Veteran Columbus forward R.J. Umberger missed a handful of games this year as a healthy scratch — but it turns out he was anything but healthy.
In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Umberger revealed he’d been playing with a broken finger, separated shoulder and herniated disc at times season — including all three during the Blue Jackets’ opening-round playoff loss to Pittsburgh.
Q: How long has the finger been broken?
A: Early March. It was not a break, they thought. But then it started hurting again so they x-rayed it again and there’s a huge hairline fracture in it.
Q: What about your back?
A: That’s bothered me a lot of the year. After the Olympic break it really started bothering me. MRI said herniated disc. The shoulder is what knocked me out (of an April 6 game) against the Islanders. (He didn’t play again until Game 2 vs. Pittsburgh).
Umberger — who finished fourth on the team in goals this year, with 18 — started sitting as a “healthy” scratch in late March before getting sidelined with an “upper-body injury” (the shoulder) on Apr. 7, one that saw him miss the remainder of the regular season.
The 32-year-old returned for the postseason and appeared in four of six games against Pittsburgh, averaging 12:47 per game while assisting on one of the most famous goals in Columbus franchise history — Nick Foligno’s OT winner in Game 4 to seven the series at two:
It’ll be interesting to see what Umberger’s future in Columbus holds. While he’s one of the club’s longest-tenured players and a gritty veteran leader, he also carries a fairly sizable cap hit ($4.6 million) until 2017 and has fallen down the pecking order with the emergence of Columbus’ young, talented forwards.