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For now, Jackets' goaltending situation settles

Curtis McElhinney enters 2016-17 as backup to Sergei Bobrovsky

by Rob Mixer @RobMixer / BlueJackets.com

Entering this training camp, there was reason to believe the No. 2 goaltending position was fair game.

Incumbent Curtis McElhinney is in the final season of a two-year deal and had the leg up going into the preseason schedule. The two kids - Swedish-born Anton Forsberg and Finnish-born Joonas Korpisalo - each had impressive seasons in 2015-16 and were strong bets to, at the very least, make things interesting.

Two independent circumstances led to Thursday, in which the Blue Jackets sent Forsberg to Cleveland, leaving McElhinney as the backup to Sergei Bobrovsky to open the new season.

First, there was steady, solid play from McElhinney. His best exhibition performance was a 29-save effort in Boston in which he withstood a lengthy 5-on-3, a frenetic overtime and did not yield a goal in the shootout.

In a contract year with plenty to prove after a tough season that ended with a knee injury in late March, McElhinney figures to be a motivated player.

Here's what he told The Dispatch about battling it out with two young goalies and trying to solidify his spot:

"Plain and clear, I want my job back…I don't take kindly to what happened last season."

Tuesday night in Nashville, Korpisalo suffered a groin injury but did finish the game, which ended in a 3-2 overtime win for the Blue Jackets. He struggled in his first preseason appearance but was better in the final two, however, he's expected to be out four weeks because of the groin issue.

Forsberg assignment to Cleveland (AHL) indicates he will be the No. 1 guy for the defending Calder Cup champions. The Monsters also have some holes to fill with respect to goaltending, as Brad Thiessen is currently sidelined with an ankle injury.

So, for the time being, the depth chart is set: Bobrovsky and McElhinney are the goaltenders in Columbus. Forsberg is the lead guy for Cleveland, and until Korpisalo and Thiessen are ready to return, the Blue Jackets and Monsters may have to scramble to find a goaltender to fill that spot.

At the top of the order, Bobrovsky felt better coming out of Thursday's game than he did in his first exhibition start last weekend. The pace in the preseason was a bit different than what he experienced in the World Cup of Hockey, but now two games in and with one game to go, Bobrovsky says he's on the right track.

"I felt great (Thursday). I felt more comfortable, more under control of the game," Bobrovsky said.

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