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Gavrikov could help Blue Jackets in second round of playoffs

KHL defenseman may be needed with three sidelined by injury; Bobrovsky sits out practice

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- Sergei Bobrovsky did not practice for a second straight day, but defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov skated for the first time with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

While the goalie took another maintenance day, according to coach John Tortorella, Gavrikov practiced less than 24 hours after his visa was approved. The Russia-born 23-year-old will take part in a simulated game at Nationwide Arena on Monday during a practice that is open to the public.

Bobrovsky's status for that practice is uncertain. He played the entirety of the four-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round, but when Tortorella was asked Saturday about Bobrovsky's chances of participating in the scrimmage, the coach replied, "It's his maintenance day today."


[RELATED: Blue Jackets plan simulated game]


Gavrikov's arrival comes with defensemen Adam McQuaid, Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara each out with an upper-body injury. But Tortorella made no promises that Gavrikov will play in the second round against the winner of the series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto would advance with a win at home in Game 6 on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

"From what I understand, Gavrikov is a really good player," he said. "I'm not sure how it all goes. I weigh that versus the chemistry of the team and winning the first round."

Gavorikov said he knows there are no guarantees he'll play.

"I need to work harder and harder every day, and we'll see what happens," he said. "I need to work more before I am going to play here. It's the next level for me."

Video: Foligno on Lightning, advancing to Second Round

Murray has missed 28 games since Feb. 18, and McQuaid has missed nine games. Nutivaara played the first two games against Tampa Bay before being injured when he was boarded by Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov at 15:34 of the third period in Game 2 on April 12. (Kucherov was suspended one game by the NHL Department of Player Safety for the play).

Adam Clendening took Nutivaara's spot for the final two games against the Lightning. Scott Harrington replaced McQuaid, who's been out since March 28, for the final five games of the regular season and the four against the Lightning. Dean Kukan played for Murray. All three made his NHL playoff debut.

Gavrikov was selected by the Blue Jackets in the sixth round (No. 159) of the 2015 NHL Draft and signed with Columbus on April 13 after six seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League, where had 49 points (16 goals, 33 assists) and was plus-97 in 222 games. He had 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in 60 games this season with SKA St. Petersburg and led the KHL with a plus-48 rating.

The Blue Jackets brought him to Columbus for a meeting in the summer of 2017 with the intention of signing him, but Gavrikov opted to stay in Russia, in part so he would be able to play in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where he helped the Olympic Athletes from Russia win the gold medal.

"He's a big guy (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) with some presence," Columbus defenseman David Savard said. "We'll see what he can do."

Gavrikov's transition will be made easier because his wife, Anastasia, taught him English. She accompanied him to Columbus.

"He came in today and you could tell he's an outgoing guy," Columbus defenseman Seth Jones said. "It feels like he's been here a while. He's very comfortable with us, walking around joking with us. It's good to have him here."

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