John Tortorella explains why he made Cam Atkinson a healthy scratch

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One year ago Cam Atkinson scored more goals than all but seven players in the NHL.

A little less than one month ago the Columbus Blue Jackets rewarded him with a seven-year, $41 million contract extension.

On Saturday night when the team plays host to the Arizona Coyotes he will find himself as a healthy scratch.

It has been a tough year for Atkinson to this point, missing some time due to injury and then struggling to get back to the same level he played at the past couple of years. In 25 games this season he has just six goals and three assists and has not recorded a point in six consecutive games.

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said it was not a tough call, and that he thinks he is helping Atkinson by sitting him out on Saturday.

“For me, it’s not a tough call,” Tortorella said before the game on Saturday, via the Blue Jackets’ Brian Hedger. “Cam’s a very important guy. If we’re going to have any sniff at all of having a chance to play and keep playing, he has to be a huge part of it. I know people get all jittery about it. I look at this as part of the process to getting him back. Do you want to go down this road? No. As I’e said many times, it’s easy to sit a guy out, but you’ve got to go through the other processes to try to help him. I think I’m helping him. You may think I’m crazy, but I do feel I’m helping Cam, and I’m going to continue to try and help him.”

Atkinson has been a 20-goal scorer in each of the past four seasons and really took a big step forward over the past two seasons. So it is quite likely his struggles early this season are more of a fluke and a rough patch than anything to be overly concerned about long-term. It is also pretty remarkable that the Blue Jackets have been as good as they have been (first place in the Metropolitan Division entering play on Saturday) while getting so little from one of their most important players.

Once Atkinson gets back to being himself again an already strong team in the Eastern Conference is going to be just that much better.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.