The Blue Jackets held a full practice at Nationwide Arena Monday morning to prepare for Tuesday night’s tilt with the New Jersey Devils.
All healthy Jackets were accounted for. That includes Jared Boll, who will serve the final game of a three-game suspension on Tuesday, but it also included two players returning from injury who would be back in the lineup tomorrow night.
Alexander Wennberg and Matt Calvert were both full participants in the workout, and head coach Todd Richards announced that both have been medically cleared to return to game action.
“They both got cleared by the doctors, that’s why they’re practicing today. There’s a real good possibility that they will both play tomorrow,” said Richards, who added that Corey Tropp could be the player that would sit to make room for the returnees.
Wenneberg has missed the last four games with an infection of his hand, an infection to a cut that he earned when blocking a shot against the Avalanche on Mar. 7. The wound is covered with a bandage under his glove and Wennberg said it felt better.
Calvert has missed 15 games due to a concussion sustained against the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 26. He skated on the fourth line during practice with Mark Letestu and Jared Boll.
Other stuff from around the rink…
- Wennberg was back between Scott Hartnell and Marko Dano at practice, but Richards had nothing but high praise for the young Swede who served as his temporary replacement on that line. William Karlsson was returned to AHL Springfield on Monday, but certainly stuck out in the minds of the coaching staff.
“He (played well) and I told him that this morning when he came in, that he did a good job,” said Richards. “It was really his first opportunity in front of us to show what he could do and he made a good first impression.
“I was impressed with how he played. Some of the adjustments that we made defensively, you can tell a lot about how smart a guy is if you make an adjustment and see that guy right away go out and do it. It’s a fast game and you have to read and react fast, and he did that.”
- Sergei Bobrovsky will get the start against the Devils, and Richards does not plan to make any changes to his defense pairings or forward lines aside from the possible additions of Wennberg and Calvert.
- The Jackets' winning streak now sits at six games, but perhaps just as significant as the number of games won is the quality of teams the Jackets are beating. The Jackets have played the role of “spoiler” for a handful of the Western Conference’s key playoff points races, and this week will have the full attention of some of the East’s hopefuls with games against the Islanders, Penguins, and Rangers over the next seven days.
“When you’ve won games and had some success, teams do take note," Richards said. "And I’m not saying that teams St. Louis and Chicago took us lightly or anything like that. But when you look at our position in the standings sometimes that can take a little bit of the edge away. And now that you’ve won and had some success on the road in Chicago and St. Louis, at home against Anaheim, I think other teams do take note of that.”
“I don’t think our focus is on that,” said forward Ryan Johansen, who carries a seven-game points streak (3-6-9) into Tuesday night. “Right now we’re just approaching every game wanting to win and we feel like we can on any given night. I’m proud of the way the guys have played the last couple of weeks and how we’re playing for each other. But it’s important that we keep taking steps forward over the last seven games as individuals and as a team.”
- Cam Atkinson was named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week. He is the second player on the club to earn honors from the league during the month of March. Hartnell earned First Star honors for the week of Mar. 9-15.