COLUMBUS, Ohio – The homestretch of the season is moving along with pace, gathering speed as April 11 and Game 82 draw near. And it’s not a moment too soon for the injury-decimated Blue Jackets.
After 63 games, the team has lost 406 man games due to injury. While the number, in and of itself is staggeringly high, it is the quality of the players lost that has hurt the most. Starting the season without Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner, Ryan Murray and Nathan Horton put them behind the eight-ball almost immediately. After that, it has been a revolving door all season to-and-from the ranks of the injured reserve list.
"I think the word that comes to mind is ‘disappointed’," said Ryan Johansen. "It’s not of ourselves or the team, but disappointed with how the year has gone. We went through the summer, after having a good year (last season), with so much excitement and energy."
"We just wanted to prove to teams that we’re going to be a tough team to beat. And, we want to be a team that starts contending for the Stanley Cup. But with all these injuries and injuries and injuries, the new guys and trying to find our team game, it was so tough."
The injuries this season are a contributing factor to where the team currently sits in the standings. They are 7th in the Metro Division, 14th in the Eastern Conference and 26th in the league with a record of 26-33-4.
"We would get some guys back and get some lines together," Johansen continued, "then some more injuries would happen and the lines would get all mixed up again. It’s really just disappointing all the adversity we’ve had to face."
Even newly acquired players are not immune to getting bitten by the injury bug here this year. David Clarkson, acquired in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs for Nathan Horton, tore an oblique muscle in his first game for the Blue Jackets. He was sidelined yesterday for the next four to six weeks.
"We still know that when we have our guys (healthy), we’re a dangerous team. Just knowing that if we’d had all those guys for most of this year, I really do think we’d be in a totally different position."
It really has become a season that they would much rather forget. At this point, the goal is to get through the final 19 games with no more injuries, playing good hockey and finishing on a high note with their pride intact.
"There’s not much to say about this situation except that it was unlucky and unfortunate."
Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards confirmed today that Brandon Dubinsky, out with a concussion for the last three games, will return to the lineup Friday night when they play the Devils in New Jersey. He also indicated that defenseman Kevin Connauton may make his return on Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche after missing four games with a lower-body injury.
Richards went though the list of the walking wounded and gave updates on each injured player today.
"Calvy (Matt Calvert) is doing light activity and improving, (Jeremy) Morin is skating and improving and still day-to-day, Boone (Jenner) has had some good days and is improving, Ryan Murray is the same thing (as Jenner), Jack Skille obviously had surgery. The guys that are hurt right now are improving."