G Bobrovsky sits for Blue Jackets' opener against Red Wings
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DETROIT -- Controversy abounds for the Columbus Blue Jackets as they prepare to open the 2018-19 NHL season against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night at Little Caesars Arena.
There had already rampant speculation about the future of Columbus goaltender and two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky and left winger and 2017-18 team leading scorer Artemi Panarin. Both are in the final season of their contracts and failed to sign extensions during the summer.
And on Wednesday, coach John Tortorella told Columbus radio station 97.1 The Fan that he will start backup goaltender Joonas Korpisalo on Thursday night instead of Bobrovsky, who struggled during the preseason.
Tortella said Bobrovsky will play in the Blue Jackets' home opener against Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night at Nationwide Arena. .
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.
Cholowski was the most impressive of the rookies during the preseason. He averaged more than 20 minutes in six games, including considerable power play and penalty kill time. Cholowski had two goals and four assists for six points and was plus-5.
"I've liked him lots, I like his skill set, I like what he's good at, we need what he's good at it," Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said on www.mlive.com about Cholowski. "Pro experience matters, but so does talent. So if he's good enough and can make an impact, he should be here."
This is Cholowski's first pro season after being Detroit's first-round pick (20th overall) in 2016.
Red Wings defenseman Mike Green will be out for more than a month, according to Blashill, as he recovers from a virus that attacked his liver during the preseason.
With the retirement of captain Henrik Zetterberg because of a bad back at the beginning of training camp, Detroit named two more alternate captains on Wednesday.
Center Dylan Larkin will wear an "A" during home games and center Frans Nielsen will be the third alternate captain for road games. They join Kronwall and left winger Justin Abdelkader as alternate captains.
Larkin, 22, led Detroit with 63 points last season and signed five-year, $30.5 million extension during the offseason.
"I think his basic leadership skills are on the ice," Nielsen said about Larkin. "The way he brings it and the way he competes every night."
Larkin is expected to be the Red Wings' next captain.
Updated October 3, 2018