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John Tortorella returns to Blue Jackets

Coach missed game last week, All-Star Weekend because of family matter

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Coach John Tortorella was back with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday after leaving last week and missing the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend on Sunday because of a family matter.

Tortorella ran Blue Jackets practice at Madison Square Garden to prepare for their first game after the All-Star break against the New York Rangers on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG2, FS-O, NHL.TV). Though Tortorella didn't comment about the specific nature of why he returned home, he said it was hard being away.

"[Darn] right," Tortorella said. "But I'd still make the same decision. I just wish I just had a little privacy and coached the game and gone about my business."

Tortorella was touched by the amount of support he received when he was tending to his personal business, but said it was not a life-and-death matter with family members and wished he could have stayed under the radar.

"I just wanted to go about some family business on my own," Tortorella said. "It didn't turn out that way, but I certainly appreciate the people that sought me out. But I think of other families, their kids are in the hospital and so many different things going on with their families. For me to be involved in this, I felt a little weird about it. I just wanted to be left alone for a couple of days and just take care of some business I needed to take care of with my son and family."

Assistants Brad Larsen and Brad Shaw coached the Blue Jackets in a 4-3 loss at the Nashville Predators on Thursday.

"Obviously, you feel bad for him," captain Nick Foligno said. "He's a guy that's very private in his personal life. For him to kind of mention that there was something going on there, I think a lot of guys were concerned and just wanted to make sure he was doing well."

Wayne Gretzky coached the Metropolitan Division at the All-Star Game in Tortorella's place. It defeated the Pacific Division 4-3 in the championship of the 3-on-3 tournament in Los Angeles and split the $1 million prize awarded to the winning team.

Video: MET@ATL: Atkinson pots empty-netter for his second

Tortorella didn't see much of the game but loved the idea of having Gretzky coach.

"Maybe it's a little bit of a message to the League, maybe that's what should happen," Tortorella said. "The boys had a blast. It's great for guys like Gretzky, [assistant Paul] Coffey, some of the star players. Maybe that's where you go. I don't want to dictate policy to the League, but that was a pretty cool thing.

"To listen to some of the guys that did watch it and just listen to Wayne Gretzky talk about it, that's a sign of respect to guys that have kind of pioneered our game here a little bit. I hope it works out that way, that they get on the bench. I think it's a terrific thing."

The three Blue Jackets who played in the All-Star Game excelled. Forward Cam Atkinson had five points (three goals, two assists), including a breakaway goal that tied the championship game 3-3 in the second half, defenseman Seth Jones scored twice and had a plus-4 rating, and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 16 saves in victories against the Atlantic and Pacific divisions.

"It's great for those guys, especially Cam, who finally got the recognition he deserved," forward Matt Calvert said. "They represent Columbus well, and I think it's been a wake-up call for the rest of the League to show how good him, Seth and Bob have been for our team."

Atkinson, Jones and Bobrovsky did not practice but will be with the Blue Jackets for the morning skate Tuesday. Columbus (32-12-4) is four points behind the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division but 5-7-0 since Washington ended its 16-game winning streak Jan. 5.

Since then, Tortorella said, urgency has been at a minimum.

"We have no business to think that we can play a game without that type of urgency," Tortorella said. "I understand you go through ebbs and flows of this year. We've tried to help them along the way here, but it has looked like a team, especially the past week and a half of the games, of hanging on just to get to the break. We certainly have to change that mindset."

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