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Hartsburg: “Torts is our leader”

by Katie Foglia / Columbus Blue Jackets

With John Tortorella currently sidelined with two broken ribs, associate coach Craig Hartsburg has assumed the role of bench boss, but make no mistake: Torts is still the No. 1 guy.

Hartsburg and Tortorella have had regular contact over the last few days either via phone call or text message, and the head coach is still in discomfort. Tortorella will not coach tonight and is unlikely to join the team for tonight's flight to Montreal.

“He’s still hurting,” Hartsburg said. “I talked to him a couple of times yesterday and, obviously, it’s tough. He’s sore all over and really can’t be mobile at this point, so we’re hoping every day he gets better, but up until now he hasn’t. It’s a significant injury."

Tortorella was injured during the Jackets' outdoor practice on Friday after a collision with Rene Bourque. He was unable to travel with the team to Boston over the weekend, and remains out indefinitely.

“Hopefully after the All-Star break he can join us,” Hartsburg said. “But, again, we’ll just have to wait and see how he does. The most important thing is that he gets healthy first.”

In the absence of Tortorella, a few of the roles and responsibilities on the Jackets' bench have been reassigned.

With Hartsburg serving as head coach, his duties now include a wide variety of responsibilities. Assistant coach Brad Larsen is now working with the defensemen, and assistant coach Kenny McCudden (now on the bench from his usual perch upstairs as the team's "eye in the sky") is assisting with the forwards.

Hartsburg said that Tortorella was able to watch Saturday's game, but it was not a pleasant experience on a personal level.

“It’s tough for him to sit very long, but he watches,” Hartsburg said. “He liked the way we played the other night. He thought we played hard and played, for the most part, 60 minutes. We just have to continue to learn to manage the game at times.”

Those lines of communication will remain open while the Blue Jackets go through this unusual experience, one that many players said they'd never seen in their careers.

"Torts is our leader. He’s the guy that we look up to as assistant coaches and, as players, he’s their leader," Hartsburg said. "We’re just trying to do our jobs to help the team, help him so when he’s back, hopefully the team’s better. That’s our goal is when he comes back, we’ve made some progress and we’re playing better as a group.”

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