Banged up Blue Jackets try to thwart Toronto’s momentum
The banged-up Columbus Blue Jackets were having enough trouble keeping the puck out of their own net, and as might be expected, it got no better in their first game without Sergei Bobrovsky.
The injury-depleted team’s next opportunity to correct things without its sidelined goaltender – among others – comes Friday night at home against a Toronto Maple Leafs club coming off its most dominant effort of the season.
After Tuesday’s 5-2 home loss to Ottawa, Columbus (4-5-0) has allowed 18 goals in four games, a 1-3-0 stretch that has erased a more promising start to the season.
Bobrovsky sat out with a broken finger suffered in practice Monday and will miss at least a week, but the injury problems go far deeper.
Center Artem Anisimov left the game in the second period after a hit to the head and is day to day with a concussion. Defenseman James Wisniewski broke a finger in the third, landed on injured reserve Thursday and will miss at least a week. Center Mark Letestu was also placed on IR with a groin injury and is expected to miss at least two weeks.
Nick Foligno (neck) didn’t play against his former team and is day to day, while Boone Jenner, Brandon Dubinsky, Nathan Horton and Matt Calvert have also been sidelined.
"Whether I’ve done something or someone’s done something to the hockey gods, I’ve never seen any like this," coach Todd Richards said. "It seems like every time we play a game somebody is getting hurt. At least that’s what it feels like right now."
The impact has been felt on special teams. After beginning the season by killing off all 11 short-handed situations, the Blue Jackets have killed 11 of 17 (64.7 percent) in the last four games.
Curtis McElhinney, just back from a neck injury, made 29 saves Tuesday. He’s 0-1-0 with a 4.83 goals-against average in two games this season, while recently recalled Anton Forsberg awaits his NHL debut.
On a positive note, Ryan Johansen recorded an assist to extend his season-opening point streak to nine games with five goals and seven assists.
Toronto (4-4-1) had less to worry about after Tuesday’s 4-0 home win over Buffalo. The Maple Leafs outshot the Sabres 37-10, the Buffalo mark being the lowest in a game since Vancouver had 10 in 2008-09. It matched a franchise low in shots faced for Toronto.
Jonathan Bernier earned the shutout after posting a 3.38 GAA though his first six games.
In addition to the stellar defensive effort, Toronto broke through on the power play after going 0 for 19 over its previous five games. Tyler Bozak’s second-period goal opened the scoring and snapped the special-teams drought.
"You just got to stick with it," forward Phil Kessel said. "I thought we stuck with it, and then eventually it breaks and we were able to get a couple goals after that."
Bozak and Kessel had a goal and an assist apiece and Rielly added two assists. Kessel has three goals and two assists in the past three games.
Columbus swept last season’s three-game series with a 13-3 scoring advantage. Johansen had three goals and an assist, and Foligno totaled a goal and four assists.
The Blue Jackets recalled forwards Brian Gibbons and Sean Collins from Springfield of the AHL to fill out their patchwork roster.