Two things will be different for Joonas Korpisalo this season.
First, since he needs to clear waivers to be sent to the American Hockey League, those periodic trips up I-71 to start for the Cleveland Monsters are history. He’ll have to find other ways to stay sharp as Sergei Bobrovsky’s backup, which could mean more action with the Blue Jackets.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” coach John Tortorella said on media day last week, when asked whether Korpisalo might play more this season. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I am approaching this year about trying to win hockey games as best we can. That sits well for [Korpisalo], too, because ‘Korpi’ has progressed as he’s gone about it. You’ve got to remember with ‘Korpi,’ when we’ve played him a number of games in a row, he’s played really well.”
Secondly, Bobrovsky’s contract situation could affect Korpisalo. The future beyond this season is a question mark with regard to Bobrovsky, who hasn’t reached agreement on an extension and has just this season left on his current deal.
Should Bobrovsky leave via free agency or be traded prior to July 1, 2019, Korpisalo might be the first place the Blue Jackets turn to replace him. If so, getting him more time in the NHL this season would be a good idea – one Korpisalo welcomes.
“Who doesn’t want to play more?” he said Sunday, after looking much sharper in his second scrimmage of training camp. “I’ve got to earn it and I think I’m better than last year. I’m fully confident I’m going to play better and earn some more games that way.”
Korpisalo appeared in 18 games in 2017-18, going 8-8-1 with a 3.32 goals-against average and .897 save percentage. Those numbers aren’t elite, but he did have some impressive stretches – including three key wins during the Jackets’ season-high 10-game winning streak in March, which ultimately catapulted them into the playoffs.
“For me, the goal is to make sure that, well, you never know what happens,” Korpisalo said. “So, I try to prove that I’m a guy who can take the No.1 job if something happens or take over right now. That’s pretty much it. Just work hard and prove yourself and earn wins for the team. That’s it.”