With the trade deadline and all the surrounding goings-on in the rear-view mirror, the Blue Jackets are back at it tonight at Nationwide Arena against a tough divisional opponent.
The team had a complete day off yesterday, leaving plenty of opportunity to watch the wall-to-wall trade deadline coverage provided on all platforms across the U.S. and Canada. In short, there was virtually no way to hide from it without completely unplugging and going off the grid, and Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said this morning that, by nature, players are always eager to put such distractions to bed.
“In the players’ situations…it can be a stressful because you never know how the day’s going to go,” Richards said. “That can be emotionally draining.”
They’re facing a Washington Capitals team that is certain to be hungry, having dropped three of its last four games overall and falling three points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals, who currently own the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, rebounded from a three-game skid with a 4-0 win over Toronto on Sunday.
Barry Trotz’s team has been as high as second in the Metro this season and has made a significant climb up the standings, but with less than 20 games to go, the Capitals have a tough task to break back into the top three and avoid a first-round wild card matchup.
BACK ON THE CASE
Sergei Bobrovsky’s road to recovery from a Jan. 21 groin injury has been cautious and patient, which is exactly how Richards and the Blue Jackets vowed it would be. He has gradually increased his workload in practice, starting with a Feb. 19 morning skate in Pittsburgh and getting healthy enough to back up Curtis McElhinney on Saturday against New Jersey.
Bobrovsky returns tonight as the Jackets’ starting netminder after missing 17 games, and it was a happy, smiling Bob in the Blue Jackets’ dressing room today (though that’s not out of the ordinary).
Other injury updates from Richards today: Brandon Dubinsky (concussion) has been doing light activity and is progressing. Matt Calvert has not progressed as well from a concussion, and he’s not doing any activity at the moment.
Boone Jenner, Kevin Connauton and Ryan Murray skated in the OhioHealth Ice Haus this morning with Blue Jackets strength and conditioning coach Kevin Collins.
JUSTIN TIME FOR A DEBUT
Justin Falk, acquired yesterday from the Minnesota Wild, traveled to Columbus in the afternoon and took part in today’s morning skate. He will be in the lineup tonight – most likely paired with Dalton Prout – and makes his Blue Jackets debut after a crazy 24 hours.
He said he didn’t really have an inkling he would be traded until his phone and Twitter blew up, and soon after, he got a call from the Wild confirming the speculation. Monday was a day off for the Wild, and Falk was at home spending time with his wife and daughter when everything went down.
“This is the first time I’ve been a part of something like this,” Falk said. “You take it in stride. I’m excited to be here and have an opportunity, and I hope to make the best of it. Now that it’s happened, to get here and get in last night and have a morning skate under my belt is good and I’m ready to get it going.
“It’s great group of guys what I know this morning and from meeting them, and I’m looking forward to going to battle with them.”
Ironically enough, Falk made his NHL debut with the Wild on Mar. 19, 2010 while playing for Todd Richards, who coached Minnesota for two seasons.
That night’s opponent? The Columbus Blue Jackets.