After he was activated from injured reserve Friday, Boone Jenner was asked if, physically speaking, he could make his season debut for the Blue Jackets on Saturday at Nationwide Arena.
The veteran forward's five-word response should give Jackets fans hope that his return is imminent, even if it doesn't happen Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings.
"Yeah," Jenner said. "I do think it is."
It's been a long wait for Jenner, who injured himself during an offseason workout shortly before training camp. He was injured for the entirety of camp, missed the preseason schedule and spent the first seven games of the regular season on IR.
After going through a full practice Friday, skating at left wing on the second line, Jenner said he's "very close" to returning.
"I'm itching to come back and help the boys," he said. "It's tough watching. You always want to be out there with your teammates. It's definitely not fun, especially through camp and the start of the season. You want to be out there. At any time, it's not a good time to be out, but especially at the start of a season."
Jenner played all 82 games last season with the Jackets and finished with 34 points (18 goals, 16 assists). He's known for his rugged style of play, which he combines with a skill level that's not common among power forwards.
Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella wouldn't reveal whether Jenner will play against the Kings, emphasizing that his status is day-to-day, but he knows what kind of jolt it could be for a team that spent too much time playing on the perimeter in a 2-0 loss Friday to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Jackets outshot the Lightning 43-21, but Tortorella said a video review of the game changed his perception of how his team fared. He wants more action around the opposing net, and Jenner is just the kind of player to create it - if he plays.
"We all know what [he] is," Tortorella said. "He's a complete player, body to the net, in the blue [paint]. He killed penalties for us last year [too]. He's the full package."
Jackets captain Nick Foligno, who centered the line Jenner worked with in practice, has a slightly different description. He calls Jenner "reckless," in a good way.
"He plays on the edge," Foligno said. "He bangs and crashes. He goes to the net. He stirs things up, and that brings on emotion in games. I think it pulls guys in [who] are watching him play, and the way he plays. When you're on a line with him, you've got to go to the front of the net too, because that's where the puck's going to be and that's where the chaos is going to be."
Columbus will not have a full morning skate, so it won't be known until afternoon or early evening Saturday whether Jenner will play.
If it were solely up to him, he'd almost certainly play. Whether he actually does will be a team decision.
"[It's] just whenever everything comes together, I guess," Jenner said. "There's different elements of it, and whenever you're ready, you're good to go."
Other news and Notes
POWER OUTAGE: The biggest area of concern for the Jackets remains their power play, which hasn't scored a goal since the first one of the season in a 5-0 season-opening win against the New York Islanders. Since that goal, they've gone 0-for-18 over six-plus games and have put just 22 shots on goal.
"We've got to find a way to score," center Brandon Dubinsky said. "There's no doubt about it. This game's all about confidence, and when the power play is not doing well, everyone's squeezing the stick trying to do stuff by themselves, and they've got to realize there's four other guys that can make great plays too. We've just got to find a way to get one, and get confidence from that."
CALL IT A DRAW: Face-offs are another area of concern for the Jackets, who are ranked last in the NHL with a 43.3 percent success rate. Tortorella said losing key face-offs on power plays is part of the issue in the Jackets' scoring drought, particularly Friday against Tampa Bay.
"We didn't win a face-off," he said. "You get full control in the end zone [on a power play]. It's hard to get in end zones the way teams forecheck, and I don't think our back end was handling the puck well [Friday] night. It was one of those games for our back end. So, to win a face-off and get set up, sure it's important."
Foligno said adjusting to new face-off rules and how different linesmen call them might be part of the issue. Regardless, he agrees with Tortorella on the importance of winning at the dot -- especially with the man-advantage.
"If you're winning draws, it just allows you to have more [offensive] zone time and more puck-possession time," Foligno said. "Ultimately, they're just going to fire it down the ice and waste some time, so you're going to want to start with it as [much] as you can."
HANNIKAINEN, VIGNEAULT ASSIGNED: The Jackets made room for Jenner on the active roster by assigning forward Markus Hannikainen to Cleveland of the American Hockey League. They also activated Sam Vigneault (hand) from IR and assigned him to Cleveland.
Hannikainen hadn't played since Oct. 10 at the Carolina Hurricanes, when his turnover late in the third period led directly to a game-tying goal. Zac Dalpe replaced him at right wing on the fourth line in the next game and hasn't left the lineup since.
The Jackets' lone remaining player on IR is defenseman Gabriel Carlsson (upper body), who is eligible to be activated Saturday. Carlsson has yet to return to practice since being injured Oct. 13 against the New York Rangers.