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Notebook: Bourque expected to debut, Connauton out vs. Colorado

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Another day, another injury for the Blue Jackets as they head down the stretch of a season that’s seen them lose over 400 man games to injury – far and away the highest total in the NHL.

They did not make it through last night’s 3-2 win in New Jersey without a little more adversity; Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said this morning that at least one player is “banged up” and is considered a game-time decision for tonight’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, leading to the emergency recall of Rene Bourque from Springfield.

Bourque, 33, was traded by Anaheim to Columbus last week in a deal that sent James Wisniewski to the Ducks. After back-to-back 27-goal seasons with Calgary from 2009-2011, Bourque struggled to find his game and was traded to Montreal, but in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, he showed flashes of the strong power forward he can be.

Bourque scored eight goals in 17 playoffs games for the Canadiens last spring, but it’s been a struggle to find regular NHL time since. He will get another NHL opportunity tonight.

“The intention for him is to go into the lineup,” Richards said this morning. “(Associate coach) Craig Hartsburg knows him and has (coached) him, and has a good idea of what he can bring to our team. He’s big, can skate and can shoot and has a lot of the tools.

“Now it’s about giving him an opportunity; there are some really good attributes and qualities that he has.”

Richards liked a lot of what the Blue Jackets did last night against the Devils, particularly in the first period when they got an early lead and built on it into the second period. They turned pucks over and made a few poor puck management decisions in the second, but got it back in the third period with a very Blue Jacket-like effort.

Over the final 18 games, Richards wants his team to focus on game-to-game consistency and make sure that they’re doing the right things on a nightly basis – something they’ve not been good with this season, especially at Nationwide Arena.

“We talked about some (areas) where have to be better, but to me, it’s just the consistency in our game,” Richards said. “We played a really good first period (in New Jersey). We skated, smothered them and made smart plays with the puck. We really limited their chances because we checked, and it was everyone. Then we got away from it in the second period with some self-inflicted stuff.

“The big thing is just going to be improving and improving in all areas. We want to use each game to be better – and it starts with doing it at home here and in front of our fans. We didn’t start well vs. Washington in our last game here, but after that in the last 40 minutes, we really invested in the game.”

Sergei Bobrovsky
has started the last two games after his return from a groin injury, but tonight, it will be Curtis McElhinney manning the net for Columbus. McElhinney picked up the win in the Blue Jackets’ last meeting with the Avalanche (a 5-4 decision on Jan. 4 in Denver), a game punctuated by David Savard’s late third period winner.

One other update: Kevin Connauton will not play tonight, Richards said. There’s been no setback in his recovery from a lower body injury, but the team wants to give him a couple of extra days before getting back in the lineup. There’s a chance he could play on the upcoming two-game swing in Carolina or Detroit.

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