NEW YORK -- The Columbus Blue Jackets received some great news Monday. Franchise goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will start against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden after missing 14 games with a groin injury. And his return couldn't have come at a better time.
Columbus sits seventh in the Metropolitan Division with 44 points but trail the third-place Washington Capitals by six points and the fifth-place Rangers by four. Bobrovsky returns at the beginning of a crucial stretch that will see Columbus play four of its next five games against divisional opponents and nine of its next 13 at home.
"This would be huge. These are the games you're going to look back at the end of the season. We know that," said forward Nick Foligno, who couldn't help but smile when asked about Bobrovsky's return. "It's great. He's worked hard to get himself healthy. He's a big part of this team, a great goaltender. We're excited to get him back. It's a big boost for our team."
The Blue Jackets should have some confidence heading into their game at MSG. The last time they played there on Dec. 12, they raced out to a 3-0 first-period lead and chased Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist before winning 4-2 despite playing without Bobrovsky and losing starter Curtis McElhinney to an injury. That one-sided win will likely motivate both teams heading into the game Monday.
"It's a divisional game and we're looking up at them in the standings," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "We were just here and had some success. I think that's something we can build off of, but they're probably using that for motivation."