Just as the Blue Jackets started to get healthy up front, they'll be without a key part of their defense for the next little while.
The team departed for Pittsburgh this afternoon but James Wisniewski was not part of the traveling party. Wisniewski suffered an upper body injury during Friday's 4-0 win over the Minnesota Wild, according to coach Todd Richards, and he will not play this week - a stretch that includes four games against four tough opponents.
David Savard, who has waited patiently for his chance to get back in the lineup, will play tomorrow night in Pittsburgh and the Blue Jackets may add to the mix after the Springfield Falcons complete their weekend games later this afternoon. Richards said the team is likely to recall a defenseman that will join the Blue Jackets in Pittsburgh, and with four games on tap in the next six days, there's a chance that the recalled player will see game action.
Richards declined to elaborate on the nature of Wisniewski's injury, but regardless, it is a significant absence from a group of defensemen that had been playing well and playing as a cohesive unit. The Blue Jackets had settled into regular defense pairs (Murray-Wisniewski, Tyutin-Johnson, Nikitin-Prout) over the last couple of weeks but they may be forced to shuffle the deck.
At today's practice - another work-filled, intense practice that covered a lot of bases - the Blue Jackets experimented with a variety of pairings but the Tyutin-Johnson duo remained intact. Thats likely to be the Blue Jackets' top pair for tomorrow's game against the Penguins, who have been banged up, as well.
Other notes from today's skate:
- Richards said both Brandon Dubinsky and Matt Calvert, who missed Saturday's practice "mostly due to maintenance," will travel with the team and play tomorrow night.
- Congratulations are in order for Dubinsky and his wife, Brenna. The couple welcomed their first child earlier this week; baby boy Brady Charles arrived on Wednesday and weighed in at exactly eight pounds.
- Many of the drills from today's practice were coverage-based and it's something the Blue Jackets have keyed on lately; their defensive zone coverage was much improved in back-to-back wins over Tampa Bay and Minnesota, but they'll really be tested against a Penguins team that plays with a lot of pace and forces its opposition to be on-point in its own zone.
- The Blue Jackets' special teams have been strong of late and RJ Umberger said that trend must continue, especially against the NHL's elite teams. Not only do they want to do a better job of capitalizing on penalties committed by their opponents, but the Blue Jackets also want to be stronger on the penalty kill and clean up their own mistakes.