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Notebook: Murray returns, Connauton out vs. Maple Leafs

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards doesn’t care one bit that the Toronto Maple Leafs are, like his team, on the outside looking in at the playoff race. It’s this simple: tonight is the next game on the schedule and the next opportunity for the Jackets to build on what they started three weeks ago.

Richards was quick to point out that the Leafs, who have struggled mightily since replacing coach Randy Carlyle midway through the season, are 3-1-1 in their last five games and have seen their team play improve. They beat the surging Ottawa Senators last weekend at Air Canada Centre in game that Ottawa needed to win, and like the Blue Jackets, the Leafs have had no problems playing spoiler.

So, like we said, the standings are a wash at this point – the Blue Jackets want to finish the 2014-15 season the right way and, for tonight, that means getting two points against a Toronto team they have yet to beat this season.

“I’ve said it before: it doesn’t matter where you’re playing or who you’re playing, it comes down to what you’re doing,” Richards said this morning. “We’ve done a lot of good things here in the last two or three weeks, but tonight’s another chance to continue to get better.

“For me, it’s one day at a time, one game at a time, the same approach. We’re getting ready for a home game tonight against a good Toronto team. Going back and watching the clips, they’re doing a lot of good things and we need to be ready to go tonight.”

Sergei Bobrovsky will face James Reimer between the pipes in a game that starts at 7:30 p.m. at Nationwide Arena.

Richards said following today’s morning skate that the Blue Jackets will use the same forward lineup as Monday night, meaning no changes to four lines that played quite well against the speedy Rangers. The fourth line in particular was impressive, with Matt Calvert, Mark Letestu and Jeremy Morin giving Richards another solid option to roll over the boards and use in any situation.

They have speed (Calvert), smarts in the middle (Letestu) and energy on the right side (Morin), and all three players have shown their ability to chip in offensively, as well.

“They’re skating, handling the puck, getting pucks in the zone and winning some battles,” Richards said. “It’s not really complicated if you work and your compete and your battle level is where it should be, a lot of the time you’re going to have success. It comes down to the compete and the will, and right now they’re doing it and having some success.”

Ryan Murray
’s season has – by his own admission – been quite frustrating and marked by a string of injuries that have limited him to only 10 games in the team’s first 79 games of 2014-15. He recovered from a high ankle sprain and played Mar. 13 vs. Edmonton, only to leave injured two games later in Edmonton and hasn’t played since.

Tonight he returns to the lineup and will pair with Cody Goloubef. Kevin Connauton is the healthy scratch on defense.

“Ryan’s a smart, good, (heady) player…he’s going to come in and be just fine,” Richards said. “He’s a talented kid. It’s getting his feet wet a little bit, the pace of the game and timing, things like that. He’s proven it too many times this year just where he’s been hurt and come back. He’s done a good job coming back, but the unfortunate thing is that it’s been one of those years where the injury bug has followed him around.”

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