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CBJ Today: Life in a bubble

Oliver Bjorkstrand's new reality once again proves the toughness of hockey players

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Each weekday this season, BlueJackets.com will post CBJ Today, a look at news, notes, analysis and fun stuff from around the Blue Jackets world. It's everything you need to know if you're a fan going into the day. 

The Daily Buzz 

It's a busy week for the Blue Jackets, starting tonight as a contest in Florida kicks off a back-to-back against the Panthers in Sunrise. Columbus will play three games in four days, with a contest Thursday against Tampa Bay, before getting a bit of a reprieve with no games until Sunday. Just 10 games remain in the regular season; it will be seven by Thursday night. 

Bjorkstrand's Bubble 

One of the things that has always fascinated me about high-level hockey players is how much they disdain playing with a facial covering. 

Maybe it's because I play D-League hockey, where sticks and pucks and other body parts are flying all over the place from people who may or may not be able to stop. Or maybe it's because I have a day job that doesn't entail taking rubber discs to the face all that often. 

But in hockey, that's just part of the deal, and that peripheral vision is important enough to players at the highest level that they'll handle the danger as simply part of the job description. The stereotype of the hockey player missing teeth is real, and we've seen it plenty of times over the years; I remember Alexander Wennberg's mug losing a tooth last season, and Andrew Peeke having a tooth knocked out and then put back in during a game his rookie year. 

Those are just two examples of what can happen when a puck meets face, while the injury Oliver Bjorkstrand suffered Thursday night in Dallas was a different spot - a cut on the top of the nose that also left the Danish winger with a black eye, all when a clearing attempt by the Stars caught him up high. 

Yet he missed just a few minutes of game time, with the gash on his nose stitched up between periods. Bjorkstrand returned to the ice with a cotton swab up his nose and a full cage protecting his face, a necessary requirement given the situation but one he did not find particularly enjoyable.  

So in Saturday's game, Bjorkstrand went with a clear "bubble" visor, and he turned in a great effort -- an assist on Vladislav Gavrikov's goal as well as one of the better efforts from anyone on the CBJ team, as he was hard on pucks and created chances all night. 

Video: Postgame: Bjorkstrand (4/17/21)

All with a bubble protecting his face, something he said he hadn't had to wear in probably 10 years. 

"I didn't really like the cage during the game, so I just wanted to try the glass one," he said after Saturday night's game. "I feel a little bit better in that one. It was fine. Didn't have any problems. 

"I'd rather not play with it, but it's no excuse. It shouldn't affect my game." 

It's fair to say that Saturday night it did not, and at some point in the not-too-distant future, Bjorkstrand will likely be able to get back to just wearing a visor. He said the puck to the face was probably the worse one he's suffered in his career (it's actually surprising this doesn't happen more often). 

"I mean, (I've had) a few smaller ones, but that was the biggest one," he said. "It's part of the game. It happens to a lot of guys. It is what it is." 

It is, isn't it?  

Chinakhov Gets One 

The start of the Gagarin Cup Finals, the championship of the KHL, was not a stage too big for 20-year-old Yegor Chinakhov. 

The 2020 first-round draft pick of the Blue Jackets opened the scoring in Game 1 of the seven-game series Sunday, giving his Avangard Omsk team a 1-0 first-period lead that the team would carry home to a 4-1 victory over CSKA Moscow. 

Tweet from @khl_eng: Yegor Chinakhov rifles first goal of 2021 #GagarinCupFinal! pic.twitter.com/pFaUqL9w0S

It came on one of Chinakhov's trademark blasts, and it marked the fifth postseason goal this year for the skilled forward. Add in his 10 regular-season tallies in 32 games and it's been a pretty good year for the young Russian. 

Game 2 of the series will be Tuesday. 

Monday Mailbag 

One of my goals when I started writing this piece was to often link to some of the work being put in over at CBJ Radio by Bob McElligott and Dylan Tyrer. 

That's something I mostly failed at throughout the year, so I just wanted to remind CBJ fans that they're putting out some good content almost daily for CBJ fans to listen to at their desks (or kitchen tables) or on their daily drive to work (if you are able to drive to work these days). 

For example, Tyrer over the weekend posted an interview with CBJ prospect Tyler Angle, who is off to a great start with Cleveland of the AHL, while McElligott's usual Monday Mailbag segment is up as well as the radio man answers questions each week from fans. 

If you aren't a subscriber, check them out on Soundcloud or wherever else you listen to podcasts.  

Stick Taps

Two quick congratulations. First off, congrats to Scott Harrington and Michael Del Zotto for reaching career milestones over the weekend. Harrington played in his 200th career NHL game Thursday and Del Zotto played in game No. 700 on Sunday. Harrington is one of the nicest guys you'll meet in sports, and Del Zotto has proved to be a really good locker room guy this year for the team, so kudos to each.

Also, congrats to Carson Meyer, the Powell native and Ohio State product who signed a contract for next year with the Blue Jackets. Once thought to be one of the top players coming out of central Ohio, Meyer instead has had to deal with some zigs and zags in his career, but he had a standout senior year at OSU in 2019-20 (17 goals and 31 points in 35 games) and this year has a 5-8-13 line in 14 games in Cleveland. He's worked his tail off for the chance, so congrats to Carson.

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