Given how the last few games have gone for the Blue Jackets from an injury standpoint, an optional practice today and no morning skate tomorrow must be music to their ears.
During Friday's morning skate at the United Center in Chicago, defenseman John Moore suffered what's being described as an upper body injury and was unable to play in the club's 4-3 overtime loss. Coupled with injuries to James Wisniewski and Jack Johnson, there are plenty of minutes available on the blue line and coach Todd Richards has relied on several young defensemen to step up.
Tim Erixon, who has played increasingly better with each passing game, logged 25:13 last night against the Blackhawks and found himself on the ice in all situations. He had one of the more active stat lines, as well, with a few blocked shots, three hits, and a +1 rating.
With five defensemen to start the game (until Dalton Prout's arrival in the first period), the Blue Jackets had a quite a few blue liners log heavy minutes. Adrian Aucoin played a season-high 24:37 and Fedor Tyutin was 23 seconds short of 30 minutes of duty.
Richards said the quality minutes contributed by the young defensemen have been a positive, but credit for their play also goes to the veterans who have helped ease their transition to the NHL level.
"Timmy's come up and done a really good job for us," Richards said of the 22-year-old Erixon. "He's been pretty solid, and he's been exposed at a couple of times I think just because of the speed and size of these guys, so he knows he's got to get quicker and stronger. He's given us some really good minutes, and (Cody) Goloubef's done that in his second recall here and in his first recall.
"We've gotten some good miles out of guys. Prout comes up last night and gives us minutes, too. We've talked about the depth of this organization throughout these injuries at the start of this, that you're going to need all of these guys and it's showing now."
INJURY UPDATE: MOORE, DUBINSKY, JOHNSON
As mentioned above, Moore left the morning skate in Chicago with an injury and did not play, hence the recall of Prout from Springfield.
Richards said they aren't sure exactly how long Moore will be out of the lineup, but said he expects him to miss "a little bit of an extended period of time," and that it would be "probably at least a week" before he's back.
As for Brandon Dubinsky and Johnson, Richards said he expects both players to return to the lineup "at some point this week."
A BIG LIFT FROM JOEY
For as many one-goal games as the Blue Jackets have been involved in - and the added frustration of coming up on the short end as often as they have - there have been times when the bench has needed a lift. Ryan Johansen's spectacular finish late in the third period last night provided just that, Richards said.
They were trailing 3-2 in large part because of a 59-second stretch in the second period that allowed the Blackhawks two quick goals and a complete change in momentum, but the Umberger-Johansen-Foligno line that had played well all night came through with a huge goal to tie the game and force overtime.
"It was good for everyone and especially good for (Johansen)," Richards said. "It was a tough game and I think we battled hard, and you're trailing the best team in the league when it seems like we've always come up one short, it was a huge goal for us. It brought a lot of energy to our bench when the puck went in.
"We've been in games and battling all the way to the end and giving ourselves chances. In saying that, we've put ourselves behind the eight-ball at times making mistakes and some ill-advised decisions that have cost us goals. It happened last night in the span of 59 seconds."