With a pair of veteran forwards unavailable and his team’s playoff life at stake, Nathan Horton will return to the Columbus lineup tonight for the first time in four games — even though he’s clearly not at 100 percent.
Is Horton 100 percent healthy? Not even close. Most NHL players are pretty banged-up right now, but Horton has been hobbled for sometime now and it’s unclear if the week-long break will have helped.
Asked if he knows he can play or if he thinks he can play, Horton smiled.
“I’m in, so I’m going to go with it,” Horton said. “I’ve practiced a couple times — one time by myself — but you never really know until you get into a game. I guess we’ll see.”
Asked if he’d be playing tonight if this were November 8 instead of April 8, Horton smiled. (He always smiles.)
“I don’t know. I’m not sure. It’s not November, so I don’t know.”
Horton has four goals and 17 points in 34 games for Columbus this season, often playing on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Boone Jenner (the trio will reunite tonight, with RJ Umberger and Nick Foligno out of action.)
The former Bruin and Panther started brightly in Columbus, scoring 12 points in his first 20 games, but has slowed down lately and is goalless in 24 straight — with just one point in his last six games prior to getting hurt.