Back from injury, Jenner brings signature energy back to Blue Jackets
For the Columbus Blue Jackets, only 10 games remain in a season derailed by injuries, but there are still positives happening for the club.
With an overtime win over the Calgary Flames on Saturday, the team completed a sweep of the three western Canadian NHL teams for the first time in franchise history. They also welcomed center Boone Jenner back to the ice after a 40-game absence due to a stress fracture in his back.
In only his second year as a Jacket, Jenner is considered a valuable piece of the puzzle for the team. Last season in 72 games he had 16 goals and 13 assists and he is one of the players who sets the emotional tone game in and game out.
"Boone’s a worker," said head coach Todd Richards. "He’s a heart-and-soul type player. Every day in practice and you can see the way he plays in every shift in the game. Getting him back should help with our emotional attachment in games."
Jenner said this is the longest he’s been away from the game in his career. He spent the time while he was healing studying film to find ways to improve his game. He also worked some puzzles and did some juggling.
"I was doing whatever I could to stay in shape and keep my mind in the game," Jenner said before playing Calgary. "There’s definitely nerves, but I think it’s more excitement. I can’t wait."
Jenner – who isn’t wearing any additional protection for his back — says he feels 100 percent ready to go, and fans didn’t have to wait long to see him prove that. Less than 1:30 in to the game, Jenner careened into the goal after a collision with Flames player David Schlemko.
"It was good to get into it early, I guess," Jenner said. "I’m not going to change the way I play. (The first hit) is behind me now and I’m ready to pick up where I left off."
The Dorchester, Ontario native certainly jumped right in to the game. In 16:30 minutes of play, Jenner had four shot attempts, 1:35 of time with the penalty kill unit, three hits and won 11 of 18 faceoffs.
"We used him in different ways," Richards said. "There’s still some rust on his timing and executing systematic play, but one thing you can count on with Boone is he drives the team just by how he works. He battles and competes."
Richards and Jenner had been in communication about timing the center’s return to the ice. As Jenner joined team practices, he said they started looking at upcoming games on the schedule. The final decision came Friday as both the medical staff and Jenner confirmed he was ready to go.
Jenner said he felt good after the game, and felt good about his energy level in the 3-2 overtime win.
"To get back out there with the guys, for the third game of a three game road swing, it was awesome to be a part of," Jenner said. "It being my first game back, I enjoyed it and it felt good."
Richards said Jenner, who he calls a "key piece", met his expectations in his first game back.
"It wasn’t surprising that he worked really hard," Richards said. "I told the coaches ‘Boone’s working tonight,’ and they looked at me like, ‘What do you expect?’ That’s just how he is."
Follow Alison on twitter at @AlisonL