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Cody Goloubef closing in on a return from broken jaw

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Cody Goloubef has gone through a challenging time after fracturing his jaw in a freak incident on Nov. 20 against Nashville.

He was skating behind the net when a puck struck him squarely in the jaw, requiring surgery, wires and a liquid diet for the next few weeks. Thankfully, Janelle Foligno was willing to blend up Thanksgiving dinner into a smoothie so he could enjoy all the fixings.

“Enjoy” is probably the wrong word for that, but let’s go with it.

The good news is that now, after more than six weeks of waiting, training and skating, Goloubef appears to be on his way back into the lineup. He’s been practicing the last week with the team, and on Monday, skated on a regular defense pairing alongside Jack Johnson in his latest step toward a return.

He still needs medical clearance from Blue Jackets doctors, and if that comes later today or tomorrow morning, it’s expected he will play Tuesday against Minnesota.

Goloubef said the recovery from a broken jaw is the hardest thing he’s dealt with in his hockey career – a constant challenge, he said, and one that required more patience than he thought he had.

Following Monday’s practice at Nationwide Arena, Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said he anticipates Goloubef returning Tuesday. If he plays, Goloubef will sport the full face shield protection he's been wearing since getting back on the ice a few weeks ago.

“Cody’s ready to play, and if there are no other problems, he’ll play (Tuesday),” Tortorella said.

Now, with healthy bodies starting to filter back into the mix, the Blue Jackets’ blue line has become more crowded and competition for ice time is on the rise. David Savard rejoined the lineup on Saturday after missing six games with an ankle injury, and Jack Johnson has been playing his best hockey of the season.

“There’s a couple of spots (on defense) that are really up for grabs,” Tortorella said. “I don’t think anyone’s really gone and grabbed it. They’re not stupid, they see what’s going on. Guys are sitting out here and there, and sometimes not through bad play, but no one’s really grabbed a couple of spots. That kind of falls on them to step up and don’t allow us to make a change, judged on your play.”

Injuries to both Sergei Bobrovsky (groin) and Curtis McElhinney (sprained ankle) have the Blue Jackets in a bit of goaltending jam. Both goaltenders from the Lake Erie Monsters – Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo – are with the Blue Jackets, and it appears they will form the tandem for the foreseeable future.

Yes, that leaves the goaltending duties in the hands of a 23-year-old in Forsberg and a 21-year-old in Korpisalo, but both have shown they can handle big moments.

Korpisalo recorded his first NHL win on Dec. 19 against the Flyers in a shootout, and on Saturday, Forsberg was called into duty in overtime with the Capitals on the power play and Alex Ovechkin ready to unleash one-timers.

There are two ways to look at it, captain Nick Foligno said.

“You can say they’re inexperienced and it’s a bad thing, but both of these young guys have done a great job in some really tough spots,” Foligno said. “It’s a big opportunity for them and I know they’re excited about it, and we’re excited for them, as well.”

Based on Monday’s practice, the only lineup change at forward will be Jared Boll slotting in for David Clarkson, who is expected to be out a little while due to an upper body injury, Tortorella said.

On defense, if Goloubef can play, the pairings should look as such: Johnson-Goloubef, Murray-Savard, Tyutin-Prout. And the forward lines: Jenner-Dubinsky-Atkinson, Hartnell-Wennberg-Saad, Campbell-Johansen-Foligno, Bourque-Karlsson-Boll.

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