The Blue Jackets have pulled a major shakeup for Thursday’s game in Montreal — veteran forward R.J. Umberger will healthy scratch, per head coach Todd Richards.
It’s a big move considering Umberger, tied for third on the Jackets in goals (18), has been a constant lineup presence throughout the year. He’s appeared in all 68 games and averages 17:34 TOI per game — the only forwards that play more are Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Johansen and Artem Anisimov.
That said, the decision to drop Umberger shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.
The 31-year-old has just one point in his last six games and has seen his minutes dip on a few occasions this month. Over a two-game stretch in early March, Umberger played just 13:39 against Toronto and 12:53 against Dallas — and Columbus won both games.
The Jackets are in a fight for their playoff lives, though, so it’s curious to see them drop one of their most veteran presences, especially given his success against Montreal in the past. Umberger has six goals and nine points in 17 career games versus the Canadiens and was a thorn in their side while playing for Philly during the 2008 playoffs, scoring eight goals and nine points in a five-game victory.
Columbus heads into tonight’s action holding the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, but tied on points (76) with ninth place Washington and one up on 10th-place Detroit. The Caps take on the Kings in L.A. tonight, while the Wings take on the Penguins at the Joe.
Saturday’s been unkind to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and not just on the scoreboard (where it’s 3-0 early on against the Ottawa Senators).
The Maple Leafs lost Tyler Bozak to an apparent upper-body injury thanks to a questionable hit by Sens forward Mika Zibanejad.
You can judge that check (which drew a minor penalty for illegal check to the head) in the video above. Again, Bozak will not return to tonight’s game.
It’s unclear if Bozak will miss time beyond this contest.
Scary stuff on Saturday: multiple reporters (including the Maine Hockey Journal’s Chris Roy) note that Malcolm Subban was taken to a hospital after a puck struck his throat during warm-ups.
There’s no word yet on Subban’s condition beyond that he was taken away in an ambulance.
The AHL’s Providence Bruins seem like they’ve been left scrambling for a backup goalie in Subban’s absence.
Subban stated days ago that he’s taken some significant steps forward during the 2015-16 season.
The Ottawa Senators cannot pin all of their troubles on missing their No. 1 center, yet it probably feels like a huge relief to get him back.
After missing six games with his latest injury, Kyle Turris is in the lineup as the Senators take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Again, it’s not all a matter of missing Turris, but the Senators went 1-5-0 during his six-game absence. They’ve really been falling since late December, to be honest.
Will Turris be enough to stop the bleeding? Perhaps to an extent, but the Senators are in for a serious battle if they hope to fight through the East bubble.
Times have been tough for Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers fans lately, even if they’ve been frustrating in different ways.
Saturday’s 5-1 Habs win highlights a few things, but the most tantalizing thought for those fans is that it’s likely that we’ll see more great things from P.K. Subban and Connor McDavid … sometimes against each other.
Perhaps this will be a confidence booster for Montreal. More than anything else, it directed attention to Subban, who’s quietly been absolutely fantastic for the floundering Canadiens.
Consider how much of an offensive burden he’s currently carrying:
From one current All-Star to someone who could be a perennial one: McDavid certainly seemed to grab Subban’s attention.
Then again, when you make moves like these, who won’t notice?
The Oilers did lose, mind you, so it’s not surprising that Todd McLellan mentioned that the team can’t depend upon McDavid for everything.
That said, the funny thing about that quote is that McDavid might just carry the Oilers for two decades, at least if health and other factors go the right way.
If that’s true, Subban vs. McDavid could be a fun matchup to watch a few times per season for a long, long time.