James Wisniewski will finally make his debut for the Blue Jackets when they host the Detroit Red Wings tonight at Nationwide Arena. Columbus is hoping the defenseman's presence can help the club claim its first win of the season.
Wisniewski came to Columbus this summer when he joined the organization with the signing of a six-year, $33 million contract. However, the American blueliner was forced to sit out the first eight games of the regular season due to a suspension for a hit to the head of Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck in an exhibition contest.
Things did not go smoothly without Wisniewski in the lineup, as 0-7-1 Columbus is off to its worst-ever start to a season.
Wisniewski had 10 goals and 51 points in 75 combined games with Montreal and the Islanders last year and is hoping to bring some much-needed firepower to the Columbus blue line.
"We brought him in here for a reason," Columbus head coach Scott Arniel told his team's website. "He's pretty excited about getting back and playing and helping us however he can. We're not sitting back and waiting for James Wisniewski to be the sole answer here, but this guy knows how to play back there."
The Blue Jackets took a 3-2 lead into the final minute of their most recent game, but Columbus lost in regulation after allowing goals to Ottawa's Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek in the final 36 seconds. Michalek's game-winner came with just five seconds left and lifted Ottawa to the 4-3 decision at Scotiabank Place.
"I feel for these guys," said Arniel. "Everybody stuck to what they had to do, we got a lead and it's so disappointing for these guys. They put it all on the line."
That loss dropped Columbus to 0-4 on the road and the Blue Jackets are just 0-3-1 on home ice.
Tonight's test marks the second meeting between Detroit and Columbus in less than a week. The Red Wings posted a 5-2 victory over the Blue Jackets in the Motor City on Friday, giving Detroit wins in eight of 10 and 11 of the last 14 encounters with Columbus. The Wings have also come out on top in three of four and five of their last seven games at Nationwide Arena.
Detroit suffered its first loss of the season in its last outing, as the Washington Capitals destroyed the visiting Red Wings by a 7-1 score. The game was billed as a classic battle between unbeaten teams, but Washington wound up leaving the Wings in the dust. The Caps are off to their best-ever start at 7-0, while Saturday's setback caused Detroit (5-1-0) to fall one win shy of matching its franchise record for wins to begin a season.
Mike Green had two power-play goals and two assists to lead the rout of the Red Wings, who had outscored the opposition this season by an 18-7 margin before running into the Caps.
The lone bright spot for the Red Wings was defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who became just the 14th player in NHL history to play in 1,500 regular season games. The Swede, who has spent his entire career in Detroit, had an assist in the loss.
His milestone came in Detroit's poorest showing by far this season.
"It shows that if you don't play your best you're going to lose and if you play against a good team they're going to hurt you," said Lidstrom. "They stuck with it for the full 60 minutes and I thought we had some let downs late in the game to let them score some goals."
Ty Conklin surrendered all seven goals on just 25 shots, but is expected to start again tonight as No. 1 netminder Jimmy Howard will miss this evening's tilt to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Joey MacDonald was recalled from Grand Rapids of the AHL to fill Howard's roster spot.