Jones’ return should boost Jackets vs. Coyotes
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The sting of a home loss during the weekend became a little more tolerable when the Columbus Blue Jackets learned that all-star Seth Jones will be available to play in Tuesday night’s game against the Arizona Coyotes at Nationwide Arena.
Jones suffered a second-degree sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during a Sept. 25 preseason game against the Buffalo Sabres and missed the first seven games of the regular season. He was activated from injured reserve on Monday.
The 24-year-old defenseman’s projected recovery was four to six weeks, but he will return to the ice less than a month after the injury.
“Obviously, (he’s) a big part of what we do,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said Monday, according to the team’s website. “He’s worked hard to get back as quickly as he’s been able to. I’m happy he’s back in.
“He does everything for us. He sets the tempo of the game, penalty killing, power play. I just can’t pick on one thing he helps us with. He’s just a complete player.”
Jones’ teammates certainly will welcome him back on the ice. Last season, he contributed 16 goals and 41 assists for 57 points with a plus-10 rating in 78 regular-season games. He tied a franchise record, also set by teammate Zach Werenski, for most goals in a season by a defenseman.
Jones will rejoin Werenski to form the Blue Jackets’ top defensive pairing. Werenski has two goals this season playing alongside David Savard.
“We read off each other and know what the other is going to do,” Werenski said of Jones. “We have the same mindset offensively. If he’s up in the play, I’m going to read off him. If I’m up he’s going to read off me. We just work well together.”
“Savvy’s not going to lose ice time. He’ll play,” Tortorella said. “He’s a big part of our back end.”
The Blue Jackets (4-3-0) and the Coyotes (2-5-0) enter the matchup after losses on Saturday. Columbus was beaten 4-1 at home by the Chicago Blackhawks. Arizona fell 5-3 on the road to the Winnipeg Jets.
Each team has something in common — a struggling power play.
The Coyotes have converted just 2 of 19 chances this season with a man advantage. That ranks 29th in the NHL.
In Saturday’s loss, they failed on a power-play opportunity with 5:38 remaining to tie the score, finishing 0 of 4 against the Jets.
The Blue Jackets were similarly frustrated by their power play against the Blackhawks, also going 0 of 4. Overall, their power play is slightly better than the Coyotes, ranking 23rd in the league (4 of 29). But at home, Columbus is just 1 of 15.
“We just couldn’t find a way to score” against Chicago, Tortorella said.
Arizona’s Clayton Keller scored two of his team-leading three goals against the Jets. He also leads the team with five points.
During Monday’s practice at Nationwide Arena, Keller was joined on the top line by center Alex Galchenyuk, who has yet to play this season because of a lower-body injury.
Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said Galchenyuk has been cleared to play and will be a game-time decision. Galchenyuk came to Arizona during the summer in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens.
“I don’t want him to think that he has to carry this team,” Tocchet said, according to the team’s website. “I don’t want him to play too fancy. That’s just going to defeat the purpose. He’s just got to be Alex Galchenyuk — play smart, go hard and shoot when you can.
“He’s got a great shot. We need that shot in the lineup.”
The Coyotes need an infusion on offense. Their 10 goals in seven games rank last in the NHL.
“He can score. He can create a lot of offense,” teammate Alex Goligoski said. “We’ve kind of been missing a little bit of that scoring touch so maybe it’s a good time for him to jump back in there.”