Columbus' Gaborik skates but not close to returningby Craig Merz
COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets play their final home game Saturday before a three-game trip to the West Coast concludes their pre-Sochi Olympics schedule.
Injured forward Marian Gaborik will travel with the team but he will not play any games for the Blue Jackets until after the Olympics, coach Todd Richards said.
Richards also said it has not been determined if Gaborik, who suffered a broken collarbone against the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 21 and underwent surgery three days later, will be medically cleared to play for the Slovakian Olympic team as he did in 2006 and 2010.
Gaborik was on the ice with the team at the tail end of practice Saturday morning for the first time in more than a month and did some shooting and skating but did not participate in drills.
After hosting the Florida Panthers on Saturday, the Blue Jackets play at the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles King and San Jose Sharks before the Olympic break.
Richards is targeting Gaborik's return to the Blue Jackets for the first game after the break Feb. 27 at the New Jersey Devils but said that is tenuous.
Teams aren't allowed to practice during the break and if Gaborik doesn't play in the Olympics that has to be factored in the timetable.
"We don't have scheduled practices so you're going to be losing a little bit of it there compared to a normal in-season thing where our hands are on him every day, he's out skating every day," Richards said.
Gaborik has played only 18 games this season after recovering from offseason abdominal surgery. He was in the lineup for 17 of the first 18 games then missed the next 17 because of a knee sprain.
After returning against Philadelphia, he took just four shifts before breaking his collarbone while being sandwiched between two Flyers players.
Saturday will mark his 19th straight game on the injured reserve list.
The three-time NHL All-Star has five goals and seven assists this season and 341 goals in his career.
Meanwhile, Florida interim coach Peter Horachek said after the morning skate that rookie center Aleksander Barkov could play against the Blue Jackets after missing four games with a lower body injury.
"He looks really good," Horachek said. "We talked before about his progression, so it looks real good for him to play."
Barkov, the second overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, has eight goals and 24 points in 50 games and has been selected to play for Finland in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Here are the projected lineups for the Panthers and Blue Jackets:
Tomas Fleischmann - Nick Bjugstad - Scottie Upshall
Sean Bergenheim - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes
Jonathan Huberdeau - Marcel Goc - Jesse Winchester
Tomas Kopecky - Drew Shore - Krys Barch
Scratched: Jimmy Hayes, Erik Gudbranson, Shawn Matthias, Scott Gomez
Injured: Mike Mottau (lower body)
Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Nathan Horton
Nick Foligno - Artem Anisimov - RJ Umberger
Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson
Derek MacKenzie - Mark Letestu - Corey Tropp
Ryan Murray - James Wisniewski
Scratched: Cody Goloubef, Blake Comeau
Injured: Marian Gaborik (collarbone), Jared Boll (ankle surgery)