Ten games and three long weeks later, the Blue Jackets offense will get a major addition tonight with the return of center Jeff Carter.
Carter’s presence in the middle of the ice has been sorely missed by the Blue Jackets, who have struggled to score goals and haven’t received much consistency from their No. 1 line since he suffered an injury to his foot. Head coach Scott Arniel confirmed this morning Carter will center the top line between captain Rick Nash and R.J. Umberger.
“Jeff being in there will hopefully be a big boost for us,” Arniel said. “We’re hoping he’ll have some chemistry with Umberger and Nash, and I know they’re excited to have him back in there. We can certainly use his leadership and his game. Jeff has a history of missing stretches and still coming back and playing at a high level.
“If he’s not 100 percent, he’s still a pretty good player if he’s somewhere close to that.”
The other notable lineup change for Columbus will be Mark Letestu centering the No. 2 line with Ryan Johansen drawing back in on right wing. Center Derick Brassard will be a healthy scratch against the Jets, Arniel said following the morning skate.
“There are lots of people here right now that are struggling,” Arniel said. “We’re trying to find a jump start, and I want to see Letestu in the middle. I threw him in the middle in the third period the other night and I liked what I saw.
“(Brassard) is the odd-man out, his game isn’t where it needs to be. He’s not alone in that department; and I hope that taking a step back tonight will fire him back up and get his game where it needs to be.”
The injury news on the goaltending front was good news this week as backup Mark Dekanich was injured during pre-game warmups with Springfield (AHL) last night. Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson announced on his Twitter account that Dekanich suffered a groin strain and will be evaluated further today.
Arniel said the injury is not short-term and he almost couldn’t believe the news when he found out last night.
“I was at a movie and my phone kept buzzing,” Arniel said. “I looked at (the phone) and couldn’t believe it. It was in warm-up, wasn’t even in the game.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to be but it’s not good. Just seems to be part of the stuff that’s been going on this year.”
Curtis Sanford was placed on injured reserve today by the Blue Jackets (retroactive to Oct. 17), clearing a roster spot for Carter to be activated. Due to the retroactive date, however, Sanford is eligible to come off IR at any time.
Newly-acquired defenseman Nikita Nikitin is going to make his Blue Jackets debut tonight, skating on a pairing with Fedor Tyutin. Nikitin arrived from St. Louis yesterday and took the morning skate with his new team today. He will wear No. 6 for the Blue Jackets.
“I don’t know a whole lot about him, we saw a little bit of him last year,” Arniel said. “We played against him in St. Louis; he’s a big kid, a real good defender with a big, heavy shot.
“He passes the puck hard. We’re going to get him right in there and get a taste of him right away."