Tortorella (broken ribs) to miss series versus Habs

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The broken ribs suffered by Columbus head coach John Tortorella will keep him out of tonight’s game at home against Montreal, and tomorrow’s return date at the Bell Center.

Tortorella was hurt during an outdoor practice last Friday following a collision with forward Rene Bourque. He was sent to a local hospital and diagnosed with broken ribs; the following day, assistant coach Craig Hartsburg took over bench boss duties for a 3-2 shootout loss to the Bruins.

The Jackets are 17-20-4 under Tortorella this year, after he replaced Todd Richards in late October. Torts’ time in Columbus has been colorful, to say the least — his contentious relationship with Ryan Johansen ended with the blockbuster trade for Seth Jones earlier this month, and there have been other fairly high-profile benchings and healthy scratches (most recently with veteran forward Scott Hartnell.)

 

Video: Blue Jackets defeat Avalanche thanks to late Jack Johnson winner

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) In a season when the Columbus Blue Jackets have been on the wrong side of bad bounces and injuries to key players, one swing of defensemen Jack Johnson‘s stick against Colorado changed their luck – at least for one game.

Johnson scored with 1:07 left off Avalanche forward Cody McLeod‘s skate to give Columbus a 2-1 victory over Colorado on Saturday night.

“I was just trying to get it by the first forward, trying to get it down by the net for our forwards,” Johnson said. “But it went in. I’ll take it.”

Johnson fired the puck toward the net from near the blue line and it sailed through the air before McLeod redirected it past goaltender Calvin Pickard.

“You don’t expect one like mine to go in, but it’s better to be lucky than good sometimes,” Johnson said.

Brandon Dubinsky slapped a shot past Pickard 58 seconds into the first for his ninth goal of the year.

The Avalanche tied it at 6:02 of the second on rookie forward Chris Wagner‘s fourth goal of the season. He redirected a shot by Jarome Iginla that trickled under the right leg of goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.

Korpisalo made 29 saves and got his third career victory. Pickard stopped 19 shots.

“I thought (Korpisalo), the past two games has been outstanding,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “He looked solid tonight. There were a lot of bodies around him, a lot of screened shots, he made a couple of great saves in the period.”

Columbus missed a chance to regain the lead 8 minutes after Wagner’s goal during a Colorado power play. The Jackets had a goal waved off when William Karlsson used his skate to push a pass from Cam Atkinson into the net. Karlsson swept his stick in an effort to touch the puck before it crossed the goal line, but the call stood upon review.

The Jackets failed to score during a third-period power play, with multiple opportunities turned away by Pickard.

Colorado’s best chance to score in the period came when Nathan MacKinnon ripped a shot off the post during a power play, after referees whistled the Jackets for too many men on the ice at 10:07.

“I thought we dominated the third period,” Wagner said. “Outshot them by a good margin, they had a pretty good bounce there at the end. (McLeod) was just trying to block the shot, it’s unfortunate. Things happen I guess.”

Colorado pulled Pickard after Johnson’s score but failed to threaten Korpisalo in the final minute.

“That’s the way this game is,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. “You’re going to win some that you don’t deserve to win, and sometimes you’re going to lose some that you deserve to win.”

Columbus remains in last place despite the win but has won two straight after winning at Toronto on Wednesday night. Colorado had won four of its last six to move into the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, but what Tortorella described as Johnson’s “lucky bounce” was enough for Columbus to secure the win Saturday.

“Feels good to have one of those go our way,” Dubinsky said. “Feels like it’s been one of those years where we haven’t had many bounces or calls. It’s nice to get a bouncer like that, a seeing eye shot that finds the back of the net and get us a win.”

Columbus finished 0 for 3 on the power play. Center Boone Jenner was called for two penalties – once for interference in the first and then high sticking in the second.

NOTES: Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky dressed and backed up Korpisalo but did not play after returning from a groin injury. … Bobrovsky has not played since Dec. 8. … Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno missed his fourth straight game with an upper-body injury.

Atkinson’s been one of the Jackets’ ‘most consistent forwards’ under Tortorella

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On Oct. 20, Todd Richards made Cam Atkinson a healthy scratch against the New York Islanders.

That was Richards’ last game behind the Blue Jackets bench and the last time Atkinson would watch a game from the press box in 2015.

Columbus hired John Tortorella, and although he’s known for his “my way or the highway” approach, some players, like Atkinson, have found on-ice success since he’s taken over.

“I didn’t even know who he was when I got here,” Tortorella said of Atkinson, per the Dispatch. “But since I’ve been here, he’s probably been — with (Scott) Hartnell and (Matt) Calvert — one of the most consistent forwards we’ve had. I’ve used him in all areas because he’s that good … away from the puck, defensively, killing penalties, he runs the point on our 5-on-3 power play … there’s a lot there.”

The 26-year-old has been pretty consistent over the last two seasons. He’s scored just over 20 goals and has hit exactly 40 points in each year.

This season, he’s on pace to find the back of the net 23 times and he could realistically hit the 50-point mark for the first time in his career.

When the Tortorella hiring was announced, Atkinson admits that he called his off-season training partner Martin St. Louis, who won a Stanley Cup with Torts in Tampa.

“I wanted to know what to expect, and I knew Marty would be straight with me,” Atkinson said. “He was the first guy who told me, if you work hard, he’s going to love you.”

Hey, Tortorella called the Penguins whiners again

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Don’t forget, the Blue Jackets – Penguins rivalry isn’t just about the bitterness between Sidney Crosby and Brandon Dubinsky; John Tortorella can fuel the fire, too.

Torts must not have been happy about the one-game suspension that Dubinsky received for cross-checking Crosby, as he channeled his vintage self in essentially calling the Penguins a bunch of whiners.

You can see from this glorious Sportsnet video, Tortorella said: “Pittsburgh whines enough for the whole league.”

(He also said the Blue Jackets weren’t going to whine by … whining. Good stuff.)

As Puck Daddy notes, this isn’t the first time Torts claimed that the Penguins are whiners.

Both the Blue Jackets and Penguins lost their games on Saturday, but clearly some eyes and ears were still focused on their last confrontation.

In case you’re wondering, the two teams next face off in Pittsburgh on Dec. 21.

 

There’s another Tortorella-led team priding itself on blocked shots

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John Tortorella is stressing the need for shot blocking.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

A few years back, as you’ll recall, Tortorella turned the New York Rangers into a bunch of bladed Mutombos, developing a defensive system and philosophy predicated on skaters — forwards and defensemen, specifically — getting in the way of pucks before the goalie did.

Now, that same system is at play in Columbus.

The Blue Jackets had one of their best wins of the season on Friday, beating Nashville 4-0. Most were quick to praise the work of Sergei Bobrovsky — who stopped all 39 shots faced for his first shutout of the year — but Bobrovsky was quick to praise the guys in front of him.

“There were so many blocked shots in that first period,” Bobrovsky said, per the Dispatch. “Fourteen of them, I think. That’s more than I stopped.”

All told, the Jackets blocked a season-high 26 shots against the Preds. And while most will argue these numbers aren’t actually a good thing — allowing 39 shots while blocking 26 means you’re rarely possessing the puck — the Jackets acknowledge this is now part of their identity.

Ryan Johansen told the Dispatch the team talks about shot blocking “a lot,” adding that it’s on frequent display during the club’s video sessions. Johansen also added that Tortorella “takes notice” of players that do it.

Torts, of course, has a strange relationship with shot-blocking.

He says he doesn’t necessarily coach it, insisting it’s a natural part of good team defense. And in 2012 — when pundits carved the Rangers during their block-filled playoff run, saying the style of hockey was borderline unwatchable — Torts got angry.

In response, he called critics of shot blocking “idiots” before explaining his strategic approach.

“We don’t sit in our meetings and say forget about carrying the puck and trying to score a goal and make a play, let’s just block shots all night long,” he said.

Here’s the thing, though: The mentality needed to feverishly block shots is sort of what Columbus needed when Tortorella took over. He always stresses that shot blocking is about sacrifice, grit and doing whatever it takes to win — and after getting so far behind the 8-ball with their 0-7 start, the Jackets were desperate to where they’d do anything to win.

And now, they’ve won six of their last nine games.