Twenty-eight games in and the Blue Jackets (11-14-3) have reached the “crux of the biscuit” part of their season. Between injuries, players who have stepped-up and others who have not, fans are left wondering how this impacts an already up and down season.
With goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (groin strain) joining the ranks on the Injured Reserve list, this was the latest blow to a team that has already lost over 100 man games due to injury. He joins Nathan Horton, Marian Gaborik and Jared Boll. For the next 12-15 games, 30 year old back-up goalie Curtis McElhinney will have to carry the load.
In 8 appearances for Columbus, he has a save percentage of .925 and a goals against average of 2.34 while going 1-3-1. The team has expressed confidence in playing in front McElhinney.
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Called up from the Blue Jackets AHL-affiliate Springfield Falcons on Wednesday, goalie Mike McKenna will serve as McElhinney’s back-up. In 8 games for the Falcons this season, McKenna is 6-2-0 while touting a .943 save percentage and a 1.45 goals against average. He’s also recorded two shutouts for Springfield this season. For the month of November, he was named the AHL’s “Goaltender of the Month”, going 4-1-0, 1.16 GAA and .950 SV%.
Derek MacKenzie was activated off the Injured Reserve list yesterday after missing the last five games with a strained back dating to November 22 in the game against the Vancouver Canucks on the long Canadian road trip. The “old man” of the club at the ripe old age of 32 should be on the ice for the game tonight against the visiting Minnesota Wild. With DMac in the lineup and the Corey Tropp (Let’s Get Tropp-ical!!), Michael Chaput was reassigned to Springfield.
With McElhinney, MacKenzie and McKenna all in Columbus, what you have now is a “Royale with Cheese”. Does having two “Mac’s” and an “Mc” on the roster constitute a “Big Mac Attack”?
With Bobrovsky sidelined for the next 4-5 weeks, the short-sighted might say that the bell is tolling on the Blue Jackets season. The win-loss-win-loss streak stands at 10 games with Columbus being consistently inconsistent. The guys in the room need to dig deep within themselves and withstand the temperatures within this crucible. They’ve showed that they can do this. It’s time to step-up, once again.
The Metropolitan Division is not as strong as was thought it would be in the off-season. Yes, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the clear frontrunner with 41 points. But, only 9 points separate second from eighth place. The Blue Jackets currently sit in 7th place, yet only five points out of 2nd/3rd. With 54 games remaining on the regular season schedule, a nice winning streak would go a long way to improving their standing and begin their climb up the division ladder.
For this to happen, the confidence in their game and will to succeed has to be forefront in their collective psyche. Nothing can be tentative at this point of the season. It’s that time of year where separation begins to occur between the teams that have the fortitude to make a run for the playoffs and the teams that will end up at the bottom of the proverbial barrel. The next few games should give a better picture of which team the Columbus Blue Jackets are. Short Shifts
• Two Columbus prospects, Kerby Rychel and Josh Anderson have been invited to the Canadian National Junior team selection camp in advance of the World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden (Dec 26 – Jan 5). Rychel was traded by his father Warren Rychel, General Manager of the Windsor Spitfires, to the Guelph Storm for a player and 8 OHL draft picks. While with the Spitfires this season, Rychel had 16 goals and 23 assists. Rychel was drafted 19th overall while Anderson was drafted 95th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by Columbus.
• Yesterday, the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation announced their selection camp roster for the World Junior Championship. Two Columbus prospects, goalie Oscar Dansk (31st overall, 2012 draft) and center Alexander Wennberg (14th overall, 2013 draft), have been invited to participate in the selection process.