Laine makes debut for Blue Jackets against Stars

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Patrik Laine is playing his first game for the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Dallas Stars at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; FS-O, FS-SW, NHL.TV).

The forward and center Jack Roslovic were acquired by the Blue Jackets on Jan. 23 in a trade with the Jets for forward Pierre-Luc Dubois and a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.

“Really excited to get the new jersey on and play for this team now,” Laine said. “Hopefully, I can bring my abilities and my strengths into the lineup and hopefully get a lot of wins.”

Laine was expected to play on a line with center Alexandre Texier and Cam Atkinson during the morning skate Tuesday.

“Everybody knows this team hasn’t scored a lot of goals, but I never take pressure,” he said. “I only always put pressure on myself. I don’t care about the expectations that come with that. I only care about the coaches, what the guys in the locker room think.

“That’s the only thing I care about, and the pressure around myself, I think that makes me great out there, always wanting to be better, be the best out there.”

The Columbus offense has averaged 2.30 goals per game, 28th in the NHL.

“He’s an offensive player,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said of Laine. “We’ve had struggles scoring goals. There’s no question we need to score some goals. … This guy can score some goals. He’s certainly a welcome addition to the team.

“I just want him to worry about his game. If he worries about his game and plays the way he can play, and scores like he does, he’s going to lift us.”

Tweet from @BlueJacketsNHL: LAINE’S IN 😍 pic.twitter.com/o47Ihaq0CD

Laine worked with the first power-play unit during the morning skate.

“We’re all excited to have him in our lineup, just knowing what he’s capable of doing,” Atkinson said. “He showed that a little bit on the power play this morning.

“He’s going to get a lot of attention. He likes to make plays, small-area plays as well. Obviously he likes to score goals, but he can make some really nice passes as well, so just a lot of energy on the line.”

Laine had not played since the Jets’ season opener Jan. 14, a 4-3 overtime win against the Calgary Flames. He scored two goals and had an assist but was out for the next three games because of an upper-body injury. He was placed on injured reserve by the Jets the day before the trade and then had to sit out due to visa issues and quarantine rules related to crossing the Canada-United States border. 

“The challenge is getting back after two weeks,” Laine said. “Keep the shifts shorts, play simple. The hands are definitely not there, but they’ll come eventually. I’m not going to come and play if I’m not going to be myself. I’m going to play like I played against Calgary my last game and I’m going to fight as hard as I can.”

Laine’s agent, Mike Liut, suggested during the offseason a trade might be best for Laine, who is playing the final season of a two-year, $13.5 million contract ($6.75 million average annual value) he agreed to Sept. 27, 2019 and can become a restricted free agent after this season.

The trade was made two days after Dubois was benched and played an NHL-career low 3:55 in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. On Jan. 13, Tortorella confirmed Dubois told the Blue Jackets he no longer wanted to play for them.

Columbus was 4-3-3 this season, 3-1-1 since the trade. 

Roslovic had one assist in three games since debuting with the Blue Jackets on Jan. 28. Dubois has yet to play for Winnipeg because of quaratnine rules.

“It’s still weird to see all the new faces in the locker room,” Laine said, “and everything is new around here for me … but it’s getting more and more comfortable every day and getting to know the guys. I’m sure it will be fine after a little bit of time.”

Laine was the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, between Auston Matthews (No. 1, Toronto Maple Leafs) and Dubois. Laine has scored 140 goals in his five seasons, 10th in the NHL over that span, and scored 63 points (28 goals, 35 assists) in 68 games last season, his fewest goals in his first four NHL seasons, but his points-per-game average (0.93) was his highest.

“I can tell you right from the draft, we drafted Pierre-Luc at No. 3 and Patrik Laine was No. 2 and we would’ve given a lot to move up from 3 to 2 at that time and we’re very excited to have Patrik Laine join us,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said the day of the trade. “There’s a price to be paid for an elite player like he is, and I think Jack Roslovic is going to be a huge part of this whole trade. He’s a guy that we wanted to draft, couldn’t get it done, obviously.”

Tortorella said his first impressions of Laine following the trade were positive.

“He’s a good guy to be around,” Tortorella said. “In my phone calls with him, I’ve enjoyed talking to him. He presents himself and has thoughts. He certainly is willing to give his opinion on things, which I think is very good. When the deal was made the guys were excited. They knew they were getting a goal scorer.

“What goes disguised a little bit and is lost because of how he can score, and how he does score, I mean, he buries the puck when he scores, but from what I understand he’s a very good playmaker. He is good with the puck, so he may make people better around him.”

Laine said his impressions of Tortorella have been positive also.

“Everybody has heard stories about him but he seems like a really good guy, a really good coach,” Laine said. “He’s been in the League a long time and definitely knows what he’s doing, a guy who is going to do everything to make his team win.”

NHL.com independent correspondent Craig Merz contributed to this report

Photo courtesy of Anthony Allocco with the Columbus Blue Jackets

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