perhaps expected. When the puck drops on the season Thursday night at the Detroit Red Wings, it will be Korpisalo and not Bobrovsky between the pipes. The move has everything to do with a back-to-back start to the season, Tortorella said in a radio interview, and does not indicate a change in the pecking order.

“I want Bob to play our first home one, and I think Korpi deserves more time this year,” Tortorella said in an interview on WBNS-FM (97.1).

That’s not to say Tortorella has necessarily been pleased with the play of either of his goaltenders during the preseason. In three exhibition games, Bobrovsky posted a .819 saves percentage while allowing 5.13 goals per game. Korpisalo wasn’t much better at .889 and 4.44.

Bobrovsky will be in net when the Jackets play the Carolina Hurricanes for the home opener Friday night at Nationwide Arena.

According to The Athletic’s Tom Reed, there’s some intrigue regarding Korpisalo because both Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin are a) in the last year of their respective contracts and b) stopped negotiations regarding said contracts when the Blue Jackets’ training camp began:

Fair or not, some will wonder whether the decision to start Korpisalo on Thursday is the franchise’s way of sending a message to Bobrovsky. His camp has had some talks with the club about a contract extension, but the two sides aren’t believed to be anywhere close to a deal.

Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin, the team’s top offensive star, can become free agents July 1. The storyline has dominated the summer and preseason. Asked before training camp whether he expects it to be his last season in Columbus, Bobrovsky said, “We’ll see.”

Korpisalo, who, by the way, is also entering a contract year — he’ll be a restricted free agent next summer — has tried to block out all the Bob talk and concentrate on elevating his game.

“I focus on things I can do,” said the 24-year-old Finn who’s heading into his fourth NHL season. “Those are things outside of (my control). I can’t really let them affect me.”’s Craig Merz penned a Red Wings-Blue Jackets preview which summarized the rest of the Blue Jackets’ roster situation…

The Blue Jackets will still be without two-time NHL All-Star defenseman Seth Jones while he recovers from a right knee injury sustained Sept. 25 that could keep him out another month, but there was good news on another blue liner.

Tortorella said Ryan Murray is expected to play against the Red Wings after missing much of the preseason camp with a groin injury. With Jones out, offseason signee Adam Clendening may be in the lineup.

The Blue Jackets are itching to get the season started, even if it means playing on consecutive nights.

“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.”

Left wing Anthony Duclair and center Riley Nash will make their Blue Jackets’ debuts in Detroit. They will be on the fourth line with Sonny Milano, who had 22 points (14 goals, eight assists) in 55 games as a rookie last season.

And Merz posted a prospective Blue Jackets lineup:

Blue Jackets projected lines

Artemi Panarin — Pierre-Luc Dubois — Cam Atkinson

Nick Foligno — Alexander Wennberg — Oliver Bjorkstrand

Boone JennerBrandon DubinskyJosh Anderson

Anthony Duclair — Riley Nash — Sonny Milano

Zach WerenskiDavid Savard

Ryan MurrayMarkus Nutivaara

Dean KukanAdam Clendening

Joonas Korpisalo

Sergei Bobrovsky

The Blue Jackets also posted a clip of Tortorella’s off-day comments:’s Arthur J. Regner noted the following in his Wings-Blue Jackets preview:

The Skinny: The Blue Jackets finished 45-30-7 last season, good for 97 points, which was fourth overall in the Metropolitan Division and earned them a wild card berth in the playoffs. They were eliminated in the first round in six games by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. Columbus averaged 2.88 goals per game last season, which was 17th overall in the league. Defensively they gave up 2.76 goals per game, which ranked ninth in the NHL. In one-goal games, the Blue Jackets were 23-7-7 for a winning percentage of .716.

The last time: On April 3, 2018 in Columbus, the Blue Jackets defeated the Red Wings 5-4 in overtime. At 2:55 in OT, center Pierre-Luc Dubois scored the game-winner with Murray and Oliver Bjorkstrand notching the assists. Tyler Bertuzzi’s two goals and captain Henrik Zetterberg’s three helpers paced Detroit’s offensive attack. The Wings were 0-1-2 versus Columbus last season, losing in regulation, overtime and a shootout.

STATS’ game preview will serve as our pivot point between the Blue Jackets and Red Wings‘ perspectives:

Columbus, which was eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, will also be without star defensemen Seth Jones, who will miss six to eight weeks because of a sprained MCL suffered during the preseason.

But defenseman Zach Werenski returns from shoulder surgery, which he underwent on May 3.

“I worked hard this summer, I’ve rehabbed it a long time and it’s finally coming together,” Werenski said on the team’s website.

The Blue Jackets activated defenseman Ryan Murray off injured reserve and placed defenseman Scott Harrington on injured reserve on Wednesday.

Detroit, which has missed the playoffs for the past two seasons, is injecting youth into what had been a veteran-laden roster. Five players could make their NHL debut on Thursday night.

Defensemen Dennis Cholowski, 20 and Libor Sulak, 24; and forwards Michael Rasmussen, 19; and Christoffer Ehn, 22, will definitely be in the lineup against Columbus. Defenseman Filip Hronek, 20, could be called up from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League and play, depending on injuries to veteran defensemen Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson.

Defenseman Joe Hicketts, 22, could also be called up. He played five games for the Red Wings in 2017-18.

MLive’s Ansar Khan took note of the Wings’ lines during Wednesday’s practice…

The main Red Wings news story on Wednesday involved the fact that the Wings chose to rotate four alternate captains, with Dylan Larkin (home “A”) and Frans Nielsen (away “A”) joining Justin Abdelkader and Niklas Kronwall.

As the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa noted, Larkin suggested that he’s ready to lead

Is he aware of the expectations that follow him?

“I guess, maybe there is,” he said. “You know, do I feel it? No. I think we all know the reality of Z not coming back, what that leaves for our team and the hole that he leaves. You know what? We all know that we have to chip in and contribute what he meant to this team, the offense that he produced and more of what he did off the ice, as well. And, him just being around and his presence. Our veteran guys are doing a great job of that. And, on the ice, we all need to chip in and produce what he did for us.”

Larkin’s statement revealed much about his method. Distractions are just that. Stick to the hockey. Identify reality. It is about the team, regardless. And besides, it is not like he does not goad himself.

“For me,” he continued, “I think it comes from within. I think that pressure has always been something that, since my draft year, I’ve always wanted to be better. I’ve always wanted more for myself and I want more for our team. I’ve said that a lot, and I’m excited I’ve got 82 games to prove it.”

Coach Blashill weighed in on the situation, as noted by the Free Press’s Helene St. James…

“It’s certainly a step going from not wearing an ‘A’ to wearing an ‘A,’,” Blashill said. “We’re hoping it’s not a tough season but there will certainly be tough nights in any season. I think it’s a good stepping stone for him.

“He’s a leader-type person. He’s exhibited that numerous times and I’ve seen him wear an ‘A’ at the World Championships two years and I think he’s done a real good job. I’m real comfortable he’s ready.”

It seems a natural progression to name Larkin captain next year, as this is Kronwall’s last season.  Larkin and Nielsen were not available for comment.

Nielsen, 34, wore an ‘A’ while with the New York Islanders. Now in his third season with the Wings, he is comfortable being more vocal in the locker room. But like Zetterberg, and like Nicklas Lidstrom, Nielsen’s appeal is in how he quietly does things right on and off the ice.

And’s Dana Wakiji:

Blashill compared Nielsen’s leadership style to Zetterberg’s.

“He does it right. He’s done it right forever. Anybody you talk to that was with the Islanders organization he was certainly a guy who was a great example, they thought he was a great assistant captain,” Blashill said about Nielsen. “He does it right day in and day out. He’s all about team and all about winning. He’s got a lot of qualities that Z has. I also think when you come to a new organization, it’s hard to have that strong voice early, you’re kind of feeling your way through the organization a little bit. I think this gives him a better chance to have his voice and make sure he’s, when needed, speaking up.”

With Detroit’s leadership role decided, it’s time for the Wings to set their sights on the upcoming season, which begins Thursday night at Little Caesars Arena against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“I think there’s a lot of unknowns and anytime there’s a bunch of unknowns it’s hard to put expectations out there. You’re not sure,” Blashill said. “I can tell you I felt that my first year in Grand Rapids, my first year at Indianapolis, my first year at Western Michigan. You just don’t know. All three of those years we had lots of success to great success. We’re going to potentially start four young D tomorrow if that’s what we choose. That’s a lot of unknowns. That doesn’t mean it can’t be great. It just means you’re not sure.

“Certainly, when you return four of five superstars you know where you’re going to be. Somebody asked me what our goal is. Our goal is win the game on Thursday and make sure we get better today and tomorrow and the next day. That’s the way we’ll focus on it. We’re not going to look any further past that. Once that game is over we’ll put it behind us and got to try to win the game on Sunday.”

Also of note from the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:

Defensemen Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall were both ruled out for Thursday’s opener, Blashill said.

Ericsson said he was hurt one of the first exhibition games this season and progress hasn’t been as quick as anticipated.

Kronwall left the ice early during Sunday’s practice and has been ruled day-to-day since.

Both players will travel to California this weekend, for the Wings’ games in Los Angeles (Saturday) and Anaheim (Sunday).

Meanwhile, defensemen Filip Hronek and Joe Hicketts, both of whom were assigned Tuesday to minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids, are expected to be called up by the Wings with Ericsson and Kronwall unavailable.

In the multimedia department, per the Red Wings, come Twitter videos of comments made by Andreas Athanasiou…

Jimmy Howard…

Thomas Vanek…

Jonathan Bernier…

And coach Jeff Blashill:

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.