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Blue Jackets will be without Anisimov against Sharks

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards already needed to replace right wing Blake Comeau because of a suspension. But they will also be without their second-leading goal scorer, Artem Anisimov, Thursday against the San Jose Sharks.

The center missed the morning skate to be with his wife, Ksenia Anisimova, for the birth of their first child. The Columbus Dispatch reported the baby was born Thursday and Anisimov will miss the game.

"Arte's got something more important going on right now than playing hockey," Richards said. "We're assuming he's not going to be in the lineup tonight."

Richards had planned to play wing Cam Atkinson for Comeau, who starts a two-game suspension for boarding Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith during a 4-1 win Tuesday. Wing Matt Frattin, who came to Columbus from the Los Angeles Kings in a trade for Marian Gaborik on March 5, will play in place of Anisimov.

The Blue Jackets (34-26-5) will be without Anisimov and his 19 goals but will add Atkinson, who has 18 goals despite being benched the past three games (including the postponed game Monday at the Dallas Stars).

"It's tough playing every game and not then knowing why you're not playing when you're healthy," Atkinson said.

He said it was the first time he had been benched in his career. In the nine previous games, he had one goal and two assists.

Richards and Atkinson discussed the move several days ago.

"My conservation with him in Dallas was that he had something to prove, so I'm expecting him to come out and play hard," Richards said. "You'd expect there'd be some reaction being taken out of the lineup."

After sitting out the past few games, Atkinson said he believes he is ready.

"I don't think I have anything to prove," he said. "I'm going to work hard, play my game and try to be the hardest worker out there."

Atkinson skated Thursday morning on a line with center Mark Letestu and RJ Umberger.

The Sharks (42-17-7) will go with backup goalie Alex Stalock to begin a three-game trip. Antti Niemi started the past three games, all wins. Stalock is 10-4-1 with a 1.85 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage.

Coach Todd McLellan is expected to otherwise keep the same lineup used in a 6-2 win Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Columbus is 13-9-2 at home against San Jose with wins in four of the past five games, including 6-2 and 4-0 victories last season.

"This building hasn't been very friendly to us in the past," San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle said. "We're aware of that. There's no reason for it. No team stays the same. There are different players. It's just one of those things."

Here are the projected lineups for the Sharks and Blue Jackets:


Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto

Tommy Wingels - James Sheppard - Martin Havlat

Mike Brown - Adam BurishAndrew Desjardins

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers

Scott Hannan - Justin Braun

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Alex Stalock

Antti Niemi

Scratched: Tyler Kennedy, Raffi Torres, Matt Tennyson,

Injured: Brad Stuart (upper body), Tomas Hertl (right knee)


Nick Foligno - Ryan Johansen - Boone Jenner

Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Nathan Horton

RJ Umberger - Mark Letestu - Cam Atkinson

Corey Tropp - Derek MacKenzieMatt Frattin

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Nikita Nikitin - James Wisniewski

Nick Schultz - Dalton Prout

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Cody Goloubef, Frederic St. Denis, Artem Anisimov

Suspended: Blake Comeau

Injured: Jared Boll (ankle), Ryan Murray (knee), Fedor Tyutin (ankle)

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