Winners of five straight, things were looking up for the Columbus Blue Jackets… which means something had to go wrong.
On Friday, it did.
The Jackets placed forward Scott Hartnell on injured reserve with a broken finger, suffered during Thursday’s 3-2 win over Washington. He’s expected to miss two weeks with the ailment.
Prior to getting hurt, Hartnell had six goals and 17 points in 28 games this year, averaging just under 18 minutes a night. The veteran winger had also been a catalyst during the club’s recent winning streak, with three points in the five wins.
The injury is also a step back for Columbus’ overall health. Despite returning a few bodies to the lineup — including alternate captain Brandon Dubinsky — the club is now facing a stretch in which it’ll be without Hartnell, Ryan Murray, Mark Letestu, Artem Anisimov and Fedor Tyutin. The team is also still without Nathan Horton, who has yet to play this season while dealing with a severe back injury.
In a move related to the Hartnell injury, Columbus recalled Kerby Rychel from AHL Springfield on Friday.
That was the news out of Columbus on Monday head coach Todd Richards announced that Brandon Dubinsky would return to the lineup tomorrow when the Jackets host the Flyers at Nationwide.
It’ll be Dubinsky’s first game of the season.
Dubinsky, one of the club’s alternate captains, has been sidelined since the exhibition campaign after undergoing abdominal surgery, one of the toughest losses for a Columbus team that’s been ravaged by injury this season. The 28-year-old was one of the Blue Jackets’ most valuable players a year ago, scoring 16 goals and 50 points in 76 games while averaging nearly 19 minutes a night.
In the club’s opening-round playoff loss to Pittsburgh, Dubinsky scored six points in six games and upped his TOI to 20:43 per night. He subsequently signed a six-year, $35.1 million extension with Columbus in July.
With Dubinsky back in the mix, the Blue Jackets should feel good about their game. The club is on its first three-game winning streak of the season and — while it’s still without Nathan Horton, Ryan Murray, Artem Anisimov, Mark Letestu and Fedor Tyutin — Columbus is somewhat healthier than its been in previous weeks, which is a step in the right direction.
Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu had surgery today to repair groin and abdominal injuries. The team said in a release that he’ll be out “approximately six weeks.”
Letestu, who last played Oct. 28, was originally expected to be out 2-4 weeks, but according to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, the 29-year-old had a setback last week during rehab, necessitating surgery.
That setback is just the latest bit of bad news for a Blue Jackets side that’s been decimated by injuries. In addition to Letestu, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Murray, Fedor Tyutin, Artem Anisimov, and Cody Goloubef are all on injured reserve with various ailments. And that’s not counting Nathan Horton, whose career is in jeopardy due to a degenerative back condition.
You know things are bad when a team’s Twitter account is pleading with the “hockey gods” for mercy: the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that Artem Anisimov will miss two-to-three months with a torn triceps muscle.
One must consult a nearby thesaurus to find a more ornate word for what Columbus is going through, as “ridiculous” doesn’t even seem appropriate.
The hope is that Brandon Dubinsky will finally come back soon, with even an outside chance of returning today. Even so, the damage has already been done – November was the worst month in the franchise’s rocky history – and it doesn’t seem like they’ll be much closer to full strength for a while.
Anisimov hasn’t been a world-beater with six points in 16 games played, yet he’s an experienced player who seems to move the puck forward. Without the 26-year-old, the Blue Jackets must stretch their lineup that much thinner, even if Dubinsky could conceivably replace his work and maybe add a little bit more.
Sadly, it’s tough to imagine Columbus being deep in the playoff mix whenever Anisimov can return.
One can understand this tweet, all things considered.
As if things weren’t bed enough for the Blue Jackets, Artem Anisimov sustained an upper-body injury on Saturday and won’t be available Monday, per the Columbus Dispatch. Columbus will have to try to end its six-game losing streak without him. This comes just days after a TSN report indicated that the Blue Jackets and Edmonton Oilers were discussing a swap that would involve Anisimov and David Perron.
There is a silver lining though as Brandon Dubinsky (abdominal surgery) is getting close to returning and might even be able to make his season debut Monday.
“I haven’t spoken with Brandon yet today,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said, “but he skated in Nashville yesterday … had a good, hard skate and said he felt really good afterward. I don’t know how he feels today.”
Columbus finished 2-9-2 in November, which is a franchise worst for that month. With a 6-15-2 record overall, Columbus’ record is two points worse than the 29th place Oilers.
“It leaves you scratching your head … trying to find solutions,” Richards said. “Why? Where? When? All of those questions. You back-track, you go over everything. Was it a moment, a succession of games? Was it weeks? Was it a period? You try to find those answers.”
The Blue Jackets have dealt with more than their fair share of injuries this season with Anisimov only being the latest victim. At least getting Dubinsky back would be a step in the right direction, given how helpful he was in the team’s run to the 2014 playoffs.