CBJ morning skate: Murray back, Foligno out

Dec 9, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray (27) handles the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Charles LeClaire/Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

After a huge win last night in Philadelphia, the Blue Jackets held an optional skate this morning in advance of tonight’s tilt with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Under the watchful eye of goaltending coach Ian Clark, nine players took to the ice of Nationwide Arena. With goalie Curtis McElhinney between the pipes, forwards Jared Boll, Matt Frattin and Corey Tropp, as well as defensemen David Savard, Nikita Nikitin, Nick Schultz, Tim Erixon and Ryan Murray took part in the optional skate.

Rookie defenseman Ryan Murray, who was not expected to return from knee surgery until the first round of the playoffs, makes his return to the lineup tonight.

"Ryan is coming back in," said head coach Todd Richards. "He’s recovered and ready to go. He’s a guy that is a big part of this team. He was a guy that came into camp, we weren’t really sure if this guy was going to make the team, and did nothing but impress.

"His game’s gotten better and better. It was unfortunate with the injury, but he’s a big part of this team, a big reason why we’ve had success."

Asked what the expectations for Murray’s play tonight, Richards said, "The expectations are for him to step right back in. The reason why I say that is because he’s a smart player, a smart kid. Obviously his physical talent is there, but he thinks the game really well. I think that’s what allows him to be the player that he is. He puts himself in a position to make plays."

Forward Nick Foligno, suffering from a lower-body injury sustained last night, is out of the lineup "more than likely through the rest of the regular season," said Richards. He said that Foligno could return for postseason play. Matt Frattin draws in as Foligno’s replacement.

"They said four to six (weeks)," said Murray. "It’s four instead of six, which is good. It (knee) feels strong, feels solid." This is a testament to his youth and the fact that it was a serious, but not too serious, injury.

Asked if it was tougher to sit out this year, in the midst of a playoff race, versus last year rehabbing from major surgery, he said, "You always want to be there when the games matter. I’m just thankful that I got back before the end of the year and do what I can to contribute."

Sergei Bobrovsky, fresh off his fourth shutout of the season, will be back between the pipes for Columbus. The probable goalie for Chicago will be backup Antti Raanta. The Blackhawks are also missing forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and defenseman Johnny Oduya to injury.