Jean-Francois Berube is a familiar face around the Blue Jackets.
The veteran goaltender was part of the organization in 2018-19, serving a few stints as the backup goaltender but mostly playing in Cleveland. He rejoined the organization this season and has been up a few times because of injuries, though he’s only played for the Monsters this season.
But now, his chance has arrived. With both Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo out with lower-body injuries, Berube is slated make his first NHL start since April 6, 2018, and his first CBJ appearance tonight against Buffalo in Nationwide Arena.
The 30-year-old Quebec native has played in 34 NHL games over three seasons with Chicago and the New York Islanders, making 23 starts and posting a 3.39 GAA and .898 save percentage. He has played in 240 AHL games in his career over 11 seasons as well.
“It’s been a long time since I was back in the NHL, and obviously I am more than ready for this opportunity and I’ll make the best of it,” he said. “I’m always preparing to be back. I know I am just a call away from being back here, so my preparation has been the same and it’s just another hockey game for me.”
This will be nothing new to the Blue Jackets, though, who have seen players go in and out of the lineup all season with both injury and COVID protocols. Columbus is coming off a franchise-best 4-1 road trip, something accomplished without regulars like Alexandre Texier, Eric Robinson and Jake Bean, who are all out extended time because of injury.
“To go 4-1 with some key guys out — people don’t talk about Robinson and Texier and Jake Bean, guys that play a lot of minutes for us, that weren’t on that trip for us,” head coach Brad Larsen said. “Guys had to step up, and we found ways to win starting with a big game in Washington and coming off a break where you had one practice. That’s it. You put that all together, it’s great.
“I told the guys, feel good about themselves, but that’s over with. It’s done and we have a game tonight against Buffalo.”
3 Keys to the Game
Protect your goalie: Berube is a pro, but it will still be his first NHL action in nearly four years, so the Jackets will want to make it as easy as possible on him to work his way into the game.
Keep on scoring: Sounds easy enough, right? But the Jackets are coming off a seven-goal game and have 11 tallies in two games this year vs. Buffalo. It’s a great night to keep that going.
No easy games: Coming off a historic road swing, it would be easy for the Jackets to be patting themselves on the back, especially facing a team out of the playoff race. But Columbus must bring it for 60 minutes against the Sabres tonight.
Columbus has won six of eight overall. … Patrik Laine has stayed red hot, extending his point streak to eight games (his most in Columbus) with his first CBJ hat trick Thursday in Chicago. He has a 10-6-16 line in those contests and six multipoint games in that span. … Laine topped the 300-point mark with the hat trick in his career (166-134-302), while Oliver Bjorkstrand is two goals from 100 in his CBJ/NHL career. … CBJ captain Boone Jenner became the first CBJ player to 20 goals on the season when he tallied in Chicago and has an 8-9-17 line in the last 16 games. … Gustav Nyquist has an 8-12-20 line in the last 21 games and seven multipoint contests in the last 19. He also has four shorthanded goals on the season, tied for first in the NHL with Florida’s Aleksandar Barkov and Anaheim’s Isac Lundestrom. … Max Domi is one goal from 100, one assist from 200 and two points from 300 in his NHL career. … Vladislav Gavrikov played a career-high 27:44 in the win Thursday in Chicago. … Columbus has killed off 43 of 49 opponent power-play chances over the last 16 games (87.8 percent). The club ranks fifth in the NHL in penalty kill percentage since Jan. 8. … The Blue Jackets have trailed in 14 of their 24 wins this year and have six wins when trailing after two periods, tied with Florida for most in the NHL. … The Blue Jackets have picked up points in the last six meetings (4-0-2) and 12 of the past 15 games of the series (10-3-2) following their 4-3 OT win on Feb. 8.
(Subject to change)
Patrik Laine – Boone Jenner – Jakub Voracek
Gus Nyquist – Cole Sillinger – Oliver Bjorkstrand
Max Domi – Sean Kuraly – Yegor Chinakhov
Brendan Gaunce – Jack Roslovic – Justin Danforth
Zach Werenski – Andrew Peeke
Vladislav Gavrikov – Adam Boqvist
Gavin Bayreuther – Dean Kukan
Jean Francois-Berube (confirmed starter)
Scratches: Gabriel Carlsson, Elvis Merzlikins, Joonas Korpisalo
Injured Reserve: Daniil Tarasov (lower body; out indefinitely as of Jan. 4); Alexandre Texier (fractured finger; out four weeks as of Jan. 27), Jake Bean (groin strain; out four weeks as of Jan. 30); Eric Robinson (knee; out six weeks as of Jan. 31)
COVID protocol: Emil Bemstrom
Roster Report: With both Merzlikins and Korpisalo fighting lower-body injuries, Berube will make his first start as a Jacket, while Danforth goes in for Trey Fix-Wolansky. The latter forward had played five straight games but was sent to AHL Cleveland on Saturday. Greaves was signed Sunday and will serve as the backup after playing in 13 games with AHL Cleveland.
This Day in CBJ History
Feb. 20, 2004: For the first time in franchise history, all four of the Blue Jackets’ first round picks play in the same game. Rostislav Klesla, Pascal Leclaire, Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev play as the Jackets lose 3-2 at Phoenix in Leclaire’s first-ever NHL game.
Feb. 20, 2021: Gabriel Carlsson scores his first career NHL goal in a 4-2 loss at Nashville.