The Blue Jackets were put through the paces of an intense, 65-minute practice this morning at Nationwide Arena, but the first question asked of coach Todd Richards afterward was understandably something different.
At front-of-mind for everyone who follows the Blue Jackets has been the status of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who left last night's 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning with a lower-body injury in the third period. Bobrovsky, who made a spectacular glove save on Tampa's JT Brown, appeared to bump into the goal post while making the save, and he remained on the ice in pain before being helped off by his teammates.
Richards, who met with the media shortly after 1 p.m., said an MRI was scheduled for Bobrovsky at 1 p.m. but the results would not be immediately known. More information should be available on Thursday morning, Richards said, but for the time being, the deck has been shuffled between the pipes.
Mike McKenna, recalled by the Blue Jackets this morning, was on the ice for practice and he is now the club's No. 2 goaltender until further notice. Curtis McElhinney, who went 8-for-8 in relief of Bobrovsky on Tuesday night, is the No. 1 goalie for the Blue Jackets and is expected to get the next start Friday night against the Minnesota Wild.
"I don't (have any indication re: the injury) and I have no medical expertise, so I don't even bother trying to predict," Richards said. "He definitely won't play Friday; based on seeing him in the locker room, I don't think there's any chance he plays on Friday.
"The thing down there (in Springfield) is you have two goaltenders that are competing, and you trust in what management sees and what their coaches are seeing, thus the reason for McKenna."
Richards reiterated that neither he nor the team has any hesitation or reservations going with McElhinney in the interim.
"Based on his play, and how he's played for us...he's been solid," Richards said. "He came in last night in a tough situation and he made a couple huge saves for us to preserve the win. It was Mariano Rivera-esque; talking with Ian Clark, he raves about (McElhinney) as far as how he prepares himself and his work ethic. He's been in this position before and he knows how to act, and he's professional - those are things that give you confidence."
Other notes from Wednesday's practice...
- Mark Letestu and Nathan Horton were absent from the skate, but Richards said Letestu's was "more maintenance than anything," and that he would be back on the ice Thursday with the team. Horton is in the middle of scheduled time off the ice as he recovers from shoulder surgery, and Richards said there have been no setbacks to this point.
- Derek MacKenzie was back at practice wearing a red, no-contact sweater and Richards said he felt good afterward. His status for Friday's game is uncertain but he should be ready to go next week, a week in which the Blue Jackets will play three games (including a back-to-back set on Monday and Tuesday).
- Richards was pleased with how the Blue Jackets applied their work in practice on coverage, neutral zone play and systems against a Lightning team that likes to play a vertical, stretch-passing game. The Lightning plays a speed game and had a couple of chances, but Richards thought the Blue Jackets took a step forward in terms of how they consistently limit the opposition's chances.
"It was mostly positioning of where we were in the neutral zone. We did a really good job in the second period of forechecking, and when you're forechecking and they're spending a lot of energy in their zone trying to defend, they don't have a chance to play that game going north because all they can do is get off the ice and change. We did a good job of that, and the reason why I know that is because we've been in that situation a number of times this year."