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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, October 4th (All times Eastern)
Calgary Flames (0-0-1) at Columbus Blue Jackets (0-0-0), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Columbus Blue Jackets saw first hand last season just how damaging a slow start can be.
The Blue Jackets try to get off to a better start on Friday night when they open up their season at home against the Calgary Flames.
Aiming for just their second postseason berth in franchise history, the Blue Jackets finished the lockout-shortened season tied with the Minnesota Wild for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. However, the Wild had three more non-shootout wins to earn the tiebreaker and send the Jackets home early yet again.
Columbus wrapped the shortened season 19-5-3, but that came after a 5-12-4 start.
The Blue Jackets had a much more positive offseason than the previous summer, when they dealt superstar Rick Nash to the New York Rangers. They added Marian Gaborik in-season from the Rangers during the shortened campaign and signed Nathan Horton to a seven-year deal.
Horton, though, isn't expected to be ready for game action until around December due to offseason shoulder surgery.
Columbus will have a full season of Gaborik, a three-time 40-goal scorer who fell out of favor in the Big Apple, and also return reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky to net.
Bobrovsky was acquired prior to last season from the Philadelphia Flyers for draft picks and eventually took over the full-time job from Steve Mason, who was later traded to the Flyers in a separate deal. Bobrovsky won eight of his final nine starts and went 21-11-6 in the campaign with a 2.00 goals against average, .932 save percentage and a career-high four shutouts.
Bobrovsky posted a 1.64 GAA and .945 save percentage in 20 games at home last season and gets the call tonight for Columbus' Eastern Conference debut. The Blue Jackets shifted to a new conference and division following realignment as they now reside in the Metropolitan Division.
However, they'll face a former Western Conference foe in the Flames, who the Blue Jackets are 5-0-2 against the in last previous seven meetings.
Columbus is 4-2-0 in its last six season openers and begin the campaign without forward Jared Boll due to an upper body injury. Defenseman Fedor Tyutin is questionable because of a lower body issue.
The Jackets play five of their next six on the road following this game, while the Flames wrap a two-game swing to open the season with this stop in Ohio.
Calgary had a pair of early three-goal leads versus Washington, but the Capitals rallied and eventually won a 5-4 shootout decision.
The Flames lost their season opener for the fourth straight year despite goals from David Jones, Lee Stempniak and Jiri Hudler in the first 16:22 of the game.
"Very happy with the effort, obviously disappointed with the result," said Flames coach Bob Hartley. "Just don't be glad to be in the NHL, when you have a 3-0 lead, you have to find a way to keep it."
Karri Ramo, in his first regular-season NHL game since April 11, 2009, gave up four goals on 39 shots for the Flames. Lance Bouma also scored in the loss, while captain Mark Giordano had two assists.
Calgary begins a three-game residency with its home opener versus Vancouver on Sunday.
10/04 10:52:01 ET