COLUMBUS -- Right wing David Clarkson arrived in town late Friday, participated in an optional skate with several players Saturday morning, and will make his debut for the Columbus Blue Jackets against the New Jersey Devils in Nationwide Arena.
It couldn’t come at a better time for the injury-ravaged Blue Jackets (26-30-4), who are near the bottom of the NHL in points but lead the League in man-games lost with 385 and mounting.
They will be without center Brandon Dubinsky and left wing Matt Calvert after each sustained a concussion in a 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. They will be out indefinitely.
Clarkson, traded Thursday by the Toronto Maple Leafs to Columbus for injured forward Nathan Horton, will move into the top line with center Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno.
“Always in the first game you’re going to have nerves and take time to get used to guys,” Clarkson said. “I’ll get this first game underneath me and go from there. This is something I want to be a part of. Looking forward, I think it’s good for my career.”
Columbus coach Todd Richards said Clarkson is getting a crash course on the Blue Jackets’ system, but he doesn’t think the lack of practices with his new teammates will be a problem.
“He’s been around enough playing different situations that the systems, when you play hockey and go from one team to another, relatively they’re real close if not similar,” Richards said. “He’s not going to be perfect. The game of hockey is flow, it’s speed and a lot of times you’ve got to make decisions and react but you’ve got to play within the structure.”
Clarkson will come full circle in Nationwide Arena. He played his first game there for the Maple Leafs (following a 10-game suspension for leaving the bench in a preseason game) Oct. 25, 2013, after six seasons with the New Jersey Devils.
Now, his first game for Columbus is against the Devils.
“I don’t know if it’s a sign or what,” said Clarkson, who will wear No. 18 after having 71 with the Maple Leafs.
The Blue Jackets did get some good news in that starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, out the past 15 games with a groin injury, has been activated from injured reserve and will be the backup to Curtis McElhinney on Saturday. Bobrovsky could play Sunday at the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Rookie goalie Oscar Dansk was reassigned to Springfield of the American Hockey League.
Meanwhile, the Devils (25-27-10) lost 3-2 in overtime to the Boston Bruins at the Prudential Center on Friday and are nine points behind the Bruins for the second wild-card spot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Devils did not skate Saturday morning, and right wing Michael Ryder will be in the lineup for the first time in eight games, according to co-coach Lou Lamoriello, who also confirmed Cory Schneider will start Saturday after playing on Friday.
New Jersey is 6-5-4 this season in the first games of back-to-backs, and 5-6-3 in the second.
The Devils on Friday ended a six-game homestand with 4-1-1 record. The game Saturday is their lone one on the road from Feb. 15 to March 9.
Here are the projected lineups:
Mike Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Jordin Tootoo
Adam Henrique - Patrik Elias - Steve Bernier
Dainius Zubrus - Scott Gomez - Michael Ryder
Tuomo Ruutu – Jacob Josefson - Stephen Gionta
Andy Greene - Adam Larsson
Jon Merrill - Marek Zidlicky
Mark Fraser - Eric Gelinas
Scratched: Peter Harrold, Martin Havlat
Injured: Keith Kinkaid (lower leg), Damon Severson (fractured left ankle), Bryce Salvador (back), Ryane Clowe (concussion)
Nick Foligno - Ryan Johansen - David Clarkson
Scott Hartnell - Alexander Wennberg - Cam Atkinson
Brian Gibbons - Artem Anisimov – Marko Dano
Corey Tropp - Mark Letestu - Jared Boll
Jack Johnson - David Savard
Fedor Tyutin - James Wisniewski
Cody Goloubef - Dalton Prout
Scratched: Jordan Leopold
Injured: Jack Skille (shoulder), Boone Jenner (stress fracture in back), Jeremy Morin (heart), Ryan Murray (high ankle sprain), Matt Calvert (concussion), Brandon Dubinsky (concussion), Kevin Connauton (lower body)
Status report: Gibbons was recalled Friday from Springfield when Calvert was put on injured reserve. Gibbons has five assists in 21 games for the Blue Jackets. Prout returns after missing nine games with an upper-body injury. He replaces Leopold. Connauton is expected to miss at least the next three games. … Ryder has been a healthy scratch seven straight games and 14 of the past 15. … Havlat played Friday after being a healthy scratch the previous five games.
Who’s hot: Cammalleri has five goals and two assists in a five-game point streak. Tootoo has two goals and three assists in a five-game point streak. … Dano has two goals and four points in four games since the rookie’s recall from Springfield.