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Zach Werenski expected in playoffs for Blue Jackets

Rookie defenseman will have missed four games with upper-body injury

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PHILADELPHIA -- The Columbus Blue Jackets are optimistic defenseman Zach Werenski will be in the lineup when they start the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We think so, but that's up to the medical staff," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said during a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. "We have full trust in them to put the right schedule on Zach. But we are all optimistic he'll play Wednesday."

The Blue Jackets play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference First Round, with Game 1 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. The Stanley Cup Playoffs start Wednesday; the schedule will be released Sunday.

 

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Werenski sustained an upper-body injury in the third period against the Washington Capitals on April 2 and missed his third straight game Saturday. He won't play in the regular-season finale at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday (6 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, FS-O, NHL.TV).

They are the first games Werenski missed this season, and the Blue Jackets are 0-3-0 without him. Kekalainen said Werenski has been skating hard during individual workouts so he can step right back into the lineup when healthy.

"He's skating on his own, with our skills coach, who is putting him through drills," Kekalainen said. "Trying to get him ready both physically as far as staying sharp and also getting the proper strength to be 100 percent on Wednesday."

Werenski, 19, has 47 points (11 goals, 36 assists) in 78 games, tied for the sixth among NHL rookies, and is averaging 20:54 per game.

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