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.