The Blue Jackets are being attacked by the injury bug at the moment, but they did get a boost with the return of Marian Gaborik at practice today.
Gaborik and James Wisniewski have taken part in morning skates and joined a couple of practices in-progress, but Wednesday's skate (prior to the team departing for Philadelphia) was their first full-go with the group and a significant step forward in their respective returns.
With respect to Gaborik, who has not played since Nov. 14 in Boston due to a sprained knee, he's hoping to get back in the Blue Jackets' lineup in the near term and help a team besieged by injuries.
That's not likely to happen Thursday though, as Gaborik said post-practice that he's targeting Saturday for a return. If Saturday is the day, it will be his first game following a 17-game absence.
"I feel pretty good," Gaborik said after practice. "There haven't been many practices and this has really been my first practice other than the pre-game skates. I've been skating some with the guys who haven't been playing, and I've worked on battles and stuff with Danny Hinote and couple other guys. (Saturday) should be the date.
"I think I need one more practice to make sure everything's fine and to get the feel for everything again, pucks, one-on-ones, skating full stride and those unexpected moves...just dealing with everything that's thrown at you. One more practice and I should be good."
During his first official practice, Gaborik skated with Artem Anisimov and Boone Jenner in a new-look line that saw Blake Comeau shift to the fourth line in Derek MacKenzie's absence.
Comeau, though, is likely to remain with Anisimov and Jenner at least for Thursday's game with Gaborik still out. Jack Skille will go in the lineup on a line with Mark Letestu and Corey Tropp, while the Blue Jackets' other two lines are expected to stay the same.
With the Jackets' recent consistency at forward in mind, Gaborik said he's not looking to shake things up when he returns; wherever he fits is where he'll play and his goal is to do whatever he can to make his line mates better.
"I think the guys are playing better (lately)," Gaborik said. "Wherever I'm going to be (in the lineup), I'll try to go out there and do my best...work hard and the other things take care of themselves. Have some poise with the puck, shoot the puck when I can and hopefully score some goals.
"One of the main things, is to have confidence in (the knee). If I have confidence that I can go full-out, that's very important. I think this was a good practice and Saturday should be good to go."