Blue Jackets right wing Nathan Horton likely will make his long-awaited season debut tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes.

“It’s not 100 percent, but there is a very good chance he will play,” coach Todd Richards said after Horton participated in an optional practice yesterday at Arena. “It may not happen, but there is a really good chance.”

Horton, the Jackets’ major offseason signing, has missed the first 40 games of the season because of reconstructive left shoulder surgery in July. He has been testing the shoulder in recent days, participating in full practice and absorbing and dishing out hits in controlled drills to gauge his readiness.

“I don’t think there is any pain at all,” Richards said. “There shouldn’t be pain. Maybe a little soreness, but that’s common.”

Horton’s debut has been long anticipated by everyone associated with the organization since he signed a seven-year, $37.1 million contract.

Richards said he had not yet settled on where to put Horton in the lineup. The Boston Bruins effectively used him on a “jumbo” line with left wing Milan Lucic and center David Krejci, and Horton would figure to fit in well alongside center Ryan Johansen.

“We’ll figure that out (today),” Richards said. “If this comes to fruition, we want him to be comfortable on the ice. But he’s going to provide some energy.