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At the Rink: Blue Jackets at Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- The winless Columbus Blue Jackets won't have leading scorer Ryan Johansen when they play the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday at Pepsi Center (9 p.m., ET; ALT, FS-O).

Johansen became ill Saturday morning and returned to Columbus on a commercial flight with an assistant trainer for further evaluation.

"He just didn't feel well today," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "We knew he wasn't going to play, he didn't feel well enough. We wanted to get him home, take care of him, get him evaluated as quickly as possible so we can get an idea of where we're going to go with it."

Johansen, who has one goal and five assists, was benched for the final 6:10 in the Blue Jackets' 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday in Tortorella's first game since he replaced Todd Richards.

Tortorella said he was not unhappy with Johansen's conditioning.

"I don't think conditioning is a problem. I think it's just a mindset of trying to get back to feeling good about themselves is the biggest problem."

The Blue Jackets (0-8-0) have been outscored 37-15 and are 29th in the NHL in penalty killing (65.2 percent), but Tortorella was encouraged by their play against the Wild.

"One win, let's just look to get one win and it's amazing what happens to athletes when that happens," he said. "They get to turn the radio on, the music, and all the other good things that come with winning. That kind of grows on you, that's what helps you mentally.

"There's no question it's a pretty fragile team. I like the way they practiced today, they were loose. We were good in our meetings. I think they took a step in the right direction. We lost the game, but I thought we defended very well. We need to keep the puck out of our net. We did a lot of good things."

Tortorella said he watched videotape for more than six hours Friday and had organizational meetings with Blue Jackets president John Davidson and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen.

"I think we're all getting comfortable as far as who we are and what we are," he said. "Todd Richards was a really good coach. It's not like you have to revamp everything. He was a good coach, stuff happens that way. I'm coming in and trying to have them understand me. I'm trying to figure out who they are and understand their little quirks, whatever they may be, but it's all about playing under a team concept. We're going to keep on teaching and we'll get to know one another that way as we interact that way."

The Avalanche (2-3-1) are coming off a 1-0 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes and are looking to get back to .500 before going on the road for the next three games. They expect the Blue Jackets to come out hard.

"We know that they're a good hockey club that works hard," Avalanche right wing Jarome Iginla said. "They got off to a tough start and they had a coaching change and stuff. They'll be fired up, but we have to focus on ourselves to be ready to battle and compete because that's what their team and their identity has been for a long time. We expect them to be hungry, desperate, searching for their first win. We want to give them every chance early not to feel good and for us to feel good. We want to get something going."

Here are the projected lineups:


Brandon Saad -- Brandon Dubinsky -- Nick Foligno

Scott Hartnell -- Alexander Wennberg -- Cam Atkinson

Boone Jenner -- William Karlsson -- Matt Calvert

Rene Bourque -- Gregory Campbell -- David Clarkson

Jack Johnson -- David Savard

Fedor Tyutin -- Dalton Prout

Cody Goloubef -- Ryan Murray

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Jared Boll, Kevin Connauton

Injured: Ryan Johansen (illness)


Blake Comeau -- Matt Duchene -- Jarome Iginla

Gabriel Landeskog -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Alex Tanguay

Dennis Everberg -- Carl Soderberg -- John Mitchell

Cody McLeod -- Mikhail Grigorenko -- Jack Skille

Francois Beauchemin -- Erik Johnson

Nikita Zadorov -- Nate Guenin

Brandon Gormley -- Nick Holden

Semyon Varlamov

Reto Berra

Scratched: None

Injured: Brad Stuart (back), Jesse Winchester (concussion symptoms)

Suspended: Tyson Barrie

Status report: Dubinsky moved to the Blue Jackets' first line in Johansen's absence with Saad and Foligno. Bourque, a healthy scratch for two of the past three games, will play on the fourth line with Campbell and Clarkson.

Who's hot: Saad has points in four of eight games. … Landeskog has four goals in six games this season.

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