Slowly but surely, the banged-up Blue Jackets are returning to health.
The team took a big step in that direction Monday morning when Boone Jenner and Matt Calvert returned to full practice. Coach Todd Richards says both are slated to make their returns to the lineup tomorrow night against the Hurricanes.
Jenner has been on injured reserve since late September, when a broken bone in his hand required surgery. Jenner returned to practice last week, skating on his own and strengthening his hand but not taking part in full contact until today. Calvert has been out with an upper body injury since the Blue Jackets played in Anaheim on October 24.
“I think it helps,” said Richards after practice, not only to have two key players back in the lineup but also for the impact in the room. “I think guys sensed that Matty and Boone are back on the ice and they were either playing tomorrow or they were really close. And I think that rejuvenated the group. Instead of all the negativity that’s been going on, all the injuries and losing games, there’s more optimism about getting guys back and excitement.
"I thought it was on of our best practices of the year that we had today.”
Calvert and Jenner skated through line drills on either side of Alexander Wennberg.
Other stuff from the rink:
* Scott Hartnell and Ryan Murray were both missing from practice, with both having maintenance days. Cody Goloubef was also missing from practice. He suffered a lower body injury in the third period of Saturday night’s game in New Jersey. Richards said that Goloubef would be out for an “extended period of time.” The team may consider a call-up from Springfield.
* Richards said that Brandon Dubinsky was progressing and working out on his own, but is still a ways off from being in the lineup. Artem Anisimov is still a day-to-day situation. James Wisniewski and Sergei Bobrovsky both skated on their own today and are day-to-day, with Richards saying it’s just a matter of waiting until the injuries are healed to the point that they can handle the stick.
* Curtis McElhinney will get the start in net tomorrow for Columbus, according to Richards.
* Richards was impressed with Nick Foligno at center and the play of his line. He said the Foligno approached the coaching staff last week to remind them that he had experience at center.
“It was a very respectful way to do it,” said Richards. “After we started discussing things we thought why not try it. The game in New Jersey he was excited to be there and he did a good job for us.”
* Richards was pleased with Brian Gibbons’ playmaking ability, saying he seemed to have the puck on his stick more and showed a greater comfort level in the dressing room and with the systems.
“I didn’t have the training camp that I wanted to have for a number of reasons, but I went down to Springfield and got more in game shape,” said Gibbons. “I think I was ready for the call-up and I’m just trying to take advantage of these chances that I have. Coming up and having a chance to play with (Jack Skille) and (Foligno), that’s a pretty good chance to have."
Gibbons, Skille, and Foligno remained together during line drills on Monday.