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Horton returns at opportune time for Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Nathan Horton is expected to reunite with linemates Boone Jenner and Ryan Johansen for the game Tuesday against the visiting Phoenix Coyotes.

Horton has missed the past four games because of a lower-body injury, but his return comes at an opportune time with the Blue Jackets losing forwards Nick Foligno and RJ Umberger to injuries in the past week.

Johansen, the Blue Jackets' leading scorer with 57 points (31 goals), is looking forward to centering for Horton again with the rookie Jenner manning the left wing.

"We've played a lot of good hockey together, me and Horts and Boone," Johansen said. "It's nice being back with [Horton] and him being healthy, or healthier."

It's been a season of struggles for Horton after signing with the Blue Jackets in July, then shortly thereafter undergoing left shoulder surgery that caused him to miss the first 40 games.

He had four goals and three assists in his first 10 games, but has no goals and 10 assists in the past 24 before the latest injury. (He scored March 10 at the Dallas Stars in the game postponed after Stars forward Rich Peverley collapsed. Horton will be credited with the goal when the game is played Wednesday.)

"This time of year it doesn't matter who your linemates are," Horton said. "It's all about winning games."

Columbus coach Todd Richards will make at least one other lineup change with forward Corey Tropp replacing Matt Frattin. Tropp will play left wing on the fourth line with center Derek MacKenzie and either Jared Boll or Jack Skille.

Phoenix (36-28-14) will likely be without center Martin Hanzal, who sustained a lower-body injury Friday against the Edmonton Oilers.

The game has Stanley Cup Playoff implications. The Coyotes, 0-2-2 in the past four, are one point behind Dallas for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

Columbus (40-31-7) holds the second wild-card position in the Eastern Conference and is one point back of the Detroit Red Wings for the first wild card.

Here are the projected lineups:


Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan

Martin Erat - Kyle Chipchura- Radim Vrbata

Lauri Korpikoski - Mike Ribeiro - David Moss

Rob Klinkhammer - Jeff Halpern - Paul Bissonnette

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek

Keith YandleMichael Stone

Chris SummersDerek Morris

Thomas Greiss

Mark Visentin

Scratched: Connor Murphy, Brandon Gormley, Brandon McMillan

Injured: Mike Smith (knee), David Schlemko (foot), Martin Hanzal (lower body)


Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Nathan Horton

Blake ComeauArtem Anisimov - Mark Letestu

Corey Tropp - Derek MacKenzieJack Skille

James Wisniewski - Fedor Tyutin

Jack JohnsonDalton Prout

Ryan Murray - David Savard

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Matt Frattin, Jared Boll, Tim Erixon, Nikita Nikitin, Nick Schultz

Injured: Nick Foligno (lower body), RJ Umberger (upper body)

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