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At the Rink: Kings at Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Remember when the Columbus Blue Jackets were carrying nine defensemen and played one at forward when Matt Calvert was ill recently?

Coach Todd Richards does. He recalls the good old days fondly because injuries have reduced the defensive unit by a third for the game against the Los Angeles Kings in Nationwide Arena on Monday.

Dalton Prout will miss the game because of an upper-body injury sustained against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. The Blue Jackets (23-25-3) lost Ryan Murray (ankle) and James Wisniewski (lower body) to injuries the night before vs. the St. Louis Blues.

"It's ironic," Richards said. "I was getting a lot of questions from (the media), 'What are you going to do with the extra defensemen? You've got too many.'

"In the course of two days we've gone from nine to six."

Jordan Leopold, who got minutes at forward last week, will return to his natural spot on defense in place of Prout. The injuries have forced the defensemen to get used to different partners.

"That's what makes our group on the back end so good," defenseman Kevin Connauton said. "Guys are able to switch around with pairings and still play well."

The Kings (22-18-12) aren't immune to injuries to defensemen either. Alec Martinez was sent home after sustaining concussion-like symptoms following a heavy check during the 4-2 win at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday that ended a three-game losing streak.

Brayden McNabb will take his spot after being a healthy scratch for two straight games.

"We need a big win tonight," Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We still haven't played our best hockey. To get a win against one of the best teams in the East, Tampa Bay, is huge for our confidence. We need to carry that over."

Even with the Martinez injury, Los Angeles has had it easy compared to Columbus. With eight players out, the Blue Jackets' number of man-games missed will be 332 after Monday. The Kings will total 75.

Kings right wing Marian Gaborik will face the Blue Jackets for the first time since being traded by them on March 5, 2014. He was injured when Columbus played at the Staples Center on Oct. 26.

Gaborik had nine goals and 22 points in 34 games over two seasons with Columbus.

"I enjoyed my time while being here," he said. "When we had that run (in 2013) when we almost made the playoffs the atmosphere was unbelievable. People started coming to games more and more and they really helped push us there."

Here are the projected lineups:


Marian Gaborik - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown

Dwight King - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli

Trevor Lewis - Jarret Stoll - Justin Williams

Kyle Clifford - Nick Shore - Andy Andreoff

Drew Doughty - Jake Muzzin

Matt Greene - Brayden McNabb

Robyn Regehr - Jamie McBain

Jonathan Quick

Martin Jones

Scratched: Jordan Nolan

Injured: Tanner Pearson (leg), Alec Martinez (upper body)


Scott Hartnell - Ryan Johansen - Cam Atkinson

Nick Foligno - Brandon Dubinsky - Corey Tropp

Artem Anisimov - Alexander Wennberg - Jack Skille

Matt Calvert - Mark Letestu - Jared Boll

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Kevin Connauton - Fedor Tyutin

Cody GoloubefJordan Leopold

Curtis McElhinney

Anton Forsberg

Scratched: None

Injured: Nathan Horton (back), Ryan Murray (ankle), Sergei Bobrovsky (groin), Boone Jenner (back), Brian Gibbons (knee), Jeremy Morin (heart), James Wisniewski (lower body), Dalton Prout (upper body)

Status report: Richards said Wisniewski and Prout might return this weekend. Murray's high-ankle sprain will keep him out at least four weeks.

Who's hot: McElhinney is 6-2-0 with a 2.15 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in his last eight starts. … The Kings are 15-1-3 when leading after two periods.

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