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At the Rink: Flyers at Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Ryan Johansen, the MVP of the 2015 NHL All-Star Game, returns to the Columbus Blue Jackets lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, two nights after being a healthy scratch.

Although Johansen is second on the Blue Jackets (12-19-3) with 22 points (6-16), he has drawn the ire of coach John Tortorella.

Johansen was benched in the third period at the Dallas Stars on Tuesday and two days later did not play in the Blue Jackets’ 7-5 win at the Arizona Coyotes.

"He's a very important piece to the puzzle here," Tortorella said. "We felt there were some bad habits happening to his game. We felt it was time to stop them, reset them. I'm sure he'll be ready to play tonight.”

Johansen, 23, also was benched in the third period of Tortorella’s first game at the Minnesota Wild after replacing the fired Todd Richards on Oct. 21. That time it was purported to be because of a lack of conditioning.

Lately, it has been a series of giveaways and defensive issues that caused Tortorella to take action.

"I've been scratched many times in this League," Johansen said. "I've been in this situation before. I know what I have to do. I have to respond."

The benchings have prompted speculation Johansen could be traded.

"I'm a Columbus Blue Jacket," he said. "I've already come out and said many times that I love being here and I want to be a part of this team. I’m almost getting tired of saying that, I say it so much.

"I see myself as a big part of this team, someone who can be a difference maker. It's a big opportunity for me to help this team. If I make mistakes, that’s hockey, but if I keep making mistakes over and over, then that’s when it becomes an issue."

Johansen is hoping to follow the lead of Scott Hartnell, who returned from being a healthy scratch to get a goal and two assists against the Flyers on Dec. 5 in a 4-1 Columbus win.

"For him, I think it's a little bit of a wake-up call," Hartnell said. "It was a wake-up call for me. You have to realize you’re not playing hard, not playing up to his standards where he needs to be playing at."

For the Flyers, defenseman Luke Schenn returns after missing five games with an upper-body injury.

Philadelphia (14-12-6) is 7-2-1 in the past 10 games and first-year coach Dave Hakstol has been hesitant to make changes, but defenseman Brandon Manning will sit against the Blue Jackets.

"It's not an easy decision," Hakstol said. Brandon has done a good job for us, but it's time to get Luke back in. It's going to be a tough game tonight against a big, strong team in the terms of the way Columbus plays down low."

Schenn will be paired with Shayne Gostisbehere, who will move to from the right to the left.

"I'm trying to fit in," Schenn said. "The guys have played well the past couple of games. I'll try to contribute any way I can."

Here are the projected lineups:


Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Brayden Schenn

Jakub Voracek - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan White - Chris VandeVelde

R.J. Umberger - Scott Laughton - Matt Read

Radko Gudas - Michael Del Zotto

Nick Schultz - Evgeny Medvedev

Shayne GostisbehereLuke Schenn

Steve Mason

Michal Neuvirth

Injured: Sam Gagner (upper body), Mark Streit (groin)

Scratched: Vincent Lecavalier, Brandon Manning


Boone JennerRyan JohansenNick Foligno

Matt CalvertBrandon DubinskyCam Atkinson

Scott HartnellAlexander WennbergBrandon Saad

Gregory CampbellWilliam KarlssonDavid Clarkson

Ryan Murray - Fedor Tyutin

Kevin ConnautonDalton Prout

Andrew BodnarchukJustin Falk

Joonas Korpisalo

Curtis McElhinney

Injured: Sergei Bobrovsky (lower body), Cody Goloubef (jaw), Markus Hannikainen (shoulder), David Savard (ankle), Jack Johnson (upper body)

Scratched: Jared Boll, Rene Bourque

Status report: The rookie Korpisalo will make his third start in four games this week. … Savard was placed on Injured Reserve on Saturday and is expected to miss four weeks. Bourque was activated from IR after missing the past 12 games … Bobrovsky and Goloubef were on the ice Saturday morning.

Who's hot: Voracek has one goal and four assists in his past three games. Couturier has two goals and an assist in two games. … Wennberg’s eight assists have come in the past seven games. He, Saad and Atkinson each had a goal and two assists against Arizona

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