“Anything going on today, Matt?”
“I’m playing tonight, so it’s a good day.”
Matt Calvert, out the past 15 games with a concussion, returns tonight for the red-hot Blue Jackets as they face the New Jersey Devils for the fourth and final time this season. Winners of six straight games and coming off a back-to-back sweep of Chicago and St. Louis, there’s some serious momentum building with the Blue Jackets right now and Calvert is ready to jump back in.
He did not travel with the team over the weekend but has been skating regularly the past couple of weeks. On Monday, he was back on the ice for practice and skated on a line with Mark Letestu at center and Jeremy Morin on the right wing, and that’s how they will at least begin the game tonight.
Coming back in a fourth-line role is almost a blessing in disguise, Calvert said, as he’ll be able to manage his ice time and manage his workload in his first game in over a month.
“You want to come back when you’re ready, and I feel ready,” Calvert said. “If you come back off an injury and you’re playing 18 minutes, it’s tough to keep up out there for the full 60 minutes. It’s going to be nice fitting in. I have two good line mates; (Morin) is a good playmaker and so is (Letestu), and it should be a lot of fun tonight.”
With Calvert’s return and spot on the fourth line, Corey Tropp will be a healthy scratch tonight. Jared Boll is serving the final game of a three-game suspension levied by the NHL's Department of Player Safety last week.
Alexander Wennberg also returns tonight after missing four games with an infected hand. Wennberg suffered a cut on his right hand after blocking a shot on Mar. 7 vs. Colorado.
FOR REAL THIS TIME: STAY OUTTA THE BOX
The Blue Jackets and coach Todd Richards have talked about it ad nauseum over the past few weeks: they need to cut down on the stick infractions and really, the number of penalties taken in general. They’ve gotten by with strong penalty killing and goaltending, but it’s no secret that such a formula is neither preferable nor sustainable.
And it starts with simple things like keeping the feet moving, or as Richards likes to say, “checking with your legs” rather than sticks. The penalty trouble has both short and long-term effects, including a serious disruption of game flow when only part of the bench is involved.
“We have to keep getting better and eliminate some of the penalties that we’ve taken,” Richards said. “Penalties are part of the game and it’s going to happen, but we can’t continue to give five, six opportunities to teams. It’s too taxing on your penalty killers, too taxing on your defensemen and your goaltender.
“It just disrupts the flow of the game. There have been times when we’ve had good rhythm in games and a penalty has come in, and we’ve killed off the penalty so it hasn’t hurt us on the scoreboard, but for me it’s hurt the flow of our game.”
OTHER RANDOM NOTES
Sergei Bobrovsky, who was terrific in the Jackets’ wins over the Blackhawks and Blues, will get the start in goal tonight for Columbus. It’s his sixth consecutive start and 12th in the last 14 games after returning from a groin injury Mar. 3 vs. Washington.
Here’s how the Blue Jackets will line up tonight: Jenner-Johansen-Atkinson, Dubinsky-Anisimov-Foligno, Hartnell-Wennberg-Dano, Calvert-Letestu-Morin.
On defense: Johnson-Savard, Connauton-Goloubef, Tyutin-Prout.