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Blue Jackets get Calvert back, lose Comeau to IR

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- It's been one skate forward and one skate back for much of the season for the Columbus Blue Jackets as far as injures, and Friday against the streaking Carolina Hurricanes will be no different.

Forward Matt Calvert will return after missing seven games with an upper-body injury sustained Dec. 21 against the Philadelphia Flyers, but forward Blake Comeau was put on injured reserve Friday and will miss 4-6 weeks after spraining a knee ligament Thursday in practice.

"A lot of teams have injuries and that's not an excuse," Columbus forward Nathan Horton said. "But it seems like all year when somebody gets hurt and comes back, somebody else gets hurt."

Horton knows all about returning from injury. He missed the first 40 games while recovering from shoulder surgery in July. He has played three games -- all on the road, including scoring his lone goal in his debut Jan. 2 at the Phoenix Coyotes -- and is looking forward to making his home debut after the former Boston Bruin signed a free-agent contract in the summer.

"I've been waiting for this for a while," he said. "It's nice to be in front of our fans, in our building. It's obviously somewhere I've spent a lot of time [rehabbing]."

Coach Todd Richards said he hopes Horton's first game in Nationwide Arena provides a boost for the Blue Jackets (19-20-4).

That energy is needed to offset the loss of the feisty Comeau, who had three goals, 11 points and 21 penalty minutes in 43 games but gave the team some intangibles. He leads the Blue Jackets with 131 hits.

"He hits really hard and he's a weighty kid too," Richards said. "You're going to be missing that from your lineup -- good speed, good forechecker. He's really keeping teams honest going back for pucks because if he catches you right it ends up being a pretty impactful hit."

Ryan Craig will take Comeau's spot on a line with Mark Letestu and Corey Tropp while Calvert will join Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson. Calvert has four goals and four assists but has played 17 games because of injuries. He missed 19 games earlier after abdominal surgery.

"When you come back from injury you want to keep it simple the first few shifts, get a few hits and get my body back into it," Calvert said.

The Hurricanes (19-16-9) have been beset by injuries as well. Captain Eric Staal (lower body) will miss his third straight game and goalie Cam Ward (lower body) his fifth in a row and 15th of the season, yet Carolina has won five straight.

"I'm pretty proud of the guys fighting through the adversity," coach Kirk Muller said. "It's about keeping focused and finding ways to get points."

Anton Khudobin, who made 25 saves in a 6-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, is expected to start as he attempts to improve to 7-0-0 on the season.

The projected lineups for the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets on Friday:


Alexander Semin - Tuomo Ruutu - Jeff Skinner

Patrick Dwyer - Nathan Gerbe - Jordan Staal

Drayson Bowman - Manny Malhotra - Radek Dvorak

Zach Boychuk - Brett Sutter - Elias Lindholm

Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk

Ron Hainsey - Brett Bellemore

John-Michael Liles - Ryan Murphy

Anton Khudobin

Justin Peters

Scratched: Mike Komisarek, Jay Harrison

Injured: Eric Staal (lower body), Cam Ward (lower body), Jiri Tlusty (appendectomy), Riley Nash (lower body)


Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Nick Foligno - Ryan Johansen - RJ Umberger

Boone Jenner - Artem Anisimov - Nathan Horton

Ryan Craig - Mark Letestu - Corey Tropp

Jack Johnson - Fedor Tyutin

James Wisniewski - Ryan Murray

Nikita Nikitin - David Savard

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Dalton Prout

Suspended: Derek MacKenzie

Injured: Marian Gaborik (collarbone), Cody Bass (thumb), Jared Boll (foot), Jack Skille (upper body), Blake Comeau (knee)

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