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At the Rink: Coyotes at Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Arizona Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy has skated quite a bit in Nationwide Arena over the years. But Tuesday will be the first time he does it wearing an NHL uniform.

Murphy lived in Columbus from 2002-10 when his father, Gord Murphy, was an assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Connor Murphy often would skate with the injured players, and the youth teams he played for practiced on the arena ice once a season.

"Everyone dreams about playing in a place as nice as this," he said.

His dream will become a reality Tuesday when he plays his first NHL game in Columbus.

"It will be pretty surreal going out for warm-ups," he said. "It's something you don't picture happening growing up but it's a pretty cool opportunity."

Gord Murphy, now an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Flyers, won't be in attendance, but his mother will.

Murphy was born in Boston and spent time in Florida and Atlanta while his father was finishing a 14-year NHL playing career. But Connor said he considers Columbus home, and it's where he spends much of his offseason.

"It's right where it all started," he said.

Murphy also is connected to the city through the many friends he still has from playing for the Blue Jackets' youth teams. He is the first player from Columbus to play in the NHL.

"It's a great story," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "It's great for the area. It's great for the organization and Blue Jackets hockey that one of their own has found his way to the NHL."

Murphy said he expects more players from Columbus to follow.

"It's awesome for kids to realize they have all that they need here," he said. "Kids and parents think they need to move away to Michigan or move up to Canada at young ages to play hockey and make it to the next level. Any goal you want to reach, you can make it in being coached here."

For the Blue Jackets, goaltender Anton Forsberg will make his second NHL start Tuesday.

Forsberg, the 188th pick in the 2011 NHL Draft by the Blue Jackets, was called up from Springfield of the American Hockey League last week to back up Curtis McElhinney after starter Sergei Bobrovsky injured his groin Jan. 21. Bobrovsky is expected to miss at least three more weeks.

The Blue Jackets (21-24-3) have lost two of three since Bobrovsky’s injury with McElhinney starting, but Richards said playing Forsberg against the Coyotes is not a reflection on McElhinney.

"[Forsberg] hasn't played in over a week," Richards said. "You don't want him sitting too long. If he doesn't play tonight you put him in one of the games this weekend and then it's close two weeks."

Forsberg's last game was Jan. 24 with Springfield. He had an 18-7-1 record and a 2.04 GAA for the Falcons and was selected for the AHL All-Star Game but was unable to play after being promoted to Columbus.

He made 26 saves in 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 1 in his NHL debut, and seven days later allowed four goals on 15 shots in 20 minutes of relief duty against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Here are projected lineups:


Tobias Rieder - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan

Lauri Korpikoski - Sam Gagner - Martin Erat

Brandon McMillan - Kyle Chipchura - David Moss

Lucas Lessio - Brendan Shinnimin - B.J. Crombeen

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek

Keith Yandle - Michael Stone

Andrew Campbell - Connor Murphy

Mike Smith

Louis Domingue

Scratched: Chris Summers

Injured: Mikkel Boedker (spleen), Martin Hanzal (upper body), Joe Vitale (upper body)


Nick Foligno - Ryan Johansen - Cam Atkinson

Scott Hartnell - Brandon Dubinsky - Corey Tropp

Alexander Wennberg - Artem Anisimov - Jack Skille

Kevin Connauton - Mark Letestu - Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Jack Johnson

Ryan Murray - David Savard

Jordan Leopold - James Wisniewski

Anton Forsberg

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Dalton Prout, Cody Goloubef

Injured: Brian Gibbons (knee), Nathan Horton (back), Boone Jenner (back), Sergei Bobrovsky (groin), Jeremy Morin (heart), Matt Calvert (illness)

Status report: With Calvert missing a second straight game because of illness, the Blue Jackets will have 11 forwards. Leopold played on the fourth line against Tampa Bay on Saturday but Connauton will move into the spot Tuesday. Columbus is carrying nine defensemen.

Who’s hot: Gagner has two goals and two assists in a three-game point streak. … Vermette, a former Blue Jackets player, is ninth in the NHL in faceoffs, winning 56.1 percent.

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