COLUMBUS– Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Laine will play on the same line to start the preseason, Columbus Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said Monday.
“I’m going to try them right away,” Larsen said during a media luncheon at Nationwide Arena. “I want to see if there’s chemistry between the two. Again, it’s not rocket science here.”
Gaudreau signed a seven-year, $68.25 million contract ($9.75 million annual average value) with the Blue Jackets as an unrestricted free agent July 13. He finished last season tied for second in the NHL with a career-high 115 points (40 goals, 75 assists) in 82 games for the Calgary Flames.
Laine was so enthralled by the possibility of playing with Gaudreau that he signed a four-year, $34.8 million contract ($8.7 million AAV) July 23. Laine had 56 points (26 goals, 30 assists) in 56 games last season.
“I think everybody thinks that they’re going to do well together, including me,” Larsen said. “I think the more that I can use them together early, just to get to know each other a little bit. They’ve never played together.”
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The next task for Larsen is to decide which of his centers will play between Gaudreau and Laine. Boone Jenner, who is Blue Jackets captain and entering his 10th NHL season, is an option; the 29-year-old had 44 points (23 goals, 21 assists) in 59 games last season.
“I’m going to try a few guys in the middle,” Larsen said. “Who’s going to start there? I might try Boone there right away. I haven’t decided yet, but that would be my choice right out of the gate. Veteran guy and I think he could complement them.”
Other candidates to play center on the top line mentioned by Larsen are Jack Roslovic and cole sillinger. Sean Kuraly is expected to play on the third or fourth line. Roslovic, who played with Laine for the Winnipeg Jets from 2017-20, had 45 points (22 goals, 23 assists) in 81 games for Columbus last season, including 13 points (10 goals, three assists) in the final 10 games. Sillinger had 31 points (16 goals, 15 assists) in 79 games as a rookie.
“Jack plays with tremendous pace, [has] the ability to distribute and [Sillinger]he’s a young guy (19) and we’ll see what he does,” Larsen said. “He does a little bit of everything very well.”
The Blue Jackets play their first games of the preseason Sept. 25 against the Pittsburgh Penguins (split squad).