TAMPA -- Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nathan Horton had abdominal surgery Friday morning and is expected to miss six weeks.
Horton missed four games with the injury before returning to the lineup Tuesday in a 4-3 win against the Phoenix Coyotes. However, he skated only eight shifts before leaving the game.
Horton, who missed the first half of the season recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, appeared in 36 games with five goals and 19 points.
"It's a blow," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "The reason why it's a blow is the potential out on the ice. A goal scorer, big and strong. But the other thing is that he's played in big games and big moments. That's why an organization like this goes out to get a guy like him. He can offer it being around the guys but it's that in the room, in between periods and on the bench during a game, that he could have had a great effect."
Coupled with the injuries to Nick Foligno and RJ Umberger, the Blue Jackets will head into the Stanley Cup Playoffs without much of their veteran leadership. But Richards has found a silver lining in that situation.
"We are green, but my concern isn't for that," Richards said. "Sometimes youth and the excitement of it all, that can be a good thing."
Columbus did get some good news about Foligno, who will begin skating this weekend.
"That's a step," Richards said. "I don't know where that puts him, timeline-wise. Will he be ready for Game 1 or Game 2, I'm not sure. But the good thing is that he'll skate."
The Blue Jackets have made the playoffs for only the second time in their history and the first time since 2009, but Richards isn't planning any let up.
"We are going with the same attitude we have had the last couple of weeks," Richards said. "That's the attitude and we'll see how it plays out in the game tonight. At times, when you push a little hard, you accomplish what you want. Our goal was to get into the playoffs, and sometimes you take a breath and you relax. We can't do that. Points are important right now. We need to come out and try to get better and elevate our play. Keep pushing, so when we do hit Game 1, we're on top of our game."
The Lightning had an optional skate after defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 on Thursday, and only a few players were on the ice.
If Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper plans any chances in his lineup for Friday, he is keeping it to himself, saying that will be a game-time decision.
The Lightning have added center Cedric Paquette to their roster, called up from Syracuse in the American Hockey League. Paquette played in 70 games in his rookie season with the Crunch, posting 20 goals and 44 points to go along with 153 penalty minutes. He leads all Crunch skaters in goals.
Defenseman Sami Salo, day-to-day with an upper-body injury, skated this morning but is not expected to play Friday against Columbus.
Here are the projected lineups for the Blue Jackets and Lightning:
Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Matt Frattin
Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson
Blake Comeau - Artem Anisimov - Mark Letestu
Corey Tropp - Derek MacKenzie - Jack Skille
Fedor Tyutin - James Wisniewski
Jack Johnson - Nick Schultz
Ryan Murray - David Savard
Scratched: Jared Boll, Tim Erixon, Dalton Prout
Injured: Nick Foligno (lower body), Nathan Horton (lower body), Nikita Nikitin (lower body), R.J. Umberger (upper body)
Ondrej Palat – Tyler Johnson – Steven Stamkos
Alex Killorn– Valtteri Filppula – Ryan Callahan
J.T. Brown – Tom Pyatt – Nikita Kucherov
Richard Panik – Nate Thompson – Teddy Purcell
Victor Hedman – Radko Gudas
Eric Brewer – Michael Kostka
Matthew Carle – Andrej Sustr
Scratched: Keith Aulie, Mark Barberio, Ryan Malone, B.J. Crombeen, Cody Kunyk
Injured: Ben Bishop (upper body), Sami Salo (upper body)