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Leopold makes Jackets debut, Bobrovsky records career win No. 100

by Brian McCormack / Columbus Blue Jackets

Sergei Bobrovsky returned to the lineup for the Blue Jackets Saturday night, and it was as if he never left. Bobrovsky made 36 saves including several key stops in what became a goaltending duel in the third period between Bobrovsky and Sharks netminder Antti Niemi.

“Guys helped a lot and made it comfortable for me,” said Bobrovsky. “I made a couple of saves and felt pretty good today.”

Bobrovsky and Niemi went save-for-save in the third period. Niemi made a clutch breakaway save on Cam Atkinson, who broke in on the right wing at 5:10 of the second period off a neutral zone turnover. One minute later, he stoned Ryan Johansen’s breakaway chance to keep San Jose in the game. The Sharks responded with their own offensive push, but Bobrovsky was up to the task.

Bobrovsky made several key stops in the third as Tommy Wingels and Tomas Hertl took over the pace of the game. Bobrovsky made the save of the night a minute and a half into in the third period, stopping Hertl’s chance from in front and then reaching back behind him with his left pad to stop the follow-up stuff-in attempt from Wingels.

As the period wore on, Bobrovsky made two more key saves from prime scoring areas on Hertl and Wingels, not to mention a prime opportunity in the low slot form Joe Pavelski right before the Sharks went on a four-minute power play. Bobrovsky was unbeatable then as well.

Even in the second period, when the Jackets came out sluggish and had only one shot in the first 10 minutes, it was Bobrovsky who held it together and got the team through a stretch that perhaps would have harmed them a week earlier.

“He was outstanding tonight. The saves he made, he just looks so calm back there,” said Nick Foligno. “You wouldn’t have believed that was his first game back. That’s the kind of player and leader he is on the ice for us.”

Fans saw the first Foligno-Bob Hug since Oct. 17, a 3-2 win over Calgary. Bobrovsky reportedly told Foligno earlier today that he was expecting him to give the biggest hug he could after the contest.

“I tried to lift him but the sucker’s heavy,” said Foligno.

Jordan Leopold
had a rather hectic day.

“I’ve been traded many times, but it’s the first one I’ve had where I got off the ice with another team and took a flight, and got here and played,” said Leopold, playing on his seventh team (two separate stints in Calgary). “But there’s no time to think about it, you just go out there and play.”

There certainly was no time to think, as Leopold arrived, had a quick video session to get up to speed, and went out and played 17:11 alongside David Savard. Leopold is going to be counted on to provide solid veteran experience on defense with Fedor Tyutin out for several weeks and Ryan Murray’s status still uncertain.

“I saw composure, an experienced guy,“ said Todd Richards of Leopold’s performance, admitting he’d need to review the tape tonight to get a better feel for Leopold’s game. “Being able to settle things down, make the first pass, make the right play whether it be getting the puck out of our zone or into their zone. That's experience, and right now with all the injuries, those are the kind of players you want to have.”

Richards, a Minnesota native, gave his most-ringing endorsement of Leopold to finish off his press conference.

“You can’t go wrong getting Minnesota guys. If you can get more Minnesotans, you’re instantly making your team better.”

Richards wanted to see improvement from his penalty killers after giving up two goals in Philadelphia a night earlier, and a third goal just as the power play expired. The Blue Jackets got the chance to answer that call, and they passed with flying colors.

With five minutes left in regulation, Alexander Wennberg was whistled for high-sticking when he cut Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan, drawing blood and a four-minute penalty. Bobrovsky was sharp on the ensuing penalty kill with key stops on Jason Demers and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, but the Blue Jackets killing units were overall composed and surrendered few second-chance opportunities.

It was a statement finish for a team finally emerging from a long losing streak and fighting through adversity to notch its second straight win. It was a late penalty that perhaps this team doesn’t survive a week ago.

“You get experience back, you get Artem Anisimov back and he’s a big killer for us, and it allows us to have that confidence when things get tough that we can battle back and push through,” said Foligno. “That’s the resiliency we talk about."

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