Patrik Laine, out 3-4 weeks, who will step in for the Columbus Blue Jackets?

Photo Credit: Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
The Blue Jackets need to fill the hole left by Patrik Laine's injury; Getty Images

The Johnny Gaudreau/ Patrik Laine show has been postponed. During Wednesday night’s season opener against the Carolina Hurricanes, Laine suffered a sprained elbow and will be sidelined for 3-4 weeks. Both Laine and the Blue Jackets dodged a bullet, as the injury could have been worse.

Patrik Laine scored the lone goal for the Blue Jackets in a 4-1 loss to the Hurricanes. Laine was injured in the second period when his elbow hyperextended. An MRI yesterday showed while the left winger will miss multiple weeks, the injury is not as bad as first feared. No ligaments were damaged, and no bones slipped out of place.

In his absence, the Blue Jackets need to move a player to the top line. But who? During the game against the Hurricanes, Jakub Voracek was moved from the second line to the top line. However, that was short-lived. Like Johnny Gaudreau, Voracek is a playmaker and one of the top passers in the NHL. So two good passers/playmakers lead to one shot on goal.

Enter Yegor Chinakhov; all he did was lead the NHL in preseason games with six. Yes, I realize it was preseason, yet Chinakhov had the hot hand, so he was moved up. Chinakhov is expected to start on the top line when the team opens up Friday night at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

What happens if Chinakhov falters? The Blue Jackets would have a tough call to make. Perhaps, they could move Gustav Nyquist to the top line. He has played there in the past when the team was dealing with an injury. Another candidate (however slim) would be Kent Johnson. Johnson centered the Blue Jackets top line during preseason games and did a nice job.

Continuing with the Kent, Johnson thought the Blue Jackets could move Johnson to center and captain Boone Jenner back to wing to go along with Gaudreau. How Johnson responds to regular seasons games as a top-line center would dictate the possible shift.

November 4-5, the Blue Jackets travel to Patrik Laine’s hometown of Tampere, Finland, to play the Colorado Avalanche. This would be the three-week mark in the 3-4 weeks he will miss. The best-case scenario is that Laine is back in 3 weeks. The most important and pressing need is just to get him healthy.

While it is not an ideal start to the season, perhaps this is a blessing in disguise. It will press young players into a larger role. It will be up to them to meet the challenge and show they can rely on more.

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