COLUMBUS -- Springfield Falcons forward Sean Collins received a couple of stitches under his right eye Wednesday from a wayward stick during an American Hockey League game against the Albany Devils.
That turned out to be an omen for Collins, who was summoned to the injury-ravaged Columbus Blue Jackets the next day and will play on the fourth line Friday against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Nationwide Arena.
"I fit right in with these guys," Collins said, who has 11 games of NHL experience, all with Columbus.
The Blue Jackets lost centers Artem Anisimov and Mark Letestu and defenseman James Wisniewski to injuries during a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. None of them will play against Toronto, bringing the number of regulars out of the lineup to eight.
A ninth player, left wing Nick Foligno, likely will return after missing the Ottawa game because of a stiff neck sustained in a collision Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings. He was to be evaluated after the morning skate Friday but is anxious to return against Toronto.
"There's soreness in my neck," he said. "I don’t have all movement and functionality yet. When I'm out there I don't feel like it's hurting my game; just deal with the pain and get ready."
Foligno knows the Blue Jackets, losers of three straight, are desperate for veteran players because so many of his teammates are missing.
"No one's going to feel sorry for us," he said. "We've got to find ways to get some wins here. We're in a tough stretch. We're a hard-working team. When you start to see us struggling, for some reason that [hard work] has gone away and we tried to cheat offensively. It's getting back to those basics."
Columbus coach Todd Richards spent the past two days assessing his lines but he's had enough time to study the Maple Leafs' new top line of Joffrey Lupul, Nazem Kadri and Phil Kessel.
"I will look for a matchup early on and see how the matchup goes," Richards said. "I don't want to go into a game where the other team necessarily is dictating how we're running our bench."
Kessel had been on a line with Tyler Bozak for most of the past three seasons but they were separated Tuesday in a 4-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres. Kessel had a goal and an assist in the game.
"I felt it was stagnant and we weren't creating enough chances," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. "If you do an evaluation and they get chances eventually those types of players will find ways to score goals."
Bozak was shifted to the second line, with James van Riemsdyk and David Clarkson, but Carlyle said it wasn't an easy decision to split Bozak and Kessel.
"You're more apprehensive to make a change when you know that there's been a long history with the two," Carlyle said. "It's not about two players; it's about our hockey club. We have a team and you have to make decisions in the best interest of the team. It's nothing personal."
Here are the projected lineups:
Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - Phil Kessel
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - David Clarkson
Leo Komarov - Mike Santorelli - Daniel Winnik
Carter Ashton - Peter Holland – Richard Panik
Dion Phaneuf - Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner - Roman Polak
Morgan Rielly - Stephane Robidas
Scratched: Matt Frattin, Stuart Percy
Injured: David Booth (foot), Brandon Kozun (ankle)
Scott Hartnell - Ryan Johansen - Cam Atkinson
Nick Foligno - Alexander Wennberg - Jack Skille
Corey Tropp - Michael Chaput - Marko Dano
Sean Collins - Adam Cracknell - Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin - Jack Johnson
Tim Erixon - Dalton Prout
Ryan Murray - David Savard
Scratched: Cody Goloubef, Brian Gibbons
Injured: Artem Anisimov (concussion), Matt Calvert (upper body), Nathan Horton (back), Brandon Dubinsky (abdominal surgery), Mark Letestu (groin), James Wisniewski (broken finger), Sergei Bobrovsky (broken finger), Boone Jenner (broken left hand)
Status report: If Foligno isn't medically cleared to play, then Gibbons, also recalled Thursday from Springfield, will take his spot. … Because the Blue Jackets are without three centers, Foligno volunteered to play there, as he did in junior hockey and occasionally for the Ottawa Senators under current Blue Jackets assistant coach Craig Hartsburg. … Percy, who played the first seven games before being sent to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, was recalled to give the Maple Leafs seven defensemen. "We're not afraid to use Stuart Percy in our lineup, that's for sure," Carlyle said.
Who’s hot: Johansen has tied his career best point streak at nine games; he has five goals and seven assists during his streak. … Toronto tied a Maple Leafs record for fewest shots allowed in a game (10) Tuesday against the Sabres.