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Dubinsky's return a big boost for Jackets

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

For a fiery and intense competitor like Brandon Dubinsky, one of the worst things about his injury was that it kept him out since the Blue Jackets' 7-0 loss in Edmonton two weeks ago.

He has been reduced to merely sitting and watching as his teammates endure the peaks and valleys of a wild stretch that's seen them alternate wins and losses since a 4-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 17.

In those eight games (Dubinsky has missed six of them), the Blue Jackets have beaten the Toronto Maple Leafs in their building by six goals and also looked powerless against the Nashville Predators at Nationwide Arena.

Sure, there have been significant injuries and Dubinsky's bruised foot was one of them. He has been skating off-and-on for the last few days but rejoined the last two morning skates and Monday's practices, and after the returns were positive on Monday, the club activated him off injured reserve so he can get back in the lineup tonight against Tampa Bay.

"(The foot) feels good, and it feels good to go out and skate with the boys," Dubinsky told "I'm trying to get back to doing things at full speed again, so this was nice. We'll see how it responds (in the morning)...I felt pretty good. I got leaned on a couple times and Wiz knocked me down out there; it's hockey and you have to play through stuff.

"There are a lot of guys in here playing through some stuff right now. Hopefully it responds well and I can come back (Tuesday)."

With a bruised foot, the recovery period was more about rest than rehab as Dubinsky had to wait for the discomfort to subside so he could get his foot in a skate boot. When he was able to do that comfortably and not put himself at further risk, the healing process started to accelerate.

"I've said all along: I don't want to go out and hurt myself again and I don't want to hurt the team," Dubinsky said. "As long as I'm confident that I'm able to do the things I need to do, I'll be ready to go."

Having him back in the lineup figures to be a huge lift for the Blue Jackets, and coach Todd Richards said as much after practice on Monday. The Blue Jackets get Dubinsky back Tuesday, Derek MacKenzie hopefully for Friday's game vs. Minnesota and Jared Boll could be back within a week or so. Longer term, Nathan Horton (shoulder surgery) and Marian Gaborik (sprained knee) are in the "weeks" category but getting closer by the day.

And while the healthy bodies are a welcomed sight, Dubinsky's main focus now is to help his team get back to playing the balanced, responsible game that's made it successful.

"We've got to sustain our forecheck," Dubinsky said. "It's been way too easy for other teams to break out of their zone and it's sort of been one-and-done on our side. In our zone, we spend too much time playing defense and not enough time playing offense, and that's a big reason for these ups-and-downs we're having.

"That's the way it is right now, and when we're winning games, it's the opposite. That's what makes us a successful team: we have guys with speed, guys who are gritty and get in on the forecheck and that's going to be the most important part of our game."

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