Well, it’s official: The Florida Panthers have landed in Columbus and it looks like they will play the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
After having four of their first six games postponed because of COVID-19, check back later Tuesday just to make sure.
The Panthers have only played two games in 2021, beating the Chicago Blackhawks at home after their first two games against Dallas were postponed.
Following the Chicago series, a COVID-19 outbreak on the Carolina Hurricanes postponed what would have been a two-game trip to Raleigh.
So, the Panthers adjusted and spent that time practicing and scrimmaging and otherwise getting ready while other teams went about their business of actually playing games.
It looks like Tuesday night’s game is a go but, well, we shall see.
The Panthers hope all this time off doesn’t affect them on the ice against teams — like Columbus — who have quite a few more games under their skates.
“We were a little concerned about that going into the Chicago series and a little bit more so going into this series,” coach Joel Quenneville said.
“We do have a couple of games to reflect back on, I liked the way we started the second game. That’s the recipe for our team moving forward. We have to be ready to play, be quick, move well together. That’s the way we expect Columbus to play, everyone in our division to play. …
“Now, I think it’s up to us to get up to that consistent pace, a routine. Whether it takes five minutes, 10 minutes at the start to catch up … keep it simple, keep in the play and I think we’ll be back in it pretty rapidly.”
The Jackets opened their season with four on the road at Nashville and Detroit before coming home and going 1-0-1 against the Lightning.
Columbus made a big trade on Saturday, acquiring Patric Laine and Jack Roslovic in exchange for center Pierre-Luc Dubois.
On Monday, coach John Tortorella said Roslovic would not play against the Panthers on Tuesday and Laine is not expected to be in the Jackets’ lineup until the weekend at earliest.
Florida went 1-1-1 against Columbus last season and haven’t won at Nationwide Arena since Jonathan Huberdeau and Sasha Barkov scored and Al Montoya made 22 saves to lead the Panthers to a shootout win on Dec. 4, 2015.
Columbus has a 14-game point streak against the Panthers at Nationwide (13-0-1) and has won nine of the past 10 against the Panthers overall.
Florida got that one win in Sergei Bobrovsky’s first game against his old teammates at BB&T Center last December.
The Panthers are expected to ice basically the same lineup as they did last Tuesday against the Blackhawks with one minor move as defenseman Riley Stillman will be replaced by Gustav Forsling.
Bobrovsky, who spent seven seasons in Columbus before leaving for Florida as a free agent in 2019, will be back in net as he makes his second start of the season.
Florida Panthers at Columbus Blue Jackets
When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where: Nationwide Arena; Columbus, Ohio
Records: Florida 2-0-0; Columbus 2-2-2
All-time series: Columbus leads 23-8-0-2
Season series: First of eight meetings
Last season: Columbus won two of three
Up next: Florida at Columbus, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Wheels up to Columbus!
We've got business to attend to. ✈️ pic.twitter.com/O3z2d5Q3OU
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) January 25, 2021
Projected Florida Panthers lines
23 Carter Verhaeghe — 16 Sasha Barkov — 91 Anthony Duclair
11 Jonathan Huberdeau — 21 Alexander Wennberg — 70 Patric Hornqvist
77 Frank Vatrano —27 Eetu Luostarinen — 74 Owen Tippett
13 Vinnie Hinostroza — 55 Noel Acciari — 10 Brett Connolly
52 MacKenzie Weegar — 5 Aaron Ekblad
42 Gustav Forsling — 6 Anton Stralman
3 Keith Yandle — 7 Radko Gudas
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
60 Chris Driedger
Likely scratches: F Ryan Lomberg, D Noah Juulsen, F Juho Lammikko
Taxi squad: D Kevin Connauton, F Mason Marchment, F Aleksi Heponiemi, G Philippe Desrosiers
Inactive: D Markus Nutivaara
Florida power play (3/8, 37.5% fifth in NHL)
PP1: Sasha Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Patric Hornqvist, Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle
PP2: Alexander Wennberg, Owen Tippett, Anthony Duclair, Carter Verhaeghe, Gustav Forsling
Projected Columbus Blue Jackets lines
71 Nick Foligno — 16 Max Domi — 13 Cam Atkinson
38 Boone Jenner — 42 Alexandre Texier — 28 Oliver Bjorkstrand
50 Eric Robinson — 9 Mikko Koivu — 19 Liam Foudy
25 Mikhail Grigorenko — 20 Riley Nash — 24 Nathan Gerbe
8 Zach Werenski — 3 Seth Jones
44 Vladislav Gavrikov — 58 David Savard
15 Michael Del Zotto — 46 Dean Kukan
70 Joonas Korpisalo
90 Elvis Merzlikins
Columbus power play (1/13 7.7% 28th in NHL)
PP1: Boone Jenner, Nick Foligno, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones
PP2: Alexandre Texier, Mikko Koivu, Mikhail Grigorenko, Max Domi, Zach Werenski