BLUE JACKETS (21-22-3) at PANTHERS (20-15-10)
TV: FS-O, FS-F
SUNRISE, Fla. — Injuries continues to be an issue for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but they'll have veteran center Artem Anisimov back in the lineup Thursday night against the Florida Panthers.
Anisimov will return after missing 23 games because of a torn triceps. Anisimov, who has two goals and four assists in 16 games, hasn't played since Nov. 29 against the Nashville Predators.
"Obviously it gives us depth and it gives us experience down the middle,"???Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "Getting [Anisimov] back, we know what he can bring to this team. He can bring some offensive skill, good penalty killer, lots of different things. [He] plays the game smart positionally, so he's a guy that's relied upon."
This will be the first time all season that the Columbus lineup will include the team's four projected centers.
While Anisimov is back, the Blue Jackets now will be without forward Jeremy Morin, who was put on injured reserve Wednesday and is out indefinitely.
Morin was taken to a hospital during the second period of Columbus' 4-3 home victory against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday because of an elevated heart rate, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Richards revealed after the morning skate he also dealt with heart problems during his playing career, which included stints in the American Hockey League, the International Hockey League and eight games over two seasons (1990-92) with the Hartford Whalers.
"Whenever you're talking about the heart, there is some seriousness to it,"???Richards said. "I have a heart condition, so I???know I've gone through some of the rapid heartbeat. I???know [with]???tachycardia I???go from 80 beats a minute to 190 in a second. It's something I???had checked out a long time ago. Again, whenever you're dealing with the heart, you have to take it seriously."
Morin is one of six players on injured reserve for the Blue Jackets, whose 294 man games lost are first in the NHL, according to mangameslost.com.
Columbus (21-22-3) will go into the game Thursday in 13th place in the Eastern Conference standings with 45 points, five behind ninth-place Florida.
The Blue Jackets will be going for a three-game season sweep after beating the Panthers 2-1 at Columbus and 4-3 in a shootout at BB&T???Center in a four-day span in early December.
The Panthers had a season-high 55 shots in the Dec. 4 game at BB&T???Center, but Blue Jackets goalie Sergie Bobrovsky, who was put on IR on Monday because a groin injury, stole the show with 52 saves.
Columbus has a 10-game winning streak in the series dating back to 2009. Columbus hasn't lost at BB&T???Center since March 1, 2004 when Roberto Luongo was in his first stint with Florida and Columbus' head coach was Gerard Gallant, who's now in his first year as Florida coach.
"I???don't worry about the few years past; I???worry about this year,"???Gallant said. "[The]???two games against them this year, they were good hockey games. They were both close games. I???thought one game in here we had a lot of shots, their goalie was outstanding, and it's a game that we probably should have won and we didn't. And the game in Columbus, they played real good against us. They were both good games and both games that either team could have won."
The Panthers (20-15-10)???are looking to end a season-worst five-game losing streak and wrap up a disappointing five-game homestand on a positive note.
Florida has followed a 4-2 road trip with losses against the Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings, who won 5-4 on Tuesday.
"It's tough when you're not winning at home, especially for the fans,"?????????center Nick Bjugstad said. "We want to win in front of them in our home building. We definitely want to come out with some motivation tonight and do our best."
Like Columbus, Florida will welcome back a veteran after a long absence with right wing Shawn Thornton returning after missing 20 games with a groin injury.
"I'm excited,"?????????Thornton said. "It was a long, long injury. Happy to be back. Hopefully I can shake the rust off pretty early and contribute a little bit."
The Florida lineup also will feature a change on the back end with Alex Petrovic, recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Wednesday, replacing Dylan Olsen on defense.
Here are the projected lineups:
Nick Foligno - Ryan Johansen – Cam Atkinson
Scott Hartnell - Brandon Dubinsky - Corey Tropp
Alexander Wennberg – Artem Anisimov - Josh Anderson
Matt Calvert - Mark Letestu – Jared Boll
Jack Johnson - David Savard
Kevin Connauton - James Wisniewski
Dalton Prout - Fedor Tyutin
Scratched: Cody Goloubef, Jordan Leopold, Jack Skille
Injured: Brian Gibbons (knee), Nathan Horton (back), Boone Jenner (back), Ryan Murray (knee), Sergei Bobrovsky (groin)
Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes
Brandon Pirri - Nick Bjugstad - Jimmy Hayes
Sean Bergenheim - Dave Bolland - Jussi Jokinen
Tomas Kopecky - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton
Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad
Willie Mitchell - Dmitry Kulikov
Alex Petrovic - Erik Gudbranson
Scratched:???????????????????????????Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall, Dylan Olsen
Status report: Fleischmann, who has 13 points in 38 games, will be a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game and the sixth time in 15 games. ... Upshall will be a scratch for the second time in three games. ... There was some hope that Murray could return to the Columbus lineup for the first time since Nov. 1, but he will miss his 36th consecutive game. Richards said there was a possibility Murray could play Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Who's hot:???????????????????????????Barkov has nine points (three goals, six assists)???????????????????????????in his past nine games. ... Johansen has nine goals in the past 12 games.