After having a seven-game points streak snapped with a 3-1 loss at Chicago on Sunday night, the Columbus Blue Jackets head into a four-game homestand beginning with the Dallas Stars on Tuesday.
On the line is Columbus' share of first place in the Central Division, and the Jackets will likely enter with some much-needed additional firepower.
Forward Patrik Laine, obtained along with Columbus native Jack Roslovic in a blockbuster trade with the Winnipeg Jets for Pierre-Luc Dubois on Jan. 23, finished his 48-hour COVID-19 quarantine on Sunday and will be eligible to make his Columbus debut in Tuesday night's front end of a back-to-back with the Stars.
The 22-year-old Laine, who has scored 140 goals in 306 career games since being picked second overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, still must be activated from injured reserve (upper-body injury). The Blue Jackets did not practice on Monday.
Still, considering his career success against Dallas, it's hard to see Laine sitting this one out. He has scored 18 goals in 17 career games against the Stars, his most against any opponent. Laine has 15 career goals against St. Louis.
The Blue Jackets have struggled to put the puck in the net, ranking 28th out of 31 NHL teams with a 2.30 goals per game average. Dallas, by comparison, is second with an average of 3.83 goals per game. Columbus is tied for 27th in power play percentage at 11.5 percent.
Columbus General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen told NHL.com that Laine will provide a "weapon for the power play that we may not have had before."
"It seems like you have to change your whole power-play scheme to prepare for his shot and try to limit his chances to shoot," added defenseman Seth Jones. "He's kind of like (Alex) Ovechkin or a (Steven) Stamkos in that way. It's nice to have him on our side. I think he's going to open up more plays, not just for him shooting but for the other guys, it will give everyone a little bit more space on the ice."
Dallas, which began the season with four consecutive home victories, managed just one point in their first two games of its road trip. The Stars dropped the opener of their back-to-back at Carolina, 4-1, on Saturday and followed that up with a 4-3 shootout loss to the Hurricanes on Sunday.
The good news for the Stars is that captain Jamie Benn, out since a 7-0 season-opening victory over Nashville, returned from a lower-body injury and had a goal and an assist in Sunday's loss. He also delivered a huge hit on Carolina captain Jordan Staal early in the second period that seemed to inspire his teammates.
"He did that to get the team going, to light a fire under us," said Dallas coach Rick Bowness. "That's the type of leader he is."
Benn's wraparound goal midway through the third period gave Dallas a 3-2 lead but Carolina rallied to tie it on Nino Niederreiter's slap shot from the left circle with 2:35 left. The Hurricanes then won the shootout, 2-1, on Vincent Trocheck's goal to start the third round. Benn followed but his wrist shot was stopped by James Reimer.
"The result is obviously not what we wanted," Benn said. "They're a good team. They came out flying. I thought we got better as the game went on. We're right on the brink of being really dangerous."
(Field Level Media)